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Sikhs appeal French government’s ban on right to wear turbans at Europe’s highest human rights court

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On Monday June 11th, 2007, United Sikhs lawyers will lodge a challenge to the French government’s restrictions on the right to wear a turban at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The lawyers are representing Shingara Mann Singh, a Sikh from the northern Paris suburbs, whose replacement driver’s licence was refused in 2005 and again in 2006 by the French government. France’s highest court, the Conseil D’Etat, has ruled that Sikhs must remove their turbans to be photographed for drivers’ licenses as a matter of public security.

A controversial French law banning the Sikh turban in public schools, along with other ostensible religious symbols, has been in place since March 2004.

“It is necessary to take these cases to the international courts as if left unchecked the French law, which undermines religious freedom, will have a domino effect on religious rights globally,” said Mejindarpal Kaur, UNITED SIKHS director for International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy.

Sikh males are required by religion to allow their hair to grow and many wear a turban, a symbol of Sikh identity.

Minority Rights Group International’s Director of Advocacy Clive Baldwin, who acted as legal research consultant for the case said, “The French authorities have not shown why it is now necessary for such a major interference with a community’s religious identity, when it was not necessary until 2004. Most countries with Sikh populations have accommodated their right to wear a turban. There is no reason why France should be different.”

Notes to editors

  • Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non- governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide.
  • To know more about Sikhs and the Right to Turban campaign please visit this website.
  • For more information, please contact:
Filed Under: Europe, France, Minorities, Sikhs
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