COMMUNITY VOICE

 

 

September 26, 2004                                   Asu 11, 536 NANAKSHAHI

UNITED SIKHS LEADS RALLY OUTSIDE UN HQ TO PROTEST AGAINST FRENCH BAN ON THE SIKH TURBAN

New York, NY – UNITED SIKHS led a rally outside the United Nations head quarters on Sept 23 to protest against the French ban on the Sikh Turban and other religious head-coverings. As the rally proceeded outside of people who believe in the freedom of Faith, Religion and Ethnic Identity and the Right to Education, ironically, inside the UN HQ the French Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Michel Barnier spoke on the need to respect cultural diversity.

 

”The dignity of man and peoples also requires due respect for cultures in their diversity. The sense of loss of identity contributes to the frustrations that breed conflicts. The unity of the international community cannot be synonymous with uniformity, Mr Barnier said during the 59th General Assembly debate. For full text of the French Minister’s address:

 http://www.un.org/webcast/ga/59/statements/fraeng040923.pdf

 

The Turbaned Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh who attended the debate, must have looked on disbelievingly at the French minister’s failure to mention the need to respect religious diversity. Sikhs at the rally outside shouted slogans sending a message to the French government that France’s ban on the Sikh Turban and other religious head coverings is anti-religion.

 

UNITED SIKHS Director, Jagjit Singh(wearing a  brown Turban)  with  a senior citizen outside the UN HQ on 23rd Sept 2004.

The rally protesters asked France to live up to and be proud of its principle of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity and not hide behind a façade of secularity, which is meant to be neutral and not against religion.

 

The protesters sent a forceful and clear message to French and other world leaders attending the UN meeting that the French law which bans religious head-coverings in public schools threatens religious freedom and is in contravention of France’s obligation under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suporters from various groups who had come to voice their separate concerns, also supported the rally. These groups included NICE, American Gurdwara Parbhandhak Committee ( AGPC), Sikh Youth Of America (SYA), Sikh Nation, Kashmiri Association. UNITED SIKHS activists spoke out on France’s role and said that France should abolish its law and allow students to wear their religious head coverings to school. The various groups present were sharing the space for their respective concerns.

 

Jagjit Singh, UNITED SIKHS Director said “There is no evidence to suggest that the French core values of 'Liberty, Equality and Fraternity' have been threatened by anyone expressing his or her Faith, Religion or Ethnic Identity.” He said, “The United States also believes in principles of equality but not at the expense of religious and cultural diversity. You cannot achieve equality by banning religious expression.”

 

UNITED SIKHS activists holding banners at the rally.

 

 

 

 

Activists from various organizations speaking out their concerns in front of the UN on Sept 23rd 2004

“Instead, France could achieve equality by promoting compassionate respect for all religions through interfaith activities or through compulsory courses in schools on all religions.  France carries a heavy burden by denying religious expression and is likely to lose global respect through this law. UNITED SIKHS will advocate the cause of getting this law repealed in France through dialogue and legal action by working with Sikhs in France.” Jagjit Singh said.

 

 

 

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

 

 

Our Mission: 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 organizations 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 organizations and individuals, who share a common vision based on the belief that there is no greater endeavor 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 fulfill 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.