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Archive for August, 2008

On or about July 1, 2008, Sikh prisoner Jagmohan Singh Ahuja suffered an egregious violation of his religious rights when jail officers forcibly cut his hair in Duval County Jail. It is against a Sikh’s religious practice to cut his/her hair, as kesh (unshorn hair) covered by a dastaar (Sikh turban) is one of five articles of faith which a Sikh must keep at all times. Jagmohan was recently informed by prison officials that his hair will be cut again, and he immediately contacted UNITED SIKHS to help stop the continued gross violation of his dearly held religious beliefs.

When Jagmohan Singh initially became aware that it was possible his religious rights might be violated, his hair would be forcibly cut by the jail, he requested his public defender to file a motion with the Duval County Circuit Court. In the motion, Jagmohan asked the public defender to present evidence of the significance of kesh (unshorn hair) for Sikhs. The motion was denied by Judge Russell Healey. Jagmohan again protested the cutting of his hair on the day of the incident when the correctional officers at the jail informed him his hair would be cut, by force if necessary. After officers contacted the Circuit Court Clerk for guidance on the matter, Jagmohan’s hair was cut.

Click here to sign the Petition to stop a repeated violation of Jagmohan Singh’s religious beliefs and to change prison regulations to stop Florida prisons from violating the rights of Sikh prisoners.

“Despite my opposition, my hair and beard were cut even after I made clear my religious beliefs and traditions. This was very traumatic to me especially because I came to the States in an attempt to avoid religious persecution.” – Jagmohan Singh

Jagmohan Singh’s mother, who resides in England, contacted UNITED SIKHS office in London about her son’s case. She had received correspondence from Jagmohan stating that he had become severely depressed since his hair was cut, and that he did not recognize himself in the mirror. The sad irony about Jagmohan Singh’s situation is that he narrowly escaped religious persecution under the Taliban in Afghanistan, where Sikhs were not allowed to practice their religion freely under the tyrannical regime. Jagmohan fled to America in 2001 on the basis of religious persecution, only to have his dearest of religious rights violated while serving a sentence for a misdemeanor offense.

Jagmohan Singh wrote to UNITED SIKHS stating, “Despite my opposition, my hair and beard were cut even after I made clear my religious beliefs and traditions. This has been very traumatic to me especially because I came to the United States in an attempt to avoid religious persecution.”

The law in Florida is not favorable to Jagmohan Singh’s position. Though the Bureau of Federal Prisons and many states allow the keeping of religiously mandated head-dress, long hair, and beards in prison, current Florida prison regulations allow no such religious exemption or exception on the basis of security concerns. These regulations have been repeatedly upheld by Florida courts.

Commenting on the violation of Jagmohan Singh’s religious tenets, UNITED SIKHS Staff Attorney Jaspreet Singh stated, “It is appalling that a Sikh who narrowly escaped religious persecution abroad and immigrated on the basis of religious asylum has suffered the gravest of religious persecution in America, the bastion of religious freedom. In view of federal and other state prison regulations allowing these most basic of religious practices, it is outrageous that Florida regulations do not allow these practices on the basis of security.”

UNITED SIKHS’ legal team and religious liberties experts are diligently working on this case, but we need your assistance. Your signatures can make the biggest difference to persuade Florida government officials to take action. UNITED SIKHS calls on all concerned individuals and organizations to sign the petition to save Jagmohan Singh from further trauma and humiliation, and to change the discriminatory Florida prison regulations.

Please post the petition at your offices, community centers, Gurdwaras, and other places of worship, and circulate the petition to your friends, family and other people concerned with religious freedom in the United States.

You may read a previous press release on a discrimination case assisted by UNITED SIKHS at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-01-08-2008-00.html

You may sign the petition at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/petitions/jagmohan

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JAGMOHAN SINGH
Monday, 11 August 2008

AMRITSAR : Former Parliamentarian and president of Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) Simarnjit Singh Mann here today has urged the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to do the needful to get unlocked the Sikh Gurdwara (Sikh shrines) in Afghanistan.

Talking to the media persons here Monday Mann said that being a Sikh prime minister it becomes the moral and religious duty of Dr.Manmohan Singh to exercise diplomatic channel with the Afghanistan Government to get unlocked the Sikh shrines in Afghanistan.

Mann said that during the trouble period all Sikh shrines and cremation grounds of Sikh community were locked and still coming locked and Indian Sikh Prime Minister has done nothing in this regards.

Mann also urged Dr.Singh to hold talk with Pakistan for the safe repatriation of Indian National Sarabjit Singh who was on death row.

Mann said that it would be nothing wrong for Indian Government to adopt give and take policy in case of Sarabjit Singh’s repatriation. Mann said that Indian Government should not hesitate to handover Afzal Guru for Sarabjit.

Sarabjit an Indian national who had inadvertently slipped to Pakistan in a state of drunken nearly two decades ago from the Punjab border.  In Pakistan he was arrested by the police and condemned to death for his alleged involvement in four bomb blasts in Pakistan in 1990.

Whereas Mohammad Afzal, also known as Afzal Guru, was convicted of conspiracy in the December 2001 attack on Indian Parliament and was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of India in 2004. The sentence was to be carried out on 20 October 2006. The sentence is now stayed.

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