News East West
NEW YORK: A Sikh truck driver was called a ‘terrorist’ by ignorant cops in Mississippi state and arrested for not handing over his kirpan in January. Later, when the Sikh driver appeared before a judge in March on the kirpan charges, he was ordered to remove ‘that rag’ from his head.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a complaint against the cops with Mississippi’s Department of Transportation (DOT) and is moving against the judge for discrimination and violating religious freedom of an individual.
According to the ACLU, 49-year-old Jagjeet Singh from California was driving his truck through Pike County in Mississippi state on January 16 when he was pulled over by officers from Mississippi’s Department of Transportation for driving with a flat tire.
The cops made fun of Singh’s turban while asking him to drive to a nearby weigh station. Once he was there, the cops “subjected him to a series of degrading remarks’’ because of his faith and ethnicity. Singh was asked to hand over his ceremonial kirpan even as he tried to explain to them by showing videos on his phone that it was a part of Sikh faith.
“In response, however, the officers laughed at him and mocked his religious beliefs. One officer declared that all Sikhs are depraved and ‘terrorists.’”
When Singh refused to hand over his kirpan, he was arrested for not obeying “a lawful command,’’ Bear Atwood, a lawyer with the Mississippi branch of the ACLU, said in the complaint.
Atwood said, “The officers’ shameful treatment of Mr. Singh was an abuse of their authority and a betrayal of the public’s trust that law enforcement officials will carry out their duties free from prejudice. We believe that this matter requires a full inquiry and the officers who harassed Mr Singh should be reprimanded.’’
The Sikh driver faced even worse humiliation when he appeared in court in March to face the kirpan charges.
The ACLU complaint says that as Singh waited at the back of the courtroom for his turn, Judge Aubrey Rimes ordered four officers to tell him (Singh) to leave the court because of his turban, Atwood said.
When Singh’s lawyer inquired about the matter from Judge Rimes’ chambers, he was told that Singh was expelled from the courtroom because of his turban.
“He (judge) further stated that Mr. Singh would not be allowed to re-enter the courtroom unless he removed ‘that rag’ from his head and threatened to call Mr. Singh last on the docket if he continued to wear the religious headdress,” Atwood said.
Since Singh declined to remove his turban, the judge made him and his lawyer sit outside for several hours before he was allowed in the courtroom to plead guilty and pay a fine.
“Judge Rimes’s treatment of Mr. Singh – in particular his use of the slur “rag” and his effort to intimidate and embarrass Mr. Singh because of his minority faith – flouted his responsibility under the Mississippi Judicial Code of Conduct to uphold the dignity of the judiciary,” the ACLU said.
The ACLU said it, along with United Sikhs, was filing a complaint with the Mississippi Judicial Commission to investigate Judge Rimes’s conduct and impose appropriate sanctions.
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