Several Sikhs and elected officials in Queens are throwing their support behind a petition urging the NYPD to reform its dress code to allow Sikh employees to wear turbans and beards in accordance with their religious faith.
“New York City, which is home to such great diversity, should be more considerate and open to those communities that have decided to make this city as their own,” said Harpreet Singh Toor, chairman of public and external affairs at the Sikh Cultural Society, in a statement.
The society is based in Richmond Hill and represents the largest Sikh temple in New York. Its chairman, Mohan Singh Khatra, is the nephew of Suvez Khatra, who was killed recently in a shooting rampage at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis.
State Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck), who introduced a bill that would prohibit discrimination against uniformed employees who wear religious dress, also released a statement in support of the petition.
“An individual should never have to choose between their place of employment and their religious observance,” he said.
City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) also came out in support of the petition, saying it is important for the NYPD to be reflective of the city’s diversity.
City Comptroller John Liu and the city-based Sikh Coalition and United Sikhs, a United Nations-affiliated nonprofit, are circulating the petition, ramping up efforts for religious tolerance in the wake of the Wisconsin shooting. Other efforts include a recent letter Liu sent Mayor Michael Bloomberg asking for the same policy change.
The petition is addressed to Bloomberg and was launched last Friday. It argues the NYPD’s policy prohibiting Sikhs from wearing turbans and beards unfairly forces Sikhs and members of other faiths to choose between serving on the NYPD and adhering to their faith.
It also says allowing Sikhs to wear religious garb would promote religious inclusion for the community and others who have similar religious dictates, and that such a move would fall in line with decisions made by other agencies in the city.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority recently ended a policy requiring Sikh employees to wear an MTA logo on their turbans, and last year the Council passed a law enhancing religious freedom in the workplace.
Liu is planning on visiting Sikh temples and community groups over the next few weeks to garner signatures for the petition, which at press time had nearly 70 out of 300 needed signatures.
Contact reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cn
©2012 Community News Group
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