Chirac soft on turban ban | india | Hindustan Times
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Chirac soft on turban ban

Sikh students in France could yet wear turbans to schools. The hope comes from French President Jacques Chirac's assurance to Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani that he would do his "best" to sort out the problem faced by Sikh schoolchildren in France because of the ban on turbans and other religious headgear.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2006 18:55 IST

Sikh students in France could yet wear turbans to schools. The hope comes from French President Jacques Chirac's assurance to Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani that he would do his "best" to sort out the problem faced by Sikh schoolchildren in France because of the ban on turbans and other religious headgear.

When Advani met Chirac to plead the children's case, the French president said, "Please tell them that I will do what I can", taking note of a procession by 400 Sikh schoolchildren in Delhi on Monday to protest the French law. Advani pointed to the distress felt by the Sikh community in France and India and requested Chirac to see if the issue could be sorted out. As the Sikh religion forbids male followers from cutting their hair and obliges them to wear a turban, Advani said, their sentiments should not be hurt.

Chirac told Advani, as he saw him off, that the ban was not directed at Sikhs. It was aimed at checking what officials said was the rising influence of radical Islam among France's large Muslim population. He said he would see if Sikh schoolchildren could be allowed to cover their heads, at least.

France's "secularity" law, which came into effect in 2004, bans "conspicuous" religious attire such as Muslim headscarves and Sikh turbans in state schools. France's Sikh population is estimated at 6,000 of which an estimated 300 Sikh boys attend French state schools. Two boys were expelled for refusing to remove their turbans.

Earlier, a delegation of Punjab BJP leaders met Advani to urge him to raise the issue with Chirac. The delegation wanted Advani to tell Chirac that French officers who had served in Maharaja Ranjit Singh's army were never forced to wear turbans.