Turban Case - Hope Raised

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NCM hails Villepin as French PM, recalls his turban promise

New Delhi, June. 2 (UNI): The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has congratulated Mr Dominique de Villepin on his appointment as France's new Prime Minister, recalling his promise as Foreign Minister last year over the Sikh turban issue in his country.

During his Indian visit in February last year, Mr Villepin, flanked by NCM chief Tarlochan Singh, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) Secretary-General Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) General Secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, had told reporters at a Delhi hotel that the French Government would work out a solution for turban-wearing Sikh pupils caught up in Paris' secularity law.

The law bans display of overt religious symbols, such as Islamic headscarves, Jewish skullcaps, Christian crosses as well as Sikh turbans, at French schools.

"The appointment of Mr Villepin, with whom I had an hour-long discussion over the issue last year, as France's new Prime Minister has raised Sikh hopes," Mr Singh told UNI after sending a letter of congratulations to the French leader.

French President Jacques Chirac, named loyalist Villepin, as his new Prime Minister on Tuesday in a shake-up of the Government following his crushing defeat over the European Union Constitution.

Mr Villepin replaced the unpopular Jean-Pierre Raffarin who quit earlier on Tuesday.

The French secularity law, primarily aimed at stemming the growing numbers of Muslim girls wearing headscarves in school, came into force at the beginning of September last year.

The law also outlawed the Sikh turban, although French authorities have admitted they did not consider the Sikh community when the law was being drawn up.

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