- Title: FRANCE: FRENCH SIKHS ENRAGED BY PLAN TO BAN RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS FROM PUBLIC SCHOOLS
- Date: 15th January 2004
- Summary: (U7) BOBIGNY, PARIS SUBURBS, FRANCE (JANUARY 13, 2004) (REUTERS) 1. MV /SCU SIKH PRIEST IN FRONT OF ALTAR (3 SHOTS) 0.22 2. SLV INTERIOR OF TEMPLE WITH THE PEOPLE SITTING; SCU SIKH MAN; SKV SIKHS KNEELING IN FRONT OF ALTAR; MV PRIEST CHANTING; SLV SIKHS (5 SHOTS) 0.51 2. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PRIEST DAVINDER SINGH SAYING "Liberty means liberty of every religion. So, if liberty means to respect all religion that means, I think, that France should respect Sikh religion as well." 1.11 3. MV SIKHS PRAYING IN FRONT OF ALTAR; SLV SIKHS SITTING; SCU SIKH MAN (5 SHOTS) 1.36 4. (SOUNDBITE) (French) SPOKESMAN FOR THE SIKH COMMUNITY BHAI CHAIN SINGH KHALSA SAYING "When the first Sikhs arrived, I saw pictures, I have proofs, they wore turbans. They fought against Germany and the French state did not think of asking them to take off their turbans before they died for France." 2.23 5. MV SIKH MAN PRAYING 2.29 6. (SOUNDBITE) (French) BHAI CHAIN SINGH KHALSA SAYING "We represent a minority, we cant put pressure on the government. They should think of us. For the time being, the law mentions the Muslims, the Jews but not the Sikhs. Its a real confusion. Where do we stand ? The French state should think of us." 2.42 7. SCU PRIEST CHANTING; MV SIKHS PRAYING 3.08 Initials Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
- Embargoed: 30th January 2004 12:00
- Location: BOBIGNY, FRANCE
- Country: France
- Reuters ID: LVAEXNOJBLBIO2S30L5REJV4WF1Z
- Story Text: French Sikhs are enraged by a plan to ban religious
symbols from public schools.
Sikhs in France rebelled on Tuesday (January 13, 2004)
against a planned law which will ban religious symbols in
French classrooms and say that shedding their winding head
coverings is unthinkable.
"Liberty means liberty of every religion. So, if
liberty means to respect all religion that means, I think,
that France should respect Sikh religion as well," said
Sikh priest Davinder Singh.
Frances Sikh population is tiny, up to 15,000 about a
third of them are in the Paris region, in a nation of
about 60 million. That may be why French officials
neglected them while they consulted with Muslims, Jews and
Christians before drawing up proposals to maintain Frances
tradition of secularism.
Bhai Chain Singh Khalsa, spokesman for the community,
wrote recently to President Chirac that Sikhs in Britain,
the United States had been granted exemptions to work in
the police and the military with their trademark turbans
Chain Singh argued in his letter that Sikh men only
wear their turbans to cover their long hair, which their
faith says they should not cut, so the headgear itself was
Unlike a Muslim veil or Jewish skullcap, a turban has
no religious symbolism itself.
Chain Singh said including Sikh turbans in the planned
law, which bans all religious symbols in a move mostly
aimed at stopping Muslim schoolgirls from wearing Islamic
headscarves, would mean a setback in the community's
relations with the French.
During the first World War, their Sikh ancestors died
for France -- with their turbans on. Thousands of Sikhs
fought in France then as part of the British army.
"When the first Sikhs arrived, I saw pictures, I have
proofs, they wore turbans. They fought against Germany and
the French state did not think of asking them to take off
their turbans before they died for France," said Bhai Chain
As a minority, Frances Sikhs have no way to put
ure on the French government.
"We represent a minority, we cant put pressure on the
government. They should think of us. For the time being,
the law mentions the Muslims, the Jews but not the Sikhs.
Its a real confusion. Where do we stand ? The French state
should think of us," said Chain Singh.
Legislators from across the political spectrum support
the veil ban to bolster Frances strict separation of church
and state against what they see as growing pressure from
Islamic radicals to seek special treatment in public
Manprit Singh, a young devotee said that the law
banning religious symbols will prevent children from going
to school. He
stressed that they may go to the Human Rights Court to
present their case.
"The Sikh community will have to stop going to school,
it means that the children who are going to school will
stop going and it will be the case for most of the school
children. We are thinking of presenting the case to the
European Community and the Human Rights Court," he said.
The proposed ban has split the leaders of France's five
million Muslims, with community spokesman Dalil Boubakeur
reluctantly accepting it while several main Muslim
associations have angrily denounced it as discriminatory.
Sikhs from France, Belgium, Germany and Italy planned
to join a Muslim-led march in Paris on January 17 to
protest against the law due for debate in parliament next
month. The ban would apply from next September.
London Sikhs and Muslims also plan a march against the
French ban next Saturday. During the protest, demonstrators
will wear T-shirts with an image of Sikhs who fought in
battles like the Somme.
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