French court upholds Sikh pupil expulsions

19th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

MELUN, France, April 19 (AFP) - A French court on Tuesday confirmed the expulsion from school of three Sikh teenage boys who refused to remove their turbans despite a law banning religious insignia in state schools, court sources said.

MELUN, France, April 19 (AFP) - A French court on Tuesday confirmed the expulsion from school of three Sikh teenage boys who refused to remove their turbans despite a law banning religious insignia in state schools, court sources said.

The administrative court in Melun southeast of Paris ruled that the three boys, "by continuing to wear their under-turbans (keskis), wore attire that made them instantly recognizable as members of the Sikh religion".

The court concluded that the boys, by wearing the head coverings, had thus violated the so-called "secularity" law, aimed at maintaining France's strict separation between Church and State.

Felix De Belloy, an attorney for the three boys, had argued that as they had no intention of trying to win converts to their faith, the boys posed no threat to the law.

De Belloy and another lawyer for the teens, Antoine Beauquier, said they would appeal the verdict, adding that they would bring the case before the European Court of Human Rights if they did not succeed in the French system.

France's "secularity" law, which came into effect at the start of the academic year in September, forbids the wearing of "conspicuous" religious insignia in state schools, like Muslim headscarves and Sikh turbans.

Though the law does not single out any specific faith, many in the country's five-million-strong Muslim community believe the hijab worn by teenage girls was the main target.

The Sikh religion forbids male followers from cutting their hair and obliges them to wear a turban.

The three boys expelled all wore keskis, or under-turbans - a more discreet version of the turban often worn for sleeping. Education authorities initially agreed to allow Sikh boys to wear the thin cloth but later reneged.

The teens, aged 15 to 18, were expelled on November 5, a decision confirmed a month later by the education authority responsible for their high school in Bobigny, northeast of Paris. They are currently taking correspondence classes.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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