Sikhs to Take French Turban Law to European Rights Court

June11, 2007


Sikhs in France will ask a European court to grant them the right to wear turbans. Currently, rules ban wearing all head covers both in schools and in identity photos.

Sikhs will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights for the right to wear turbans in official photographs.

French rules ban them from wearing their turbans when photographed for identity cards. A law passed in March 2004 forbids the wearing of conspicuous religious signs and covers both schools and identity photos.

The United Sikhs association said it was referring to the European Court of Human Rights Monday the case of a 52-year-old shopkeeper. Authorities have refused to issue him a driving license if he is pictured with a turban.

Turban "integral to identity"
In December 2006 France's highest administrative body, the Council of State, turned down his request that a transport ministry circular requiring bare heads on driving license photos for security reasons be declared void.

"Sikhs never cut their hair and always cover it with a turban, to the point where the turban, an article of faith laid down by their religion, is an integral part of their cultural and ethnic identity," said Kudrat Singh, a leader of the French branch of the United Sikhs association
France won't allow turbans in official photographs
A ban on headscarves was controverial with Muslims

Muslim mothers also appealed law

Muslims have also recently challenged the law. French schools prohibited headscarf-wearing Muslim mothers from taking part in their children's outings, also citing the ban.

A top anti-discrimination body ruled last month that French schools were violating the rights of the mothers. The women had petitioned the French anti-discrimination authority HALDE after they were barred from accompanying school trips or extra-curricular activities.

The HALDE stressed the ban only concerns students, and that "the refusal on principle for mothers wearing the headscarf" to join in school activities was a form of "discrimination on religious grounds."

The HALDE recommended that all schools revise their guidelines on parent participation "in order to respect the principle of non-discrimination on religious grounds."

France, which has Europe's biggest Muslim population, is one of the few countries to have passed legislation banning visible religious symbols in public schools.

The law sparked a wave of anger and incomprehension among Muslims worldwide, but in France the controversy that surrounded its adoption three years ago has all but died down.

Article by Courtesy of http://www.dw-world.de

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