This morning I was looking forward to the day ahead. I had been invited to my friend’s sons birthday party. He was turning 6 years old, and I was excited as I haven’t been to a childrens’ party since I myself was a child. It had started as a sunny day, no cares in the world with my sunglasses on. I had brought what I thought was a good six year old gift for a young boy: a garden game.
I was greeted with excitement amongst the other guests and then by the family themselves. My friend is a baptised Sikh as is her husband. My friend, Mrs Kaur, gave me a hug as did her family. I am not a baptised Sikh, but I have always had the most pleasure amongst my Sikh friends and the Sikh community. I am currently trying to work on a project with one Gurdwara concerning mental health and have been impressed by the work that is undertaken within the temple and by Ravi Singh with Khalsa Aid.
Amongst the family group, there were a number of children from ages 2-8 years old, as well as grandparents. I felt included by the Sikh family as soon as I arrived. Other guests were also welcomed with hugs, and refreshments as some guests such as myself had travelled over three hours from 5am in order to get to the birthday party. I myself had finished a busy night shift the day before and had taken a day off annual leave in order to come today. The party was at Drayton Manor theme park, I have never been myself but I knew of some worrying recent stories in the tabloids.
The group was full of happiness especially with the children. Mrs Kaur and her baptised family have been to Drayton Manor every year and were baptised ten years ago. The family have various professions including working for the police, law enforcement, education, forensics, medicine, dentistry, and law.
This Sikh family are a respected family from Coventry, I shall name them ‘The Sikh Family’ for this article.
When we entered the gates (having spent hundreds of pounds for the tickets to enter Drayton Manor), Mrs Kaur’s husband (Mr Singh) was stopped by security. He was asked by the security guard who looked at his turban and whispered To Mr Singh: ‘Are You Sikh?’
I thought it very strange that the security guard was whispering as to whether Mr Singh was Sikh as though it was a dirty secret.
Mr Singh confirmed that he was, and then the security guard asked if he could take his dagger off.
I was confused what this man meant by dagger. I asked Mrs Kaur, who explained to me that the security guard was referring to the Kirpan - which is one of the five Sikh artefacts to carry when you are baptised that have to be worn for 24 hours a day without question. If you take off the Kirpan then essentially you are breaking your oath - which is like removing part of a limb for a baptised Sikh. Mr Singh works as a primary school teacher and is renowned for his work, explained about what the Kirpan meant to the security guard. The security guard interrupted Mr Singh, and told him he would not be dealing with this, and that if Mr Singh had a problem he would need to speak to his manager.
The family and guests was escorted to Guests services in which we were told was the manager, her name was Leanne Currie, who turned out not to be a manager but was Guest Services Representative. She was forceful and stated to the family in front of Mrs Kaur and Mr Singh’s children and guests that they would not be able to wear their Kirpan as otherwise they would be forced to leave the theme park. Leanne offered a poor replacement Kirpan as a necklace. When asked why the Kirpan could not be worn, Leanne stated due to the recent security measures it was now not allowed and she said nothing further. When explained this was not a valid reason, and that it was insinuating having a religious artefact of a Kirpan was a breach of security - however in what way? Leanne could not answer this. I felt I had to step in and soon found out Leanne was not the manager and I asked if the manager could please come and speak to the Sikh Family.
At this point a security guard came out of nowhere and walked into the guest services standing next to the one of Sikh children. This security man was never there before my Sikh friends came into the Guest Services building. I asked Leanne why security was here, and she said it was protocol. But protocol for what? I thought. The Sikh family were not shouting or causing any chaos - so why on Earth would security need to be called?
We were then spoken to by another Guest Services representative, but no manager. After what was about 30minutes of not having the manager appear, I had to again step in and ask that the manager be brought here. Meanwhile, the children were getting agitated and wanted to go onto the rides.
