Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, met leading members of Hitchin‘s Sikh community on Friday, 23rd January, to discuss their concerns and interests.
Peter Lilley said: “The Sikh community has played an important part in the life of Hitchin in both war and peace. We discussed a range of issues of which several, like education and policing, are relevant to the wider community. Sikhs attach great important to educational opportunities. They want to ensure any top-up fees will not inhibit access to university for those who could benefit.
“We also discussed community relations. The Sikh Leaders emphasised that their beliefs were not in any way ‘fundamentalist‘ – and are completely distinct from Islam, Hinduism and other religions. The community is keen to integrate while retaining their distinctive heritage and values.
They want firm and fair immigration controls to prevent illegal immigration and abuse of the asylum laws which they fear could provoke resentment against long-established communities such as theirs.”
Agreeing with this, Peter Lilley emphasised the importance of the contribution the community could make in all walks of life. He added that it was important to draw on the pool of talent in the Sikh community. He urged Sikhs to participate in local government, become school governors and join hospital boards and said it was important for political parties and other institutions to encourage this.
The Sikhs in their turn welcomed the recent visit by the police to the Gurdwara and shared the widespread public desire to see more police on the beat to deter crime. During their visit, the police had urged members of the community to consider a career in the police force.
Members of the Community also expressed great resentment at the French government banning headscarves and other religious clothing in schools and public offices. They feared it could affect Sikhs who might be posted to work in France or Belgium for a period. Peter Lilley said he felt the French action was ‘secular fundamentalism‘. He promised to write to the French government expressing his concern. He stressed that he would totally oppose any similar measure in this country.”