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Press Release: 04 September 2004, 20th Bhaadon, 536 Nanakshahi

FRENCH SCHOOLS STOP TURBAN-WEARING SIKHS FROM ENTERING SCHOOL

Paris, France – Fulfilling his commitment to wear his Turban to school, 14-year-old Jasvir Singh marched to school day before yesterday to purchase his textbooks for the school year. However, instead of worrying about the cost of textbooks and school supplies, Jasvir Singh was unceremoniously turned away at the school’s gate. Other Sikh students may face the same fate as they attempt to enter their schools wearing their Turbans, an article of faith of the Sikh religion that is not to be compromised by any Sikh. The Inspector of Academy, which presides over Jasvir Singh’s school, stated that he would meet with the schools, which are resisting the wearing of Turbans to convince them to allow the Turban.

Meeting with the Principal

Jasvir Singh, accompanied by his father Gurdial Singh, went to Louis Michel School in Bobigny (a suburb of Paris) to purchase textbooks in preparation for the new school year, set to begin next week. This school has two other Sikh students, Vikramjit Singh and Ranjit Singh, who were not at school today. However, Jasvir Singh was stopped at the school gates by teachers who refused to let him enter the school. Thereafter, a meeting took place between Mr. Fis, principal of the school, Jasvir Singh and Gurdial Singh in an attempt to resolve the matter. After waiting half an hour for the principal so that he may look into the matter, the principal stated that 20 Muslim women who attend the school had already removed their Hijabs in accordance with the French law and questioned why Jasvir Singh could not remove his Turban. Jasvir Singh recalled the principal’s words and told the UNITED SIKHS “The principal told us that he would like to admit me, but the law does not allow it”. Gurdial Singh responded that a Sikh has no alternative but to keep a Turban in accordance to his faith. He further stated that the French government was repeatedly apprised of this fact and the government had told the Sikh community that it would find a solution to this matter. After hearing this comment from Gurdial Singh, Mr. Fis told Jasvir Singh and Gurdial Singh that even if he were to allow Jasvir Singh to attend classes, the teachers could still stop Jasvir Singh from wearing the Turban if they deemed it to be disturbing the class. Mr. Fis again questioned Jasvir Singh as to why he cannot wear an alternative to “protect your hair” e.g. a scarf. Jasvir Singh responded that “What we are wearing now (referring to his and his father’s Turban) is to protect our hair”, to which the principal retorted that Jasvir Singh’s Turban was “too big”. Jasvir Singh (whose Turban is a small Keski) further responded by pointing to his father’s Turban (which is a full Dumalla) and stated “What I am wearing on my head is what my dad is wearing underneath his Turban”, giving a comparison to how small his (Jasvir’s) Turban is.

Meeting with the Inspector of Academy

A meeting took place day before yesterday evening with Jean Charles Ringard, the Inspector of Academy for Creteil, the district in which Jasvir Singh’s school is located. It was attended by Jasvir Singh, Gurdial Singh, Manpreet Singh, and Karmvir Singh, Director of UNITED SIKHS, Kashmir Singh and Chain Singh. There, Mr. Ringard detailed to the attendees that he had campaigned hard in his district, which has a large concentration of Sikhs, to allow Turbans in schools. His efforts had the effect of all but 3 schools allowing Sikh children to wear Turbans to school. The schools that still are resisting Turbans are Jean Michel School in Bobigny (Jasvir Singh has admission in this school with two other Sikh boys), Jean Rostan School in Villepinte (which has 1 Sikh student attending) and Mozart School in Blanc Mesnit (which also has 1 Sikh child in attendance). He further detailed that Jasvir Singh’s school had initially agreed to allow Turbans, but they changed their minds. Mr. Ringard stated that he would brief the Sikh community on Saturday on the status of these three schools after he meets with the resisting schools to convince them to allow the Sikhs to wear Turbans.

Timeline of This Week’s Events
Details of the various efforts and occurrences that took place and will take place this week are outlined below.

Monday – Mr. Ringard meets with the Director of Cabinet for the French Government, in which it was agreed that the Sikhs would be allowed to wear Turbans at school.

Tuesday – Mr. Ringard tells the schools in his district that Sikhs are to be allowed to wear Turbans to school. The Jean Rostan School in Villepinte voices immediate opposition and refuses to accept this decision.

Thursday – Jasvir Singh finds out that Jean Michel School in Bobigny refuses to allow the Turban when his teachers at the school gate stop him from entering.

Friday - Mr. Ringard plans to talk to the SSU – the teacher’s union of the resisting schools, to convince them to allow Sikhs to wear Turbans in their schools.

Saturday – Mr Ringard will inform the Sikh community of the result of his negotiations with the SSU at the resisting schools.

Another Incident
Karmvir Singh also detailed another incident of a Sikh schoolchild being barred from entry to his school. Seven-year-old Sumeet Singh, accompanied by his mother, was stopped at the gate of his school named Jean Jaures in the town of Drancy by the teachers. Sumeet Singh, who was wearing a handkerchief to cover his hair, was stopped at the gate and was not allowed in until the mother removed the handkerchief from her son’s hair. Karmvir Singh detailed that the tearful mother communicated these sad details to UNITED SIKHS via a telephone call.

UNITED SIKHS is staying vigilant and collecting any information it can regarding any further cases of Sikh schoolchildren being turned away from their schools. Since the beginning, the French government has been told that the Turban is an article of faith for Sikhs that cannot be compromised upon or replaced by another head covering. Every possible means of diplomacy and raising awareness has been employed, but to no avail as of yet.

UNITED SIKHS has supported and will continue to support any and all efforts to combat this biased and unfair law and stands along with the French Sikh community in open opposition to this draconian French law.

For more information on the Right to Turban campaign, please link to:
http://www.unitedsikhs.org/rtt/index.htm

Contacts: Mejindarpal Kaur (011-91-9815402260): mejindarpal.kaur@unitedsikhs.org
Karmvir Singh (011-33-603 445250): karmvir.singh@unitedsikhs.org


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