October 11, 2013 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
Paris, France (October 11, 2013): The recent decision of United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) holding the requirement that Sikh men remove their turban before having a passport photograph taken in France is a threat to religious freedom is a major victory for Sikh diaspora regarding turban ban by French authorities. This decision is believed to mount pressure on French authorities to recognize and allow the Sikhs to wear the turban/dastar freely.
The French arm of United Sikhs, a nonprofit Sikh rights group headquartered in New York, filed a case with the Geneva-based committee on behalf of Shingara Singh who was unable to renew his passport because he refused to remove his turban for the photograph.
It is the third time the U.N. body, which monitors states’ implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has ruled in favor of the rights group on regulations governing the Sikh turban in France.
Shingara Singh, 57, who has been a French citizen since 1989, has also been unable to procure a driver’s license because he refused to take off his turban for his official photograph.
The UNHRC has reportedly concluded in its ruling which was made public last week that “the regulation requiring him to appear ‘with his head uncovered’ in the passport photographs is a disproportionate restriction that poses a threat to Shingara Singh’s freedom of religion.”
France passed a law in 2004 that prohibited wearing religious symbols in school, including Sikh and Musilm headgear. Later in 2010, it also passed a law banning burqas in public.
Previously in similar rulings, the U.N. noted that France had violated Sikhs’ freedom of religion by banning them from wearing turbans.
In 2008, Bikramjit Singh, a school student, filed a case against the French government’s edict on turbans in schools.
In the same year, United Sikhs also filed a case on behalf of Ranjit Singh who was asked to remove his turban by the French authorities during his passport renewal.
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