French tribunal rules against Sikh turbans in driver's license photos

[JURIST] The French Conseil d'Etat [official website], the country's highest administrative tribunal, held [decision, in French] Monday that Sikhs have to remove their turbans to be photographed for driver's licenses as a matter of public security. The ruling overturned an earlier decision [JURIST report] by the same tribunal made on procedural grounds in December, when the Council held that a directive by the Interior Ministry on the removal of turbans for identification purposes was not valid because it had not been specifically endorsed by the French Transport Ministry. The Transport Ministry subsequently issued an order that the Interior Ministry regulation would apply to it, and the case went forward again. Read the Council's press release on its latest ruling.

The decision is expected to stir controversy in France where religious minorities, including the country's small number of Sikhs, already feel targeted by a recent law restricting the wearing of religious dress - including Sikh turbans - in public schools [JURIST report; text of law, in French]. Sikh tradition prescribes the wearing of a turban as a sacred duty for men. United Sikhs [advocacy website], which helped bring the case decided Monday, provides background materials on its "Right to Turban" campaign in France. AP has more.

12:11 PM ET - United Sikhs said Tuesday that it has asked French President Jacques Chirac to intervene in the case, and the lawyer for complainant Shingara Mann Singh has said that he is considering an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights [official website]. BBC News has more.

 

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