|Tuesday, 19th April 2005||6th Vaisakh (Samvat 537 Nanakshahi)|
Melun (Outskirts of Paris), France
A French administrative court in Melun today upheld the expulsion of three Sikh school children for wearing a Turban on grounds that the Turban made them instantly recognisable as Sikhs.
'According to the law, the administration did not have to consider if the Turban had the effect of proselytising or that it led to a breach of public order,' the president of the Tribunal, Mr G Roth stated in the four page judgment that was faxed to the three boys' lawyer.
'The court's decision is regrettable because it did not pay any regard to the French Constitution and to Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights that guarantees the right to practise ones religion,' said Felix de Belloy, the lawyer representing the three Sikh schoolboys, Jasvir Singh, Bikramjit Singh and Ranjit Singh.
'Under the French Constitution and Article 9 of the European Convention, the right to practise one's religion can only be derogated on grounds of public security and safety. However, the Melun Court has said that the Administration did not have to consider if wearing the Turban would lead to a breach of public order,' Mr de Belloy told UNITED SIKHS in a phone interview.
In March 2004 a law was passed in France that bans conspicuous religious symbols and attire in the classroom. Under this law, schoolchildren are banned from wearing the Christian cross, Jewish skull-cap, Islamic head scarf and the Sikh turban. These three French Sikh boys were expelled from school last December for refusing to remove their Turbans.
'We will appeal to the highest court as we believe that the Law cannot intend for us to abandon our religion. Our Turban is a part of our body like our hair. It is immaterial that it makes me recognisable as a Sikh. Without it I am not a Sikh,' said one of the boys, father, Gurdial Singh.
'The court was asked to uphold the freedom of conscience for the 15 year olds, which is protected under French law. However, the court has not upheld both the letter and spirit of the law. With one stroke of the pen, the court today has made the Sikh religion, which has been in existence for more than 500 years, illegal.' said Kudrat Singh, UNITED SIKHS director.
'Sikhs wear the turban to maintain the sanctity of their unshorn hair. Rather than being an ostensible symbol of their religion, it is a personal sign between the wearer and God. It is a manifestation of their religion, as recognised by the European Convention of Human Rights, and is an intrinsic part of being a Sikh, Kudrat Singh wrote in a letter to the French Prime Minister last week.
A preliminary study carried out by UNITED SIKHS shows 84 percent of the interviewees were prevented from wearing head coverings of their choice to school. Five schoolboys were expelled for refusing to remove their turban, and many more were outcast by their peers. The report of this study may be viewed at:
'This study was necessary because last year the French government had reassured the Indian Premier, Dr Manmohan Singh, that the Turban ban only affected a few and that a solution has been found for most.' Said Kudrat Singh.
For more information on the Right to Turban campaign, please link to:
Tel: (0044) (0) 870 199 3328
To transform underprivileged and minority communities and individuals into informed and vibrant members of society through civic, educational and personal development programs, by fostering active participation in social and economic activity.
UNITED SIKHS is also an avenue for networking between like-minded organisations to establish and nurture meaningful projects and dialogues - whether social, cultural or political- to promote harmony, understanding and reciprocity in our villages, towns and cities.
UNITED SIKHS is a coalition of organisations and individuals, who share a common vision based on the belief that there is no greater endeavour than to serve, empower and uplift fellow beings. The core of our philosophy is an unwavering commitment to civic service and social progress on behalf of the common good.
Accordingly, UNITED SIKHS has sought to fulfil its mission not only by informing, educating and uplifting fellow beings but also by participating in cross-cultural and political exchanges to ensure that the promises and benefits of democracy are realized by all.
We at UNITED SIKHS believe that the development of enlightened and progressive societies can be made possible by socially conscious groups of people who make a commitment to develop and direct human potential. Our work, efforts and achievements stand as a testament to our faith in this vision.