THE BRITISH SIKH CONSULTATIVE FORUM
Conceived in 2001 and formed in 2002
The idea of the British Sikh Consultative Forum was conceived when the Sikhs were engaged in discussing the issue of the kirpan with the Home Office in 2001. That meeting with the Home Office was called by the Sikh Human Rights Group. Both the Government and the Sikhs felt that there was a need for a body that would consult with Sikhs and negotiate or advise the Government on its policies that concern Sikhs or laws that affect Sikhs.
It was felt that Sikhs do not respond well to hierarchical structures. Consequently, the way forward was to establish a Forum with an administrative executive. Each member of the BSCF is autonomous. The Forum does not have any jurisdiction over any of its members. And the Forum cannot impose any decisions upon its members.
The forum is a place for discussing and deliberating on issues with the aid of expertise from relevant experts, the experience of institutions and the knowledge of its members. This assists in coming to an informed decision by the members.
The BSCF then tries to develop consensus. If there are different views, they are expressed as such. These are then discussed with the Government so that every institution and group’s view is taken on board before a policy is made.
The British Sikh Consultative Forum was formally established in 2002 after a number of consultations. It is represented on the Government’s Faith Communities Consultative Council which was originally base in the Home Office and subsequently at the Department of Communities and Local Government. It has good working relations with various Government bodies. It has been instrumental in a number of decisions that concern the Sikhs. Some are highlighted in this next website. The BSCF has also held an annual Vaisakhi function at the Houses of Commons.
The executive meets at least 3 times in a year. Twice in Midlands and once in London. Apart from these 3 meetings, the executive may meet as and when a series of decisions are needed.
Members are invited to the 3 executive meetings. They are open meetings.
Policy positions are developed by consultations with members. Consultations take place in at least 6 regions. These are:
(1) West London
(2) East London
(3) West Midlands
(4) East Midlands
(5) Yorkshire and Manchester
A specific issue is discussed and opinions taken from around the country. The consensus of opinions is circulated and finally the position is conveyed to the Government. Meetings take place with the Government on these issues to try and influence policy to take on board Sikh perspectives.
1) The first achievement was to reverse Government policy at airports on kirpan. The Government conceded and persuaded the Airports to adopt a policy of permitting small kirpans.
2) Soon after this the Government was considering making English language compulsory for Ministers of Religion coming from abroad. BSCF successfully argued that Granthis on short term visits from 6-24 months should not need English language proficiency. A new category of religious workers was introduced which benefitted Sikhs and Hindus.
3) The Government was considering introducing legislation to close down places of worship that permitted extremist propaganda. BSCF prepared a position along with Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and successfully persuaded the Government to withdraw it.
4) The Funeral Pyres issue was discussed at length with the Government after internal consultations. It was made clear that Sikhs are not concerned about open air funerals nor against them. The possibility of owning Crematoriums has been offered by the Government to take into consideration Sikh concerns.
5) The Department of Health wanted to prepare a guideline on organ donation. This was prepared with due consultation with the key interested people within the BSCF
6) The issue of turbans for Police Force arose in Birmingham. BSCF held consultations and passed these on to the Police Force with the hope that they will be taken on board.
7) The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) asked for a guideline on kirpan. BSCF held a year long consultation and came up with a substantive document that will form part of Government policy.
8) New security measures have started at airports which were going to affect turbans. BSCF held urgent consultations within the community. BSCF held meetings with the Government and has influenced policy rethink on the turban. The Government has temporarily withdrawn its new policy and is considering Sikh turban friendly measures.
9) BSCF has representation on the DCLG’s Faith Communities Consultative Council and the Armed Forces Faith Consultative Council.