Sarkozy has an "open mind" on turban issue: Manmohan

File:Manmohan Sarkozy 1.jpg

The Hindu News update service October 1, 2008

On Board PM's Special Aircraft (PTI): Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said French President Nikolas Sarkozy had an "open mind" in dealing with the controversy over the turban issue in France that has unleashed protests in the Sikh community.

Singh said he had raised the turban issue again with Sarkozy during summit talks in Paris on Tuesday.

"He(Sarkozy) said we have an open mind and we will look at it. He said he had an open mind in the light of what I had said. He said he will have a relook it," said the prime minister while mentioning he had raised the sensitive issue before too when Sarkozy came on a visit to New Delhi in January this year.

The prime minister he told Sarkozy that the turban was a very essential part of the Sikh way of life because the members of the community are not allowed to cut their hair. The President was told that turban is one way that enables them to keep their hair bridled, he said.

"There are problems in France, when Sikh children go to school they are discouraged from wearing their turbans. And when seeking identity cards they are asked to remove their turbans. These are some inconveniences that Sikhs face," the prime minister told reporters.

Sarkozy at a joint news conference with Singh after the ninth Indo-EU summit in Marseilles in France on Monday said Sikhs are not specially targetted and the turban rules applied to other minority communities as well in France.

Sarkozy at the same time said minority communities must respect rules that need to be followed in France.

More related news

French Sikhs appeal on turban ban

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BBC News 7 March 2006

French Sikhs have appealed to President Jacques Chirac over a ruling that they must remove their turbans for driver's licence photographs.

France's highest administrative body reversed an earlier ruling in favour of Shingara Mann Singh, a French citizen forced to remove his turban in 2004.

It said the order was justified on the grounds of public security and was not a restriction on freedom of faith.

Mr Singh's lawyer said he might appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

The French branch of United Sikhs has called on Mr Chirac to intervene in the matter.

It argues the ruling makes its small community of several thousand in France the victims of "indirect discrimination".

Sikh males are required by religion to allow their hair to grow and most wear a turban, a symbol of Sikh identity, to keep the growth under control.

Boys expelled

Mr Singh, from the northern Paris suburbs, brought his case after he was refused a duplicate driving licence in 2004 because he would not remove his turban.

The Council of State had ruled in his favour on a technicality in December, but has now upheld a revised transport ministry circular insisting that people pose for driving licence photos with bare heads.

It ruled the order was not an obstruction to freedom of religion and cited a European Court of Human Rights ruling which said Sikhs could be obliged to take off their turbans at airport controls.

A number of Sikh boys were expelled from schools in France last year for refusing to remove their turbans after a law came into force which banned students from wearing conspicuous religious symbols.

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Turban issue: SGPC chief decries govt’s lack of support

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Tribune News Service Begowal (Kapurthala), June 1, 2005

Unhappy over the lack of government support to the turban issue in France, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has initiated direct liaison with the French government in this regard.

Bibi Jagir Kaur, president of the SGPC, said that she met Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, recently in this regard but was not satisfied with the steps being taken by the Central Government to safeguard interests of Sikhs and their school-going children in France.

The SGPC, she said, therefore decided to have communication with the French government. “We have sent them CDs based on the importance of turban in Sikhism. We have also started a dialogue with them by sending e-mails in this regard. We have received confirmation of receipt of CDs and e-mails from the French government. We have also given them applications for permitting me and a few other members to visit France to present our views more clearly,” said Bibi Jagir Kaur who was at her Begowal dera for the inauguration of a three-day mela here today.

The SGPC chief said that since there had been some problem in communication due to the use of French language in government offices there, the committee was now seeking the help of Dr Roma Singh, working with the Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle based at Ludhiana, who is a Ph D in French. While Dr Roma Singh is at present putting up at Canada. The Bibi said that he was now being called back as she wanted to take up the issue at the earliest.

Bibi Jagir Kaur said that even though some members of the executive committee were to visit France on April 24, it could not be possible. “The members were to accompany some French Sikhs but at that time we were not sure of getting in touch with top French authorities. No specific appointment had been fixed and no agenda of the meeting could be sent to the government there prior to the visit which was therefore cancelled,” she said.

Bibi said that the issue had been hanging fire for the past few months as she was busy with Muktsar mela. “Later there were other issues hotting up such as the release of movie ‘Jo Bole So Nihal’ and that pertaining to forming of a separate Sikh body for Haryana,” she said.

She said that the SGPC had raised six objections to the film including changing of its title since it was not a religious movie, an error in the ‘jaikara’ as “jo” was not a part of it, raising of the ‘jaikara’ when the protagonist seems drunk, extra-marital affair of an “Amritdhari” character and deletion of a scene in which an “Amritdhari” mother checks five “kakars” of his “Amritdhari” son forcing him to remove his trouser.

More related news

France raises Sikh turban hopes

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BBC News 13 February, 2004

The French Government says it will find a "solution" for Sikhs who are angry at a proposed ban on turbans and other religious symbols in state schools.

Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin made his remarks in India, where he has faced opposition over the issue.

"I am sure we are going to find a solution that will be satisfactory for the Sikh community in France," he said after talks in Delhi.

But he said any solution would be within the constraints of the new law.

Several dozen Sikhs and Muslims held protests in the Indian capital ahead of Mr De Villepin's talks with his Indian counterpart, Yashwant Sinha, at which the new law was discussed.

Turban 'way of life'

The French foreign minister said France's commitment to human rights and democracy had led to the decision to ban religious symbols in state schools.

He was at pains to stress that the law was not intended to target any religious group.

As a Sikh, I would be outraged if a ban were made on Sikhs to prevent them wearing a turban in school
Kiran Kasbia, Bristol, UK

But he gave no details of how his government might find a compromise within the new law for the tiny, 6,000-strong Sikh community in France.

Nor did he say whether "solutions" could be found for the many other religions whose members are up in arms at the proposed ban.

Mr De Villepin later told Tarlochan Singh, head of India's National Commission for Minorities and himself a Sikh, that France would seek "practical solutions" to the problem, a French official said.

Sikhs say the turban is not a religious symbol but an integral part of the Sikh way of life.

The turbans are used to contain the long hair of Sikhs, which their religion prohibits them from cutting.

They complain that the ban will force them to do so and is tantamount to forcing them to give up their religion.

'Accidental victims'

On Wednesday a Sikh delegation met the French ambassador in Delhi and presented him with a petition asking for the government to reverse its decision to pass the law.

Polish:  Image:Villepinbody.jpg The petition included 100,000 signatures from Sikhs worldwide.

MPs in France's lower house passed the controversial bill this week.

The legislation is not expected to face difficulty clearing the upper chamber, and should be in force for the new academic year in September.

Sikhs in France complain they are accidental victims of legislation intended to curb the wearing of headscarves by Muslim schoolgirls.

They say the proposed law was drawn up without officials realising its potential impact on their community in France, which has five million Muslims.

The wearing of Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crucifixes will also be affected.

See also

These articles deal with Sikh's Five ks

Kesh (uncut hair) -|- Kara (bangle) -|- Kanga (small comb) -|- Kachera (under garment) -|- Kirpan (sword)

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