PRESS RELEASE

14 January 2004

“Free people, remember this maxim: we may acquire liberty, but it is never recovered if it is once lost.”

Jean Jacques Rousseau

Members of the Sikh, Jewish and Muslim communities have joined hands in furthering support for the UNITED SIKHS campaign against French President Jacques Chirac's proposed law to ban the wearing of articles of faith, religion and ethnic identity at public schools and the workplace. The anti-ban campaign has sprouted into a variety of actions worldwide including a global petition for all communities, developed by UNITED SIKHS, a non-governmental human developmental organisation working for the betterment of 25 million Sikhs globally.

The proposed ban, which did not involve consultation of the 7,000 Sikhs in France, will force thousands of French men, women and children out of public nondiscriminatory education and a safe workplace.

“UNITED SIKHS approached the various minority communities to join the campaign for this very reason. This ban will be a serious detriment to the living conditions of many people throughout France,” Mejindarpal Kaur, Director of UNITED SIKHS said.

The Sikh community in France is seeking a meeting with the President and Home Minister of France to present their case next week.

“We need to make our representations directly to the President and Home Minister since the Stasi commission did not interview a single Sikh before proposing the law.” said Chain Singh, one of the French organisers of the campaign and the president of the Paris Singh Sabha Gurdwara.

“We are also holding a rally at Republic Place in Paris on 31st Jan which will be attended by all communities including the Sikh community from around the world.” he added.

“It has been reported recently that the people in France do not know that there is a Sikh community living in France. This rally will make us more visible,” Mr Singh said.

“The petition will also be delivered by members of various communities to French ambassadors in countries around the world next week,” said Mejindarpal Kaur, a director of UNITED SIKHS.

“For a start, the French Ambassador in Washington has agreed to meet a delegation led by UNITED SIKHS on 21s Jan 03,” Mejindarpal Kaur said.

Petitoners will also be seeking meetings with French Ambassadors in countries including United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, Holland, Germany, India, New Zealand, Chile, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, Nigeria and Kenya.

The campaign moved up a gear this week when UNITED SIKHS started a letter writing campaign urging petitioners to obtain support from their respective Members of Parliament (MPs) and members of US Congress.

The sample letters are at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/us-eu/petitions/RightToTurban.htm

A Prominent Sikh contender for the forthcoming United States Senate elections, the second highest elected office, Dr Chirinjeev Singh Kathuria, who, if elected, will be the first Turban wearing Senator in the US, has expressed his support for the petition campaign.

“I will make a public statement and endorse this petition shortly,” Dr Chirinjeev Singh told UNITED SIKHS.

In the UK, the campaign is supported by an Early Day Motion (EDM 362) moved by UK MPs in addition to support for an adjournment debate.

The EDM may be viewed at: http://edm.ais.co.uk/weblink/html/motion.html/ref=362

Mohamad Sawar MP who tabled the EDM welcomed UNITED SIKHS' move to get petitioners to write to their MPs to support the EDM.

“I will be requesting an adjournment debate too, which will boost the campaign,” Mr Sarwar told UNITED SIKHS. MPs from all three main political parties have signed up to the Early Day Motion in the UK

Political lobbying in Europe has also begun. It is being spearheaded by the Sikh Federation (UK), the Sikh first ever Sikh political party in the UK which was launched in September 2003. Sikhs across the UK are being requested to contact MPs and MEPs.

“All UK MEPs have been contacted to take the matter up at a European level,” said Amrik Singh, Chair of the Sikh Federation UK.

“Some MPs and MEPs have already written to the French authorities on behalf of the Sikh community and a petition at the European level has been lodged,” he added.

Danny Stone, President of United Jewish Students (UJS), a partner in this campaign, said, ‘It is unacceptable and ill-advised to try to prohibit religious symbols.’ The skullcap, known as the Kippah, is a Jewish custom that symbolises ones humility and humbleness in the presence of God. The UJS is working with UNITED SIKHS and other faith organisations in promoting a petition, as well as working with the European Union of Jewish students.

On 17th Jan Muslim organisations will hold rallies outside French embassies around the world to protest against the proposed ban.

