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An Open Letter to The President of France – by Mallika Kaur

February 17, 2013 | By

Ludhiana, Punjab (February 17, 2013): It is learnt that Mallika Kaur, a lawyer who focuses on gender and minority issues in the United States and South Asia has written an open letter addressed to President of France.

The letter reads as follows:


H E Francois Hollande, President
The Republic of France

Dear Monsieur Hollande:

You aptly chose Valentine’s Day to visit with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to cozy up relations. Oh, and yes, also to ensure that India — the country that houses the largest population of the world’s poor and is too cash-strapped to even build toilets for over half of its population — will buy some French Rafale fighter jets.

No sweat: no one believes that love has no price tag.

In fact, love with France for those who make it their home sure does hurt. M. President, as head of a socialist government, you’ve ignored how the French ban on religious dress in State schools discriminates between the rich and the rest. Should Muslim, Sikh, and Jewish children feel reassured that they could have worn their turbans, hijabs, yarmulkes, to school, if only their parents could have sent them to private schools, if only they had the money?

And French love does fall short.

If a Catholic student wants to wear the Cross to school, he has to hide it in his clothes. For a Sikh it is obviously impossible to hide his turban. Yet you claim that your law is the same for everybody. This oxymoron — “it’s not same for Sikhs, but it is same for everyone” — was the utterance of a French government spokesperson reportedly defending the decision to not lift the ban, despite the United Nations 2012 finding that France’s ban violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

M. President, the Sikhs protesting in Delhi, including the Sikh-French — many humiliated by your other ‘loving’ law that requires turbans to be removed for state ID pictures, and then again and again every time these IDs have to be matched to the person — are asking you to lead your nation toward some real love.

Our love is patient and kind. We won’t stop reminding you that yours has not been the same.

Our love keeps no records of wrongs. Reversing this law won’t show your weakness, it will show your courage and strength.

Our love is nirbhao. Fearless. Like our Sikh Gurus. And it’s in solidarity with our Jewish and Muslim sisters and brothers.

May you too feel the power of love.

Mallika Kaur.

February 16, 2013

[The author is a lawyer who focuses on gender and minority issues in the United States and South Asia. She has been to France as a young girl with Prof Karanbir Singh Sarkaria, her mathematician father, who often visited France as a regular invitee to a prestigious Research Institute. He no longer travels to France. Neither does the author. Mallika holds a Juris Doctorate (JD) from Berkeley Law and a Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.]

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