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Sikhs in court over religious ban

Oct. 19, 2004 • Tuesday October 19, 2004

Three Sikh boys in France have gone to court after being excluded from school under a law banning conspicuous religious symbols and clothing.

The Sikhs normally wear turbans to wrap their uncut hair, and say they compromised by wearing only small cloth coverings – or under-turbans.

Two Muslim girls were banned from their school in Mulhouse, eastern France for failing to remove their headscarves.

Officials imposed the ban at a disciplinary meeting on Tuesday.

Two more girls could face a ban when their cases are examined in other schools in the town on Wednesday.

The law was came into force last month with the stated aim of safeguarding the secular nature of the French state.

France’s education minister says about 70 students are still defying the ban – most of them Muslim girls.

‘No exceptions’

The minister, Francois Fillon, said Sikhs were expected to obey the law like everyone else.

“There is a Sikh community which is very small, which poses no problem, but the law applies to everyone,” he said.

School authorities in the northern Paris suburb of Bobigny have prevented the three boys taking lessons at their secondary school.

The boys had tried to reduce their turbans but their “concessions” had been fruitless, Jasvir Singh, one of the three, told French TV.

The court is expected to make a ruling on the case on Wednesday.

Included in the ban are Muslim headscarves, Jewish scull caps and large Christian crosses.

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