Even though the Sikhs are the smallest minority affected by the proposed ban, UNITED SIKHS has taken the lead to facilitate an interfaith campaign.

“We were inspired by the teachings of our 9th Guru who, many years before French philosopher Rousseau's declaration on defending another's rights, not only fought for but laid down his life fighting for the human right of a minority community of another faith in Kashmir,” Kaur added.

UNITED SIKHS has also designed a campaign t-shirt, poster and banner that highlights the irony that Turbanned Sikh soldiers fought for French freedom in WWI and 90 years later French Sikhs are fighting for the freedom to wear their Turban.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  1. SIGN THE PETITION
    To view and sign the UNITED SIKHS petition against the ban, visit:
    http://www.unitedsikhs.org/us-eu/petitions/RightToTurban.htm

  2. CHECK FOR UPDATES
    You can view all news about the campaign by visiting:
    http://www.unitedsikhs.org/us-eu/news/RightToTurbanUpdate.htm

  3. WRITE TO YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES
    See the sample letters to send to your local MP and member of congress.
    These letters may be downloaded at:
    http://www.unitedsikhs.org/us-eu/petitions/RightToTurban.htm

  4. CREATE AWARENESS
    Create awareness within your community through the UNITED SIKHS website at
    www.unitedsikhs.org and by using the UNITED SIKHS t-shirt, poster and banner designs.

  5. REGISTER YOUR ORGANISATIONS TO SUPPORT THE CAMPAIGN
    All organisations wishing to offer their support for this worldwide campaign may register at:
    http://www.unitedsikhs.org/us-eu/petitions/organizations.php

    The following organisations support the UNITED SIKHS worldwide campaign against the proposed ban. This ever growing list is available at:
    http://www.unitedsikhs.org/us-eu/petitions/OrganisationsSuppRightToTurban.htm

