France's Sikhs want right to wear turbans in schools
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Sikhs in France want their children to be allowed to attend school wearing a turban and they're hoping for an exemption to the ban on religious symbols in French state schools.
Although there are no official statistics on religion, it is estimated that there are around 30,000 Sikhs in France, a relatively small number, compared to other religions in France.
Sikhs say their religion is not properly understood.
They maintain that the turban is different because it is obligatory for Sikhs whereas Muslim veils and Jewish skullcaps are not obligatory for their followers.
The turban, they say, is a vital part of their religion.
The declare that far from posing a threat to French values, the turban represents liberty, equality and fraternity, the three pillars of the French Republic.
Bikramjit Singh, a representative of the main Sikh temple in France, just northwest of Paris, explains that the turban was only worn by the top layer of muslim society five centuries ago and only by the priests in the Hindu religion. “Our religion put an end to that situation”, he says.
“In France, the king was guillotined so that everyone could be equal. We adopted the turban so that anyone could be king.”
Kashmir Singh, who represents France’s main Sikh temple, in northeast Paris, says the community is in discussion with Interior Minister Manuel Valls, over the issue.
Singh, now an engineer, was expelled from his own school in France, in 2004.
Since 2004, ten Sikh children have been expelled.