By Asia Samachar Team | FRANCE |
Young, handsome and turbanned. Legal advisor Ranjit Singh made news when he was elected as the deputy mayor of a town 9km from the center of Paris.
The people of Bobigny elected Abdel Sadi as mayor and Ranjit as deputy in the municipal elections on 1 July.
The victory is all the more significant considering that French-born lad was one of three Sikh students expelled from a school for wearing the turban 16 years ago.
In March 2004, France adopted a law banning the wearing of ‘conspicuous’ religious symbols in schools as part of its securalism push.
“Sikhs need to up their involvement in local municipals. We have been involved in the gurdwara and our societies. Now it’s time to take responsibilities in local areas where you live,” he told the Sikh Channel in an interview last week. See here.
He said Sikhs in Europe must take that route to show the rest of the Europeans who they are and that they are very much part and parcel of the local community.
“Turban-bearing Sikhs still face discrimination in France,” he added. “We need more local Sikhs to take part in such elections to make a difference. It’s a long process.”
Ranjit’s parents came to France in 1970 together with many other first generation Sikhs to settle in the European nation. They live in Bobigny, also home to France’s oldest gurdwara.
In 2004, Ranjit and two other Sikh students were expelled due to the French law which banned turbans and Muslim headscarves.
In the next few years, people renewing passports and certain official documents were asked to remove the religious headgear for photographs. Those who did not want to comply were refused ID cards and passports.
United Sikhs, a humanitarian relief and human rights outfit, took up the plight of the three students.
In 2012, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that France’s ban on the wearing of ‘conspicuous’ religious symbols in schools violated the Sikh student’s right to manifest his religion, protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
In the complaint by Bikramjit Singh in 2008, one of the three students, the committee accepted that the wearing of a turban is regarded as a religious duty for a Sikh and is also tied in with his identity; and that France had not justified the prohibition on the wearing of the turban.
(Asia Samachar, 23 June 2020)
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