  • Europe
    1. UNITED SIKHS-EU
    2. United Jewish Students (UK)
    3. Sikh Federation (UK)
    4. Sikh Secretariat
    5. International Assoc. of Sikh Lawyers (INASIL)
    6. National Council of Gurdwaras
    7. Working Group On Sikhs and Education (WORKSE)
    8. Sikh Secretariat
    9. Khalsa Human Rights,
    10. British Sikh Federation
    11. Akhand Kirtani Jatha UK
    12. Central Gurdwara (Khalsa Jatha) London (Established 1908)
    13. Sikh Education Welfare and Advancement (SEWA) network
    14. Sikh Student Assoc. - UC San Diego
    15. KINGSTON UNIVERSITY SIKH SOCIETY
    16. SCS Heathrow, London, UK
    17. Lotus Media
    18. Slough Sikh Education Trust
    19. SCAN (Sikh Community Action Network - UK)
    20. Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha
    21. Sikh Society in Netherlands
    22. Scottish Sikhs
    23. Guru Nanak Gurdwara
    24. Newzealand Sikh Society
    25. Birmingham Gurdwara Council
    26. Gurdwara Sri Singh Sabha, Duesberg, Germany
    27. Gurdwara Nanaksar, Munichen Germany
    28. Gurdwara Nanak Darbar, Humberg Germany
    29. Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Humberg Germany
    30. Gurudwara Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur, Kolon Germany
    31. Gurdwara Sat Sangh Darbar, Essen, Germany
    32. Gurdwara Guru Nanak Niwas, Italia
    33. Gurdwara Guru Gobind Singh, Italia
    34. Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha, Reggio Emillia Italy
  • North America
    1. UNITED SIKHS-NA
    2. American Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee (Coalition of more than 40 Gurudwaras in North America).
    3. Sikh Youth of America
    4. The Sikh Coalition
    5. World Sikh Council
    6. Voices for Freedom
    7. Sikh Youth Federation
    8. Khalistan Affairs Center
    9. IkOnkar Magazine
    10. The Khalsa Alliance
    11. Akhand Kirtani Jatha
    12. SSA at Washington State University
    13. SSA at the Uni of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
    14. Voice of Sikh Youth (SikhSangat.com)
    15. National Gurdwara (Washington D.C.)
    16. International Human Rights Org. USA
    17. SSA. at the George Washington University
    18. Islamic Society of North America
    19. Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Task Force (SMART)
    20. Gurudwara Singh Sabha Kalamazoo
    21. www.Gursikhi.org
    22. United Sikh Students of NJIT
    23. International Institutes of Gurmat Studies
    24. Khalsa Community School Malton
    25. Association of Sikh Professionals
    26. Penn Sikh Organization, University of Penn.
    27. Sri Dasmesh Band
    28. Sikh Association of Virginia, Inc.
    29. The Washington Sikh Center
    30. The United Sikh Association of Virginia
    31. Guru Gobind Singh Foundation MD, USA
    32. Singh Sabha Gurdwara, Austin, Texas, USA
    33. Sikh Welfare Foundation of North America
    34. SSA UCSD
    35. Ottawa Sikh Society
    36. Sher-e Punjab Student Alliance of UC Davis
    37. Sikh Students at Stanford University
    38. Sikh American Heritage Organization
    39. Guru Nanak Sikh Society of Yuba City, USA
    40. Washington Metropolitan Sikh Association
    41. The Centennial Foundation
    42. SIKH CENTER OF ORANGE COUNTY,USA
    43. FATEH NA
    44. Bay Area Sikhs
    45. Sikh Culture & Resource Society, Calgary
    46. Sikh Virsa (Monthly Magazine)
    47. United Sikh Association of Virginia Commonwealth University
    48. Sikh Association of Central Virginia
    49. NetIP-Network of South Asian Professionals: Texas, USA
    50. Sikh Gurdwara of North Carolina-USA
    51. Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle
    52. Gurudwara Guru Kalgidhar,Selma,CA, USA
    53. Waheguroo! Network
  • Asia
    1. UNITED SIKHS of Asia
    2. Sikh School of Thought
    3. Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committe
    4. Delhi Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee
    5. Nanakshahi
    6. IOSS (Chandigarh)
    7. Sikh Welfare Society MALAYSIA
    8. Gurdwara Sahib Chemor, Malaysia
    9. Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council (Regd.)
    10. FATEH Asia
    11. Maya Enclave , New Delhi, India
    12. Inter Religious Organisation of Singapore
    13. Akaal Akhara, Amritsar, INDIA
    14. Akaal Akhara, bombay, INDIA
    15. Akaal Akhara, Lucknow, INDIA
    16. Nagaara Trust, New Delhi, INDIA
    17. GURDWARA SAHIB AMEER PET, HYDERABAD, INDIA
    18. GURDWARA SAHIB NALLA BAGH UPPUGUDA, HYDERABAD, INDIA
    19. GURDWARA SAHIB REHMAT NAGAR, HYDERABAD, INDIA
    20. HAZOORI TAKSAL KANKYA COMPOUND, GATE 2, NANDED, INDIA
    21. GURDWARA TEG BAHADUR SAHIB, TEG BAHADUR NAGAR, NAGPUR,MAHARASHTRA, INDIA
    22. GURDWARA SAHIB COCHIN, KERALA, INDIA
    23. GURDWARA SAHIB, NASHIK RD, NASHIK, MAHARASHTRA, INDIA
    24. GURDWARA SRI GURU NANAK SAHIB, DHULIA, MAHARASHTRA, INDIA
    25. GURDWARA TEG BAHADUR SAHIB, GURU KA TAAL, AGRA, INDIA
    26. SRI GURU SINGH SABHA SECTOR 49, FARIDABAD, HARYANA, INDIA
    27. GURDWARA SRI GURU SINGH SABHA SECTOR 1, FARIDABAD, HARYANA, INDIA
    28. GURDWARA SRI GURU SINGH SABHA NO 5, FARIDABAD, HARYANA, INDIA
    29. GURDWARA SRI GURU SINGH SABHA SECTOR 22 & 23, FARIDABAD, HARYANA, INDIA
    30. GURDWARA SRI GURU SINGH SABHA SECTOR 9 & 10 FARIDABAD, HARYANA, INDIA
    31. GURDWARA SRI GURU HARKRISHEN SAHIB JI ULHASNAGAR-5, MAHARASHTRA, INDIA
    32. GURDWARA SRI GURU SINGH SABHA JAWAHAR COLONY, FARIDABAD, HARYANA, INDIA

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.