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Press Release: 10 April 2006, 28 Chayat (Samvat 538 Nanakshahi)
Paris, France – UNITED SIKHS has successfully intervened to ensure that 8 year-old French schoolboy, Harjeet Singh, is able to wear his Rimaal (handkerchief on his top-knot) to his elementary school, after his father was told by the principal that he would have to remove it and “make an effort social to cut his hair to facilitate the integration into French society of the young boy, who had just arrived from Panjab.”
The schoolboy’s father, Nanak Singh said, “I contacted UNITED SIKHS as I felt unable to reason with the principal of the Jean Jaures elementary school in Le Bourget, in the northern suburb of Paris. My son has just arrived from Panjab and we felt under pressure.” Harjeet Singh who wears a Patka at all times outside school (See pix) was prepared to wear a Rimaal in order to gain admission in a public school.
“UNITED SIKHS and the French Turban Action Committee called a meeting with the principal of the elementary school and reminded her that the Rimaal was not considered an ostensible sign under the law which banned ostensible religious signs in schools,” said Kudrat Singh, president of the UNITED SIKHS chapter in France.
“However, at this meeting, which was also attended by Harjeet Singh and his father, the principal did not take accept our arguments and did not let the young Harjeet Singh into class. Instead she repeated her suggestion that Harjeet Singh has to cut his hair in order to facilitate his integration into French society. She said it would be an ‘effort social’ of the family,” Kudrat Singh added.
UNITED SIKHS immediately wrote to the District Education Inspector of Seine St Denis, Mr Delaubier, to report the incident. It was followed up with a phone call to Mr Gilles Pallaird, the deputy inspector, who informed Kudrat Singh that the Education Ministry does not consider the Rimaal a banned ostensible sign and that the principal was obviously not aware of this. He gave an undertaking to arrange with the principal for Harjeet Singh to be admitted into school.
“I wrote a letter to Mr Pallaird for a written confirmation of his undertaking. I also sent him a presentation pack prepared by UNITED SIKHS on the requirements of the Sikh religion and details of French Sikh history,” said Kudrat Singh.
The next morning UNITED SIKHS received a call form Mr Pallaird that arrangements have been made and that Harjeet Singh would be admitted into school, when it reopens after the Easter holidays.
Kudrat Singh said, “The concept of integration promoted by this principal was not only irrelevant but also illegal and it violated basic human rights. We have to face the double jeopardy of a law which banned the Turban and also the ignorance of school authorities about the extent of the ban.”
To read a previous Press Release on UNITED SIKHS' advocacy for Sikh religious rights in France please click http://unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-02-03-2006-00.htm
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