//Turban Ban in France : Chirac to get 'heady' Sikh welcome

Turban Ban in France : Chirac to get 'heady' Sikh welcome

Avneet Teja, CNN-IBN, Updated 1514 hrs IST (+GMT 5:30), 19.02.06

Amritsar: Sikh leaders appealed to the Prime Minister to persuade visiting French President Jacques Chirac to lift the ban on religious headwear.

It’s been more than a year since France enforced the "secularity" law, which forbids the wearing of religious attire such as Muslim headscarves and Sikh turbans in state-run secular schools.

The ban, among others, covered the use of Muslim headscarves and also Sikh turbans. Leaders of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) want Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to intervene.

They say he should try and presuade President Chirac that the turban is integral to the Sikh faith and threaten to go on a worldwide agitation if the ban is not lifted.

Jaswinder Singh, an advocate and Member of the SGPC, says, "If the issue is not solved by the concerned governments, definitely we will have to take further steps to move to the courts to restore international pressure on the French government."

The Capital’s children have also decided to protest the ban. Nearly 400 schoolchildren wearing turbans are to hold a protest march to the French embassy in the capital’s diplomatic quarter on Monday, Sikh religious leader Manjit Singh said in a news conference.

The demonstration would begin from Gurdwara Bangla Sahib and proceed to Chanakyapuri, where a group of children would hand over the memorandum to the French ambassador conveying their anguish over the order.

"Wearing the turban is banned in France. We’ll tell the President of France that the turban is our identity and ask him to open the ban. This is because the Sikh are an open-hearted, open-minded and hard-working community and are present in all corners of the world," says JS Jassi.

While, France says the ban is non-discriminatory and upholds the secular nature of state run schools, the Sikh are determined to take the issue forward.

(With Mridu Bhandari)