Sikh doctors and first responders to be assisted with PPE equipment
On March 30th 2020, two Sikh doctor brothers in Canada made an “extremely difficult decision” to shave off their beards, an article of faith in Sikhism, so as to wear the medical-grade protective masks necessary to treat patients suffering from the deadly coronavirus pandemic gripping the country. Montreal physician Sanjeet Singh Saluja and his brother Ranjeet Singh Saluja, a neurosurgeon at the McGill University Health Centre’s (MUHC) Montreal General and Royal Victoria hospitals, decided to shave their beards so that they can wear N-95 masks, which will be rendered ineffective if there is no proper seal to one’s face ie. caused by facial hair. This incident has led the Sikh Doctors Association (SDA) in the UK to come forward and report that at least five Sikh doctors were removed from their usual shifts at NHS hospitals and forced to not take up any key roles due to their beard. The UNITED SIKHS legal team has reached out to the Saluja brothers and their employers to discuss how this incident has impacted the Sikh community globally and how this issue can be prevented from happening to other Sikh healthcare professionals.
UNITED SIKHS is deeply saddened to learn that Sikhs like Sanjeet Singh and Ranjeet Singh who had been practising one of the major tenets of the Sikh tradition — ‘kesh’ — had to give it up in order to fulfil their duties as doctors. In Sikh tradition, kesh is seen as God’s creation and is never cut as an acceptance of God’s gift and is an integral part of one’s identity. Needless to say, for a Sikh to cut his or her hair is a grave sacrifice. We are committed to providing a solution wherein Sikh doctors can use PPE equipment i.e. PAPRs and CAPRs, that covers their faces effectively without them having to sacrifice their faith by shaving their beard. Gurvinder Singh, the International Humanitarian Aid Director said, “Hospitals should be able to provide Sikh medical professionals with PPE devices that don’t force them to make this choice. Our distinct articles of faith are an inherent part of who we are and Sikhs should never be in such a predicament where they would even have to choose. Any doctors that are in need of these devices can reach out to our teams and we will work with them to source them as a part of our emergency response effort.”
For this situation to not be repeated again, UNITED SIKHS has been working closely with North American Sikh Medical and Dental Association (NASMDA) to provide both legal and humanitarian-aid resources to Sikh medical professionals in case of religious discrimination or if any health or aid workers are asked or ordered to trim or shave their facial hair. As part of our Covid-19 Emergency Response we source out PPEs, such as PAPRs and CAPRs, which can provide full coverage regardless of facial hair.
Dr. Navinder Singh Nijjar, President of NASMDA, said that “they have partnered with Sikh organizations like UNITED SIKHS to use their international legal and humanitarian network in assisting medical professionals in the United States and globally. No Sikh doctor should have to make the choice between their faith and profession. Do not consider yourselves alone, reach out for help.”
Pavan Kaur, Managing Staff Attorney of UNITED SIKHS said that “a physicians’ religion should not be seen as a threat to their medical practice. If the medical doctors are forced to make this “choice” by their employers, our robust legal team in Canada, UK and USA are always available for consultation and assistance.”
UNITED SIKHS, a U.N. affiliated, international non-profit, non-governmental, humanitarian and advocacy organization has and will work tirelessly to make sure our brothers and sisters can practice their faith fearlessly regardless of their profession.
If you or anyone you know has been discriminated against or is forced to choose between their faith or profession please contact us at [email protected].
International Humanitarian Aid Director
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