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Sikhs slam French plan to ban headscarf

Published on 06/01/2004

AMRITSAR, India, Jan 6 (AFP) - The top body of the Sikh faith Tuesday protested a French decision to ban the wearing of religious symbols at schools, saying the move violated the rights of Sikh men, who are required to wear turbans.

The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, based in the Sikh holy city Amritsar in northern India, called the planned ban a “direct intervention into the affairs of the Sikhs in France,” estimated to number several thousand.

“The turban is a religious symbol which gives Sikhs a distinct identity,” said S. Manjit Singh Calcutta, the committee’s chief secretary.

“The Sikh community will not tolerate anyone who keeps them away from wearing turbans,” he said.

Calcutta asked the Indian government commission on minority affairs to take up the issue with the French embassy in New Delhi.

He noted that other Western countries tolerated the turban, for example Britain where Sikh motorcyclists are exempt from wearing helmets.

Sikhism, founded in the late 15th century, requires men to wear turbans and forbids followers from cutting their hair.

French President Jacques Chirac on December 17 came out in favour of a ban on the Islamic headscarf and other “conspicuous” religious symbols in state schools. He wants the rules written into law by the start of the next academic year.

The decision, intended to reflect France’s strict separation of religion and state, has set off a storm of protest by Muslim leaders around the world.


                                Subject: France news