Strongly condemning the sacking of a Hindu worker at Heathrow catering service for wearing a nose stud, London Mayor Ken Livingstone on Wednesday asked the company to reinstate her, saying that wearing the stud is her right to express her religion freely.
In a statement, Livingstone said: "I unreservedly condemn the sacking of Amrit Laljit for wearing a Hindu nose stud. It is an attack on her right to freely express her religion and an attack on her right as a woman to dress as she wishes."
Hundreds of millions of people follow the Hindu religion and it is difficult to imagine a worse way to welcome visitors from the Indian sub-continent to London than sacking a woman for wearing a Hindu nose stud, he said.
<b1>The fight for freedom of conscience was fought over many centuries in this country and it is intolerable that people who express their religious faith, whether as Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs or any other faith, should lose their jobs because they wear clothing or jewelery expressing their religion, he pointed out.
"The suggestion that wearing a tiny nose stud is a threat to public health and safety is frankly ridiculous. Will this company now be sacking all women with pierced ears?" he asked.
"I will be writing to the companies concerned to ask them to reconsider their decision and reinstate Lalji," Livingstone said.
The Hindu Council in UK in a statement said the wearing of a nose stud is an integral part of Lalji's faith. Many Hindu women have their nose pierced and fitted with a stud for their wedding as part of the Shringar ritual, it said.
As per the ritual, there should be sixteen different "marks of a married woman". The other marks include the Bindi, the red dot on her forehead, wearing of a Mungal Sutra or wedding necklace and Sindur, putting vermilion in the hair parting.
These marks are not just the outward symbol of marriage. Traditionally they are believed to help ensure that the match is harmonious, the Council said.
It said Shringar is an integral part of the Hindu wedding ceremony as giving of a wedding ring is part of a Christian marriage. Brides, who choose to have their nose pierced and wear a stud for their wedding, would like to continue to wear it as a sign of their married status, it added.