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France remains firm on turban ban

December 06, 2010 21:30 IST

Amid a demand by the Sikh community to allow students to wear turbans in schools, France on Monday maintained that its rules prohibit the display of religious signs in schools.

"In our country we have that rule which prohibits religious signs in schools. I don't know how the public school system is coping with that for the moment," visiting French Cultural Minister Frederic Mitterrand said.

Asked if his government would be more sensitive towards the Sikh community, Mitterrand said he respected the community but does not 'have an official answer' on the issue.

The French government has imposed a complete ban on wearing of turbans and any other religious headgear by students to schools.

The minister, who is part of a French delegation accompanying French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said he was not aware if the leaders of both the countries discussed the issue during their talks.

"However, on a personal point of view, I am highly respectful of the Sikh religion. I don't forget that many of them (Sikhs) were by our side during the world war and they were soldiers of the allies. Of course we have a debt towards them," the French minister said.

Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had taken up the issue at the highest level earlier and "we are continuing to take it up".

"As far as Sikhs are concerned, it (the turban) is not purely a religious symbol, it's an identification. We hope that at some stage they will say that it is something that is an identity problem and we would like it solved," she said.

Punjab deputy chief minister and Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal had on December 4 written a letter to Dr Singh, requesting his intervention in getting the ban lifted.

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