Sikhism in France
French Sikhs have been in the limelight since France passed a law in March 2004 banishing religious symbols, including Sikh turbans, from public schools. The law has met with anger and world wide protest by Sikhs and others after at least five Sikhs were barred from classrooms near Paris for wearing turbans or cloth covers for their uncut hair. For 3 years Sikhs have made continual attempts to persuad the authorities to lift the ban on the turban. After no avail the Sikhs opened their own private Sikh school, called the Shere Punjab complexe.
Since the ban on religious symbols in public schools, the Conseil D'Etat, the highest administrative court in France, ruled that public security justified a law requiring Sikhs to remove their turbans while being photographed for their driver's license. Currently Shingara Singh Mann, a French national for over 20 years, after being told he would have to remove his turban to renew his driver's license, is fighting the case for Sikhs to be photographed wearing their turbans for their driving license.
Shere Punjab complexe
The Shere Punjab complexe is a private Sikh school in Paris. This school was created in the wake of the rule made by French authorities banning any religious symbol including the Sikh Turban. The school costed around 300.000 €, excluding building charges. The Sikh school was built by a local Sikh entrepreneur whose son was excluded from a public school in 2004. The boy had refused to remove his turban in class. The school began with less than 15 pupils.
There are 5 gurdwaras in France. All of them are in Paris city.
- Gurdwara Singh Sabha Association, Bobigny.
- Gurdwara Sahib, Bourget.
- Gurdwara Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib, Bondy.
- Gurdwara Sahib, ville Pantin
Areas with significant Sikh population:
- Ville Pantin
- La Courneuve
- Le Bourget
- Seine St Denis
Gurmat Camp 2007
From Wednesday 4th July to Sunday 15th July, the Dashmesh Sikh Academy Paris held it's annual Gurmat Camp in Paris at Gurdwara Singh Sabha, Bobigny. Around 200 or so children aged from 3 to 20 years old attended the 12 day camp. There were various classes, which included Gurbaani Santhiyaa (learning correct pronunciation), Sikh History, learning Panjabi, Gurmat Sangeet (Sikh musicology), Gurmat Vichaar (discussions on various issues and topics). Classes were held by Giani Pritam Singh jee from Southall, Bhai Ranjit Singh jee from Germany and Bhai Manvir Singh Khalsa (U.K.) who were invited to teach the children, as well local elder sevadaars.
Photographs of the Gurmat Camp by Bh. Manvir Singh Khalsa (U.K.)