French Sikhs have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights over a ruling that they must remove their turbans for driver’s licence photographs.
Last year, France’s highest administrative court upheld an earlier ruling against 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.
But representatives of the French branch of United Sikhs today launched a legal challenge to the ruling, appealing to the Strasbourg-based European court to intervene in the case.
Speaking at a press conference in the European parliament on Monday, British Socialist MEP Nena Gill also appealed to the EU to help raise awareness of the “plight” of French Sikhs.
“Sikhs wear their turbans throughout their day, when driving and when at work. Asking them to remove their turbans for a photo ID is absurd and shows an absolute lack of respect and sensitivity,” said Gill, president of parliament’s India delegation.
She said that Sikhs in Belgium had also reportedly been told they could not be considered for jobs in public administration if they wore turbans.
“I would ask France and other EU member states, such as Belgium, to reflect upon the British model. In the UK those wearing articles of faith including turbans are treaty equally.
“Many turban wearing Sikhs are police officers, army officers and judges as well. Therefore, I would ask French authorities to reconsider their position and treat Sikhs as equal members of society," said Gill.
Her comments were echoed by Claude Moraes, another UK Socialist MEP and president of parliament’s all-party group on anti-racism and diversity.
“As a member of the committee for citizen’s rights, I support all attempts to build a European society based on the respect for their fundamental rights laid down in the EU’s treaties which include the right of religion and conscience and expression of culture.”
United Sikhs argue that the French 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 their hair under control. [Link]
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