“This incident shows how 9/11 has impacted lives of people who look different. It has bred racial profiling through ignorance,” said Mejindarpal Kaur, UNITED SIKHS Legal Director.
Paris, 11th September 2011, - As each us recall how life has changed post 9/11, two Sikh students felt the tremors last week in the suburbs of Paris, when their schools asked them to cut their hair- against Sikh tenets.
When they turned up at school to begin their new academic year, Harpal Singh, 14 years and Amarjit Singh, 16 years, were told by their respective schools to undo their unshorn hair, which they tie as a top knot covered with a kerchief (rumaal), or to cut their hair.
Harpal’s parents contacted UNITED SIKHS after the supervisor of Lycée Romain Rolland (Goussainville) refused to admit Harpal if he wore a rumaal. UNITED SIKHS wrote letters to the head teacher of the school, the Education Inspector of Goussainville (District Level), the Mediator and Rector of Versailles (Department Level) and sought meetings. Earlier in the week, we had written to Amarjit’s school and the education department when we found out that he was asked to cut his hair. Following a flurry of active advocacy, both schools reversed their demand, apologizing for the ignorance of their staff.
“Since the ban on the turban in 2004, French Sikh students have been wearing a rumaal on their joora (top knot) whatever their age, whereas they wear a patka or turban outside school. Therefore to ban the rumaal and to ask a Sikh student to cut his hair was the ultimate insult,” said Ranjit Singh, UNITED SIKHS Legal Fellow, who led the advocacy efforts.
“I thank UNITED SIKHS for their quick and efficient action in my child’s case. We don’t understand this incident. I tried to explain to the school secretary on the phone that the rumaal is worn only to ‘secure’ my child’s unshorn hair, but they did not listen to me,” said Pritipal Singh, father of Harpal Singh.
Since 9/11, laws have been passed in the garb of secularity to ban religious headwear in schools. In 2004, France passed a law that banned all religious signs in state schools. Whilst no governments have admitted the link between these anti-religious laws and 9/11, they privately admit these laws are to stem the rise of religious fervor which they feel was responsible for 9/11. Since the French ban, Belgian schools have also expelled Sikh boys who refused to remove their head covering, after a school group banned head coverings, even though there is no law that bans head coverings. UNITED SIKHS lawyers have challenged the French ban before the UN Human Rights Committee and the Belgian ban before the Belgian Conseil D’etat (Supreme Court) and decisions are pending.
You may read a previous press release on UNITED SIKHS’ advocacy for human and civil rights at http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-31-07-2011-00.html