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Community Voice

01 june 2004

18th Jeth, 536 Nanakshahi

French Government Retracts its Recent Statement on Hairnet

Paris, France – The French government has retracted its recent statement that Sikh school children will be required to wear hairnets instead of turbans in public schools, saying that there has been a misunderstanding. However the French government has once again failed to give any written notification that the turban will be allowed in public schools when the law banning “religious symbols” is implemented in the new French school year, which shall commence in September.

“There has been a misunderstanding between the Education Minister Francois Fillon and the news reporter,” said Roland Jouve, Special Advisor to the Education Minister to a delegation of Sikhs who met him on the 26th

of May to seek clarification about the press report on this issue. When asked if the Government will give a written undertaking that the French Sikh school children will be allowed to continue wearing a turban, Mr Jouve said, “I cannot give it to you in writing. You have to trust us.”

“UNITED SIKHS is seeking legal advice as we have not moved an inch forward with the government since the law was proposed,” said Kudrat Singh, a French representative of UNITED SIKHS, who attended the meeting last week. “A meeting is being sought with French lawyers this week, to seek legal advice, said Mejindarpal Kaur”, Director of UNITED SIKHS.

Mr. Shangara Singh, President of the Paris-based organization Franco Sikhs told UNITED SIKHS, “How do you expect us to have faith? In the last decade, despite winning court cases for the Sikhs right to wear a turban for photo IDs, the home minister recently circulated a memo banning headgears for photo ID.” On the 17th of May the French Education minister, Francois Fillon, in what seemed like a government U-Turn had told a press conference that the Sikh turban was offensive and Sikh school children will only be allowed to wear hairnets.

This came as a shock to the French Sikh community, since less than a week
earlier, the Cabinet Director to the French Prime Minister, Mr Michel Boyon, wrote to the French Sikh community that everything would be done to ensure that Sikh school children could continue with their traditions with dignity within the framework of the law. Mr Boyon had said that the law did not ban the wearing of religious symbols per se, unless wearing them may cause a conflict within the school establishment.

Given that no conclusive decision has been made in the French Turban Issue, UNITED SIKHS will continue its campaign to ensure that the Sikh school children will not have to compromise their religious traditions to be granted a human right, the right to an education.

For more information on the Right to Turban campaign, please link to:http://www.unitedsikhs.org/us-eu/petitions/RightToTurban.htm

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