Beverley James then appeared who stated she was the Guest Manager. She came with another security guard. Now there were two security guards. The children were getting scared of these men that were standing intimidatingly next to them. Beverley stated that the Kirpan could not be worn for health and safety measures. I asked what these measures were exactly and she stated that the Kirpan could come off on a ride. I asked if that was the only concern, and she said yes. I then explained that the Sikh family could sellotape the Kirpan to their body so that there would be no chance of it falling off. Beverley then stated that would not be possible. I asked as to why. She stated that it wold be dangerous to have a dagger which is a knife at the theme park. I thought, did Beverley just insinuate that this Sikh family would use the Kirpan as a weapon to stab or kill guests at the theme park? Beverley could not deny this, but kept stating that it was a health and safety reason. I started to record Beverley on my phone as I could not believe what I was hearing. Mrs Kaur asked to see a risk assessment and protocol as well as statement that allowed Drayton Manor to say this horrific statement, but Beverley produced none. At this point another security guard lurked outside the guest services. Beverley then stopped talking and demanded that I stop recorded- I asked her why, unless she has something to hide and be ashamed of. She then demanded me to delete this video in which she clearly stated in front of the Sikh Family that they could use it as a weapon from my phone. I was utterly appalled at the clear arrogance and underlying racism that I was hearing towards my dear friends.
The Sikh family called their lawyer and Mrs Kaur called the police team she works with but Beverley refused to speak to them and demanded that if they did not take the Kirpan off they would need to leave the premises. The replacement Kirpan was still a dagger on a smaller scale so I was flabbergasted as to how wearing a replacement Kirpan for the reason of having possible weapon would alleviate any matters that Drayton Manor has towards Kirpans? Beverley again was unable to answer any questions, and kept repeating it is for health and safety reasons. She was incredibly rude and threatening with the team of security behind her, I cannot beg to think what the young children thought was happening and I dearly hope they were not traumatised by security surrounding the Sikh family.
In the pictures that I was able to take, you will see some members of the Sikh family trying to call their lawyers with two security men following them as they stepped out to get signal on their phones.
The Sikh family refused the injustice that was injured upon them and said that they would not be able to take their holy Kirpans off. The guests of the party agreed also. At this point the family were asked to step outside of the guest services and wait outside as the guests wanted a refund for the tickets. No compensation was provided other than a refund of the ticket.
While waiting another 30 minutes, the children needed to use the toilet, and the security team actually laughed and stated they were to go outside the theme park. When explained the toilets were a few metres away, the security team again laughed at the children and their mothers and repeated they were not allowed to unless they leave the theme park. The guests were not allowed either to use the toilets. I asked Beverley to come out of the guest services building and explained to her that the toilet facilities were needed and the family were willing to have their children escorted by a female security member to go the toilets if that was needed. Beverley said the children or mothers could not use the bathroom if they were wearing a Kirpan. I explained that the children were not, and neither was I so I could escort the children. She then agreed that they could use the toilets, but then the laughing security guards (as seen in pictures) said that he was refusing to let the children into the toilets. There was no remorse in their faces or voices. I explained that this crosses into the law of barricading toilets to children when there is no reason as to why. They simply smiled and said for us to leave the premises. At this point other visitors of the park were entering and staring at the Sikh family with security watching them, and actually moved away from the Sikh Family. I cannot explain the Sikh Family’s embarrassment and how their pride was deeply dented by this pure humiliation as though they were criminals, with their children crying in need for basic use of a toilet. This was the epitome of injustice.
I am utterly disgusted by the behaviour I have witnessed today, and incredibly saddened that the staff at Drayton Manor can discriminate without any laws in their defence. I am very disheartened today that in 2017 what life we all live in. I hope that the children of this family and the next generation of this world do not grow up thinking that they should feel like criminals for their faith, that they should be ashamed to have to face racial discrimination in the face of their own country. I hope we all learn from this behaviour and please put an end to such ignorance especially when the world is fighting a much bigger war, we should not bring that home and bring it to each other in such an inexcusable way. If we start treating our own children in this manner, then there really is no hope for humanity.
As a doctor, I treat every patient with the upmost respect and dignity no matter what colour, race or sex. That is how things should be and I shouldn’t have to write about that. However, writing is what I am doing. Has this world learnt nothing from past wars to be so condemning of ones right to religion and faith? Are we still facing racism even in our own home towns? I write to all to please look at yourselves, and remember what humanity is meant to be, what peace and religion is and please I beg of you respect one and other and keep each other safe. We have no chance if we cannot protect each other.
Drayton Manor I am ashamed of you, and I am ashamed to have witnessed what I did today. Pray you learn from your mistakes, and embrace all children of all faiths.