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Right to Turban Petition


To:
The People of France
The President of France
Members of the French Parliament

Cc:
Members of the European Parliament
The United Nations
The Leaders of all Faiths, Religions and Ethnic Groups of the World

We the undersigned urge the abovementioned to uphold the basic human rights of Freedom of Faith and Religion and Right to Education and Ethnic identity in France by not supporting any legislation which will ban the wearing of articles of Faith, Religion and Ethnic Identity in public schools and regulate their wearing at the workplace.

We deeply regret French President Jacques Chirac's call for legislation to ban the wearing of articles of Faith, Religion and Ethnic identity in public schools and to regulate their wearing at the workplace.

This exclusionary law will ban Sikhs from wearing their distinctive Turbans in addition to banning Islamic head coverings, Jewish skullcaps and oversized Christian crosses in public schools and workplaces.

The global community urges President Chirac to reconsider his decision as it violates fundamental human rights including the freedom of Faith, Religion and the Right to Ethnic Identity and Education.

To illustrate, we highlight how the ban will affect the Sikh community in France. For a Sikh, wearing a Turban is not an optional but mandatory requirement of the Sikh faith. Such legislation will deny approximately 7,000 Sikhs residing in France their fundamental right to practise the Sikh faith.

Sikhs have contributed valiantly to the French aspirations of 'Liberty, Equality and Fraternity' during the First and Second World Wars. Turban wearing Sikh soldiers served in France in 13 cavalry and 8 infantry regiments during World War 1. The major battles during World War 1 in France in which Sikhs fought valiantly were: Ypres, La Bassée, Neuve Chapelle, Festubert, Loos, Givenchy and Somme. Their bravery and actions have been globally recognised.

Sikhs In France Postcard

A remarkable French postcard dated Sept 1914 heralding the arrival of Sikh troops of the 15th Sikh regiment, wearing their articles of faith. The leading soldier is seen holding the French tricolour in his left hand. (Courtesy: Paramjit Singh, Co-author :Warrior Saints, London, IB Tauris, 1999).

"The Stasi commission, which recommended the ban, consulted all communities on this issue, except the 7,000 members of the French Sikh community, before making its recommendations," said a dismayed Gurdial Singh, a French Sikh community leader, who has lived in France for 23 years.

"The 7,000 Sikhs of France are law abiding citizens and our children are second generation proud French nationals," he added.

"The Sikh Turban is not a hat which we can take off when we are at school or at work. It is an insult to a Sikh to ask him to take off his Turban," he said.

"Our children's education is at stake here as we cannot compromise on this issue.Our children wear long unshorn hair which needs to be covered with a Turban," he added.

He said that even though some schools had in the past years objected to the wearing of the Turban, Sikh Community leaders had always successfully appealed to the discretion of the school authorities to allow the wearing of Turbans.

"But after the ban is imposed the school authorities will not have a discretion in the matter," he said.

Karmvir Singh, 19 year old son of Gurdial Singh, experienced the brunt of this proposed law when he was rejected by 5 French universities in Oct on grounds that he wore a Turban.

"They told me that they were prepared to offer me a place but only if I took off my Turban," Karmvir Singh said.

Ironically, Karmvir Singh had in the past successfully helped many young Sikh school children to gain admission in schools which had initially objected to the Turban.

"But now my education plans have suffered a serious setback because the universities acted in anticipation of the government's plans to ban the wearing of religious articles at educational institutions," he said.

"I was planning to do a degree in commercial studies and then go on to study computer engineering," he said.

Karmvir Singh's school-going brothers have been told by their schools that they will have to leave.

"We don't know what will happen. Education is important," he 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. France has emerged as a nation which champions the rights of people of all Faiths, Religions and Ethnic Identities. The strength of its secularity should not harm the very people it protects.

In the name of secularity, France's cultural diversity and understanding between people of different Faiths, Religions and Ethnic Identities will be jeopardised. We fear that the new law will be a throw-back to the dark days when there was a lack of understanding between people of different Faiths, Religions and Ethnic Identities before World War II.

We have responded to this global petition organised by UNITED SIKHS, a Sikh organisation working for the betterment of 25 million Sikhs globally, for people of all faiths and nations to appeal to the People of France, the French Parliament, the President of France, the European Parliament, the United Nations and Leaders of all Faiths, Religions and Ethnic Groups of the World to allow good-sense to prevail.

Spiritual expression promotes greater harmony through inter-Faith, inter-religious and inter-ethnic understanding. UNITED SIKHS has urged the global community to take action by signing the petition (See below) to send a strong and unified message that banning Faith-based, Religious and Ethnic expression will not be in the human interest.

This petition is signed at: http://www.PetitionOnline.com/sikh5555/petition.html

For more information on Sikhs and the Great War in France, please visit the following URL:
http://www.unitedsikhs.org/us-eu/sacred/france/Sikhs_in_France.htm
(Thanks to A Madra and Paramjit Singh for their book: Warrior Saints: Three Centuries of the Sikh Military Tradition, A Madra and P Singh London, IB Tauris, 1999).

About The Petition Organiser:

United Sikhs

Web:

www.unitedsikhs.org

E-mail:

taskforce@unitedsikhs.org

 

Europe

Tel:

0044 (0)709 200 3571

Fax:

0044 (0)871 433 5655

E-mail:

unitedsikhs-eu@unitedsikhs.org

 

North America

Tel:

1-646-338-5996

Fax:

1-810-885-4264

E-mail:

unitedsikhs-na@unitedsikhs.org

 

Asia

Tel:

00-91-(0)9815673242

E-mail:

unitedsikhs-asia@unitedsikhs.org

 

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 organisations 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 organisations 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.

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