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Updated: December 6, 2010 19:56 IST

Sikhs urge Sarkozy to lift ban on turbans in French schools

    Special Correspondent
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A student holds a placard at a demonstration in New Delhi on Monday, appealing to the visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy to allow Sikh students to wear turbans in French schools.
AP A student holds a placard at a demonstration in New Delhi on Monday, appealing to the visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy to allow Sikh students to wear turbans in French schools.

A large number of Sikhs, led by Shiromani Akali Dal MPs Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Harsimrat Kaur Badal and comprising members of Delhi unit of the SAD (Badal) and a number of school children on Monday took out a protest demonstration against the ban on wearing turbans in France. They then submitted a memorandum in the name of the visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the country's Embassy here.

The demonstration started from Teen Murti House and after the police stopped the protesters a little distance ahead, an eight-member delegation went up to the Embassy to submit the memorandum.

Delhi SAD chief Manjit Singh G. K. said the delegation which went up to the Embassy also presented a picture of young Sikh princesses in their traditional attire to the French President through the mission. “It portrayed the importance of the turban among young Sikhs,” he said.

In the memorandum, the delegation said “banning the wearing of obvious religious symbols including the Sikh turban in public schools all over France has outraged the Sikh community worldwide”.

“The turban is the most recognisable feature of a Sikh. Unlike other head coverings, it is an inextricable part of the Sikh identity and is worn by Sikhs at all times to cover their unshorn hair, a mandatory article of their faith. As a part of core identity of the Sikhs, the law essentially has the effect of banning the practice of the Sikh religion in France,” the memorandum stated.

Making a mention of how the Constitution of France is based on the virtues of liberty, fraternity and equality, the memorandum also makes a mention of the importance of religious freedom as set forth in the European Convention on Human Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, to which France is a party.

Acknowledging that the Sikh community is aware that the “law banning obvious religious symbols in schools had been passed to promote security”, the memorandum nevertheless stated that the “decision to rate the turban under ‘obvious religious symbol' by France would not be tolerated.

It appealed that in view of the fact that the turban to a Sikh is more than just an identity or a symbol, the ban imposed in public grade schools may be lifted.

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