Sikhs take up French turban rights issue

New Delhi, India - Indian Sikhs urged the government on Wednesday to ask France to withdraw a ban on wearing turbans in public schools, officials said.

The Sikh religion requires followers to grow their hair and wear a turban, while children must wear traditional Sikh headgear called the “patka” or “dastaar” in school.

France banned wearing turbans and Muslim headscarves in its public schools in 2004, saying it was aimed at checking what they said was the rising influence of radical Islam among France’s large Muslim population. Indian Sikhs say the ban denies them religious freedom.

On Wednesday, the government in the northern Sikh-dominated state of Punjab passed a resolution in the state assembly, demanding France lift the ban there.

“This house unanimously and strongly recommends to the Government of India to take up with the highest French authorities the matter pertaining to the imposition of a ban by the Government of France,” the resolution read.

Last year, Hindu parents at a school in Punjab protested after a school’s Sikh authorities asked all students to wear traditional Sikh headgear to school.