Memo to French officials: meeting with the French assistant consular general 1/22/04
Here is a synopsis of our meeting with the Assistant Consular General Olivier Arriba.
Three of us arrived there and were greeted with all due courtesy. We sat together for a 45 minute meeting. We introduced ourselves after which I proceeded with an introduction to the presentation to follow in French which you can read either the French or English translated versions. He very much appreciated the effort to do th introduction in French.
Bhai Harpreet Singh then gave a power point presentation which had photos of Sikhs from the 1st and 2nd world wars and quotes from generals and soldiers on the field. He reminded Mr. Arriba of th enormous sacrifices made by Sikhs in excess of their numbers in both wars. He asked why is it there was no issue with the Sikh turban as they bled and died on the battlefield while now that it is peacetime they are not allowed to live peacefully. A comment by Marshall Foch in WW1 next to one photo was very telling in that he mentioned the sacredness of the turban to the Sikhs. Bhai Harpreet Singh stated that removing the turban was simply not an option and was a religious spiritual requirement for all Sikhs and not simply a cultural requirement. I request Bhai Harpreet Singh to post the photos of his presentation on this site to share with others.
Bhai Sukhdev Singh went next and offered his personal feelings and perspective on the importance of the turban to a Sikh. He stated that it is a crown on his head given by the Guru. The turban with uncut hair is the image of God and Guru and that it is an insult for someone to tamper with or for a Sikh to remove the turban in public. To remove the turban is to dishonor the promise to the Guru and that the turban is part of a Sikh's identity. The turban in India was a sign of self-respect during the Mughal occupation. He mentioned that the turban was adopted by the Gurus at a time when the Mughuls decreed only the Muslims could wear it and everyone else was to wear a cap to humiliate and subjugate the conquered population. Guru Gobind Singh mandating the wearing of the turban by his initiates among other things restored that self-respect, dignity and honor and essentially challenged the oppressors. For the French Government to pass such a law would create a spiritual crisis to the Sikh and remove his or her dignity and be deeply humiliating. It was again stated that removing beard, hair and turban is simply not an option as it is part and parcel of the Sikh's identity.
M. Arribe listened quite intently and sympatheticall. He reassured us that the French people are deeply aware of the sacrifices the Sikhs made for the liberty of the French people. He stated that this situation stems from misunderstanding and miscommunication and that the French Government is acutely aware that it must address this grievous situation immediately and with consideration and fairness to other groups as well. He received a copy of the letter of concern authored by UNITED SIKHS with the list of 150 co-signing panthic organizations. He was given a copy of the book Warrior Saints to keep. He will be sent a CD with 5000 signatures collected in the past few weeks, other hard signatures gathered from Sikhs in San Jose and another CD with Harpreet Singh's presentation. He did say he would send his personal impressions of the meeting along with the materials given to President Chirac and asked for our emails that he may keep us abreast of developments. He stated we would likely get a response in the next few days. We took pictures and concluded our meeting leaving on an optimistic note that this situation will likely be resolved in a positive fashion.
Khalsa Panth da dass
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and additions as needed