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Press Release: September 08, 2004, 24 Bhaadon Samvat 536 Nanakshahi
Paris, France – The French Sikh community decided last night to take legal action against their government for banning Sikh school children from wearing the Turban to public schools.
“Legal counsel has been approached and I will be contacting her today to start legal proceedings as soon as possible,” said Kudrat Singh, UNITED SIKHS director, who attended the late night meeting in Bobigny, a Paris suburb. The meeting was also attended by school children affected by the ban and their parents and Sikh French leaders, Chain Singh, Gurdial Singh and Shingara Singh.
“Legal action will be taken on behalf of the 17 Sikh school children who were excluded from public schools last week because they refused to remove their Turbans,” added Kudrat Singh, who has been assigned the task of arranging an urgent meeting with counsel.
“ We have faith that the French judicial system will make France meet her obligations to provide school children the right to practise their religion under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 18 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights," Kudrat Singh said.
“Our legal counsel has been very receptive about the problems faced by French Sikhs,” Kudrat Singh said.
At the meeting last night, French Sikh leaders also decided that the 17 French Sikh school children who have been excluded from public schools will be enrolled in private schools and negotiations with the government will continue to allow them to resume their studies in the public schools of their choice.
“ We hope that private schools, where the ban does not apply, will not discriminate against the Sikhs but instead rise to the occasion and admit the 17 schoolchildren, said Karmvir Singh, UNITED SIKHS director, who also attended the meeting last night.
UNITED SIKHS, a global Sikh organisation which has been in the forefront of the Right To Turban campaign since the law was unveiled by the French president last December, and the Franco Sikh Organization, based in Paris, has formed a legal team comprising UNITED SIKHS directors and lawyers from the United Kingdom, India and the United States to provide any assistance required for the preparation of the brief for counsel, “ said Mejindarpal Kaur, UNITED SIKHS director.
UNITED SIKHS and the Franco Sikh Organisation will continue to provide the link of assistance between the French Sikh community and the global Sikh community in whatever way requested and necessary,” added Mejindarpal Kaur.
Simranjeet Singh Mann, ex Indian MP and leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal ( Amritsar) said he fully supports the French Sikh community’s actions.
“I will work with UNITED SIKHS and other global Sikh organisations to provide any assistance required by French Sikhs,” Mr Mann said.
Mr Mann has been in the forefront of the support given to French Sikhs from India. He attended the Paris rally organized by French Sikhs earlier this year and has been addressing the Indian parliament in support of this issue.
The global Sikh community has supported the Right To Turban campaign relentlessly.
A fortnight ago, The Indian Prime Minister, a Turban wearing Sikh, sent his National Security adviser, JN Dixit to Paris to make representations in support of the French Sikhs to the French government.
UNICEF has promised to meet UNITED SIKHS to discuss the problem faced by school children in France. On 9 Aug UNITED SIKHS wrote to UNICEF to intervene as France was in violation of its obligations under The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and school children were being forced to break the law or face expulsion.
Despite various assurances by French officials and diplomats that a solution will be found for Sikh school children, French Sikhs have moved no further forward from where they stood when the bill was tabled in Parliament.
The Sikh Turban is required to be worn by a Sikh who has long unshorn hair tied as a top-knot, in order to cover his head. We submit that to ask a Sikh to remove his/her Turban would be asking him/her to perform an impossible act, for the reasons outlined below.
A Sikh is inseparable from his/her Turban, which has been worn for centuries to cover his/her unshorn hair. The Sikh faith promotes a follower’s devotion to God. To a Sikh his/her unshorn hair and Turban are mandatory but not every Turban wearing person is a Sikh. Unshorn hair, and by extension the Turban, is not a symbol or an article of clothing, as it does not symbolize: it is part of his/her being a Sikh.
The Sikh Turban is an outward commitment of the mission given to all Sikhs to fight for truth, stand up against tyranny, and protect the weak - and by so doing to uphold ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’.
This law also affects a Muslim, Jewish and Christian child who is banned from wearing his/her ‘religious symbols’ at French public schools.
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