Press Release

Thursday, 09 September 2005

Bhaadon 25, Nanakshahi 537

Two More French-Sikh Students Stopped from Wearing Turban to School

Paris—Two more French Sikh students were not allowed to wear their turban in two separate schools which opened for the new academic year this week, making them this year's 'victims' of the French law that bans ostensible religious symbols and clothing in schools. Last year three French Sikh schoolboys were expelled for insisting on their right to wear their Turban, an article of the Sikh faith.

17-year-old French-Sikh student, Gurinder Singh, was excluded from his classroom on Tuesday even though he was allowed to wear his Turban (Keski) by the same school in Noisy Le Sac last year. 14-year-old Hardeep Singh was also refused entry into his classroom for wearing his Turban (keski). After negotiating with the school in Le Blanc Mesnil, Hardeep Singh was admitted into the classroom provided he does not wear his Turban but instead covers his top-knot with a handkerchief (rumaal). Hardeep Singh has reluctantly accepted this condition.

"Gurinder' Singh's father was told by the school towards the end of the last academic year that Gurinder would not be allowed to wear his Turban in the new academic year even though he has been allowed to do so after the law came into force last year," said UNITED SIKHS Director in France, Kudrat Singh.

"I assisted the family to write to the school referring to a written assurance given by the ex-French Prime Minister, Mr Raffarin's, to the Sikh Gurdwara in Bobigny, that Sikh boys will be allowed to keep their religious tradition alive," Kudrat Singh added. There was no reply to the letter and when Gurinder Singh turned up at school this week he was not allowed to sit in his classroom and had to study in a separate room on his own.

"According to the government procedure, there will now be discussions with Gurinder's family culminating in a Council of Discipline hearing in a fortnight which will decide if he should be reinstated or expelled," Kudrat Singh said.

Gurdial Singh, chairman of the French Action Committee for the Sikh Turban, informed UNITED SIKHS that appropriate action will be taken following the decision of the Council in a fortnight.

"These cases show that problems for French-Sikh students are far from over, and the onus remains on the French government to understand the Sikh faith and the necessity of covering our uncut hair. We are expecting other such incidents to come to light over the next few weeks," said Kudrat Singh.

Some positive news has been received in the case of the three French-Sikh school students who were expelled last year for refusing to remove their turbans. Bikramjit Singh, Jasvir Singh and Ranjit Singh have been offered places at a private Catholic school, in their neighbourhood. The school has requested anonymity. This development came as a pleasant surprise to the families. Last year, after the expulsion of the three boys, the Education department had requested the catholic schools in the district to admit the boys but there was no answer from any of the schools.

"However, one day before the schools reopened this year the families got a call from a reputed catholic school in their district, which was acting on the orders of the Bishop, that they will admit the expelled Sikh boys until they complete their studies," said Kudrat Singh.

"We are very happy by the understanding shown by the Catholic church through the Bishop, however we do not see this as a solution to our problems because the Sikh children have a right to education in state schools. Further, this offer is not a permanent solution as there is no guarantee that all Sikh students will be admitted to Catholic schools." Kudrat Singh said.

"For example, this catholic school will not be available to Gurinder Singh because he is pursuing a vocational course which is not available in that school,".

"The three expelled boys will be filing an appeal to the high court this month and the legal battle continues in earnest," said Kudrat Singh.

For details on the Right To Turban campaign visit www.unitedsikhs.org/rtt/

Issued By:
Meerat Kaur
International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy
tel: ++3366 7719500 | ++ 44 (0) 870 199 3328 | ++ 44(0) 709 200 3571

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