France isolates Sikh students over turban
Sep 15, 2005

France isolates Sikh students over turban Noopur Tiwari

Watch story France isolates Sikh students over turban

Friday, September 15, 2006 ( Paris):

The debate over the ban on wearing of religious symbols in state-run schools continues in France.

Four Sikh children are being kept in isolation and are not being allowed to attend classes because they refuse to give up their seven metre long turban and switch to the more discreet under turban keski or patka.

Jasmeet Singh is being kept in isolation, while school authorities try to talk him into giving up his patka.

"They say you have two options. Either tie your hair at the back like girls or cut your hair. They say if I continue to wear my patka they will throw me out of school," said Jasmeet, Student.

Separate activities

Jasmeet's schoolmates aren't even aware that he has been coming to school every day for the past two weeks.

"The school is French so he should get used to this. There is no other way. I don't want to sound mean, but if he can't, he should go back to his country," said a French schoolgirl.

"When he enters school he should not forget his religion but he should take off his turban for half a day and put it back when he comes out. God will understand," added a schoolboy.

After school hours, Sikh boys from various schools get together.

"They keep me in a separate room and give me some exercises to do. I don't have the right to go to class like everyone else, " Hardeep Singh, Student.

"Even when there is a fifteen minute break, they don't allow us to go out. They say you have to stay here," said Maha Singh, Student.

Legal precedent

While school authorities are implementing the ban, they don't want to make public comments about it.

France's secular laws are aimed at creating a neutral atmosphere in schools by keeping religious affiliations out, but many find this oppressive.

"Now it's become an ideology where they want to suppress all the cultures they do not understand," said Kudrat Singh, United Sikhs France.

School authorities are hesitant in making exceptions for Sikh children, as they fear they will set a legal precedent and insist that the law must apply to all.

But most Sikh children who remain in isolation for weeks or even months feel this is a traumatic period for them, as they often feel rejected or humiliated at school.

They are also torn between the sentiments of their parents and their religion on the one hand and the French law on the other.

Article by Courtesy of http://www.ndtv.com
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