Action Alert

Saturday, 09 April 2005 Saturday, 27 Chayt (Samvat 537 Nanakshahi)

French Turban Case Needs Turbaned Sikhs with EU Passports

Paris, France—

Lawyers defending a French Sikh's right to wear a Turban for his driver's licence photo have made an urgent request to Turbaned Sikhs who are European Union (EU) nationals for evidence that they are allowed to wear a Turban for their passport or ID photo.

The legal team representing Shingara Singh Mann has requested Turbaned Sikhs who have EU passports or ID cards to fax or scan to UNITED SIKHS the page bearing their photo and the issuing country's name. Only one scanned or faxed page of the passport is required per EU country to prove that no EU country, other than France, has banned Sikhs from wearing a Turban when taking their Passport or ID photo.

Mr Shingara Singh Mann's case is due to be heard in the French High Court imminently. Since the legal team made this request, UNITED SIKHS has received evidence from nationals of many EU countries and we are awaiting passport or photo ID evidence from the countries below. If you know Turbaned Sikhs who are nationals from the following countries please make this appeal known to them:

  1. Czech Republic
  2. Estonia
  3. Greece
  4. Ireland
  5. Cyprus
  6. Latvia
  7. Lithuania
  8. Luxembourg
  9. Hungary
  10. Malta
  11. Poland
  12. Portugal
  13. Slovenia
  14. Slovakia
  15. Finland

The photo ID or passport evidence should be scanned to contact@unitedsikhs.org or faxed to 0044 8701322370 or 001-810-885-4264 as soon as possible. Kindly include your telephone and/or email contact details.

On Feb 14, the administrative court at the Cergy Pontoise, North of Paris- France ruled that it was not illegal to ask a Sikh to take off his Turban for taking a photo for his drivers licence. The decision followed an emergency hearing at the administrative court that was brought by Shingara Singh, 48 years, who was asked to take of his Turban for his drivers licence photo. This decision came as a shock to the community because Mr Singh has worn his Turban for his drivers licence for more than 20 years until it was stolen during a robbery last April.

'The decision of the administrative court is very regrettable as it fails to give any reasons for allowing the authorities to change their position. It is a paradox that Mr Singh has a valid ID card and passport where his photo shows him wearing a Turban,' Mr Singh's legal counsel, Mr Francois Jacquot, told UNITED SIKHS in a telephone interview.

'We have filed an appeal to the High Court and expect a hearing date soon,'' he said.

Mr Shingara Singh said: "My Turban is an integral part of my faith and I will fight this decision to the end even if I have to go to the European Court of Human Rights. Since 1986, I have always worn my Turban for all my photo documents. In 1998, I sued the government because they refused to allow me to wear my Turban when I wanted to renew my driver's licence. However, the government settled the case out of court and gave me a concession to wear the Turban. They have now withdrawn this concession without a valid reason. I therefore need to settle this issue once and for all."

"I am in great difficulty as I need to drive to work more than 100 miles away and I have elderly parents who need me to drive them around especially during an emergency. There is no bus service from the train station to my home," Mr Singh added.

In November last year this same administrative court had ruled that the rights of 3 Sikh school children had been illegaly violated by the education authorities who had denied them a right of hearing before excluding them from school for wearing a Turban.

Sikhs in France have been in the news ever since Pesident Chirac's government passed a law last march which banned the wearing of ostensible religious items, such as the Turban, Muslim Hijab Jewish Kippa and large Christian Crosses in state funded schools.

"The Ban law is up for review next month and we hope to convince the government that the law should not be interpreted to ban the Turban in schools because it has had an adverse effect on school children in state schools and it has been arbitrarily applied in private schools forcing at least 3 Sikh school children to forgo their education altogether. Most Sikh school children have had to go to school by compromising their beliefs under duress. The effect of this law has also been extended by the administration to other areas as today's judgment shows," Kudrat Singh, UNITED SIKHS director said.

For more information on the Right to Turban campaign, please link to:

Issued by:
Mejindarpal Kaur
Tel: (0044) (0) 870 199 3328

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