November 4, 2004                         21st  Katik, 536 Nanakshahi

 

PRESS RELEASE

 

Helsinki Commission To Investigate the French Turban Ban On The Recommendation of UNITED SIKHS

 

Paris, France – UNITED SIKHS is pleased to announce that the United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency that monitors and encourages the implementation of Helsinki Provisions, has urged the French Government to “rethink” its law which bans the wearing of ostensible religious signs to public schools and “make reasonable accommodations” for students who wear ostensible religious signs. Earlier this year, the French Government passed a law that bans the wearing of ostensible religious signs to public schools and requires a school to give the student a hearing before expelling him for wearing the religious signs. 

 

Commenting on the tragic expulsion of French Sikh schoolchildren from their schools for trying to follow the edicts of their religion, a fundamental and universal human right, Chairman Smith of the Helsinki Commission stated, “Expelling children is not the answer.  Students attending public schools should not have to sacrifice their religious beliefs to enjoy the same educational opportunities as their fellow classmates.”

 

Over the last several months, UNITED SIKHS has met on several occasions with representatives of the Helsinki Commission and has provided continuous updates on the ban of religious articles of faith involving the Sikh community in France. UNITED SIKHS is encouraged with the bold stand the Helsinki Commission has made in light of seventeen Sikh students who were excluded from French schools for wearing turbans as required by the Sikh faith.  Currently, UNITED SIKHS is working with attorneys to take legal action on behalf of those seventeen Sikh school children who were excluded from public schools because they refused to remove their turbans.

 

In September, three Sikh students, Jasvir Singh, Bikramjit Singh and Ranjit Singh, were expelled from attending school without a hearing being held.  In October, the three Sikh students were forced to go to an Administrative Tribunal to decide if they would be re-admitted or stay expelled from the Louise Michel School in Bobigny, a suburb of Paris.

 

The French Tribunal, upon hearing the case of the Sikh schoolchildren, ordered the school to form a disciplinary committee to decide if it will admit or expel the three French Sikh schoolboys, ending a six-week stalemate since schools reopened in September.  This decision will be made on November 5th.  The judge explained that by not giving the schoolboys a right to a disciplinary hearing, the school had committed a “grave and serious attack” on the rights of the Sikh schoolboys.

 

UNITED SIKHS, a global Sikh Organization has been at the forefront of the Right To Turban campaign since the French president unveiled the proposed law last December. The Franco Sikh Organization, a French Sikh organization based in Paris also involved in the French Turban Issue, has formed a legal team comprising UNITED SIKHS Directors and Attorneys from the United Kingdom, India and the United States of America to provide any assistance required for the preparation of a brief for counsel.

 

For more information on the Right to Turban campaign, please go to:

http://www.unitedsikhs.org/rtt/

 

Helsinki Commision’s Press Release:   http://www.csce.gov/press_csce.cfm?press_id=395

 

 

 

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