UK Euro MP seeks EU ban on headscarf law

4th February 2004, Comments 0 comments

BRUSSELS, Feb 4 (AFP) - A British member of the European Parliament called Wednesday on the European Union to examine whether a proposed French law banning religious clothing from schools complies with EU law.

BRUSSELS, Feb 4 (AFP) - A British member of the European Parliament called Wednesday on the European Union to examine whether a proposed French law banning religious clothing from schools complies with EU law.

MEP Claude Moraes expressed particular concern over how the ban would affect Sikh males, who say they are obliged by tradition to wear turbans.

Moraes, a member of the British Labour Party who oversees immigration issues in the European Parliament, said he had asked both the EU Council of Ministers and European Commission to rule on the controversial French legislation.

The planned law could contravene EU laws on race equality and religious tolerance in employment, he told AFP.

"A good example is the anomaly of the Sikh community, who were not consulted (by the French government), who regard the turban as not just a religious article but a cultural article," Moraes said.

"It's extremely difficult to remove that in the classroom," he said.

The Commission's chief spokesman, Reijo Kemppinen, said the matter did not fall under the authority of the EU executive.

"Naturally whenever a member of the European Parliament forwards a question to a member of the Commission, we will answer that question," he told reporters.

But Kemppinen added: "This is not for us but for the member states to decide."

Around 2,000 Sikhs from across Europe marched through central Paris on Saturday to demand exemption from the proposed ban on "conspicuous" religious clothing and insignia from French schools.

The "secularity" law currently being debated by the French National Assembly is aimed primarily at the Islamic headscarf - seen by many in France as a symbol of radicalism among the country's five million Muslims.

But the country's small community of around 6,000 Sikhs has become an unintended target, amid reports that the government was not even aware of their existence in France.

The Sikh community argues that the turban is not a religious symbol but a cultural one because the injunction contained in Sikh scriptures is for men not to cut their hair and the turban is merely a way of containing it.

Britain is home to the largest community of Sikhs outside India with about 750,000 devotees. Under British law Sikhs are exempt from having to wear motorcycle crash helmets.

© AFP

                                                              Subject: France news

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