Press Release

Tuesday, 17th May 2005 3rd Jayth Nanakshahi 537

Right to Turban Advocacy Continues in Full Vigour

Paris—A delegation comprising members of the French Action Committee for the Sikh Turban and UNITED SIKHS had a hectic schedule last week meeting the French government, lawyers for the French Turban litigation and Members of the European Parliament, to advance the case for the Right to Turban.

The French Sikh community will have to see their legal battles to the end for their right to wear the Turban, Didier Leschi, head of the religious affairs department in the Internal Affairs Ministry, told the Sikh delegation at a meeting in Paris last week. 'There is nothing that the French Government can do at this stage both for the schoolchildren's case and the driver's licence photo identity cases,' he said.

Photo 1. French Sikhs and UNITED SIKHS delegation with the MEPs in the European parliament.
Photo 1. French Sikhs and UNITED SIKHS delegation with the MEPs in the European parliament.

'However, the school ban-law is up for review in the next few months and you must write to the President of the French parliament with your representations,' he advised.

'The global Sikh community has no animosity against the French people. In the preceding year both the French people and the Sikh community have learnt a lot about each other. However, now it is time that justice is done,' Mejindarpal Kaur of UNITED SIKHS told Mr Leschi.

'Immediately after the meeting with Mr Leschi, UNITED SIKHS wrote to Jean Louis Debre, president of the French Parliament, informing him that during the review of the law, we would like to make representations and submit our findings of a survey on the ban-law's effect on French Sikh school children,' said Kudrat Singh, Director of UNITED SIKHS-France. Shingara Singh Mann, who is suing the French government for not allowing him to wear his Turban for his driver's licence photograph showed Mr Leschi a power point presentation of passports showing European Sikhs wearing turbans.

'No other European country has banned Sikh nationals from wearing the Turban for their passports or other ID documents. It is inconceivable why France needs to ban the Turban when I have been wearing my Turban for my photo ID for 35 years, without causing any security risk,' said Mr Shingara Singh, who is also a director of UNITED SIKHS France.

Gurdial Singh, president of the French Action Committee for the Sikh Turban, informed Mr Leschi that the Committee comprises representatives of 5 French Sikh Gurdwaras and it has been mandated to co-ordinate the French community's efforts for the Turban. Mr Gurdial Singh was accompanied by another member of the Committee, Verinder Singh.

The same delegation then had separate meetings with French lawyers representing the schoolboys and Mr Shingara Singh. The schoolboys' lawyer, Mr A Beauquier informed the delegation that an appeal has been filed and he will write to the court asking for an expedited hearing in the interest of the schoolboys' education.

'UNITED SIKHS legal advisors, leading human rights lawyers, Bindman and Partners of London, who have been assisting the French lawyers throughout the litigation, have advised us that if an expedited hearing for the boys does not take place, there may be a case made for an appeal to the European Court even before the domestic court avenues are exhausted,' said Mejindarpal kaur.

'This is possible on grounds that the delay amounts to there being no de facto remedy in the domestic courts because the schoolboys' education is adversely affected by the delay,' she added.

Shingara Singh's High Court lawyer, Mr P Spinosi told the delegation that the High Court has appointed a special magistrate to examine the case for an emergency appeal hearing in mid-July.

At separate meetings with British MEPs arranged by UNITED SIKHS, The French Action Committee for the Sikh Turban were able to give a first hand account of how the French law has affected the community's schoolchildren.

'We met Neena Gill, a Sikh British MEP and president of the South Asian Affairs Delegation in the European Parliament, who expressed her willingness to help create greater awareness about the Turban amongst her colleagues in the European Parliament. We also discussed initiatives with MEPs Baroness Sarah Ludford and Caroline Lucas and have since spoken to MEP Claude Moraes, president of the Anti Racism and Diversity Intergroup,' said Mejindarpal Kaur.

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

Issued by:
Mejindarpal Kaur
Tel: 0044 (0)870 199 3328

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