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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The turban, and freedom

AP reports:
France’s highest administrative body ruled on Monday that Sikhs must remove their turbans for drivers license photos, calling it a question of public security and not a restriction on freedom of religion.
Now, this is a rather tricky issue. I'm not in favour of state diktats on how people should dress and suchlike, because that is a matter of personal choice. For example, I'm against the French ban on wearing headscarves in schools. To me, being secular is not banishing religion from sight, but keeping it restricted to the personal sphere and making sure it cannot be imposed on others. So if someone wants to wear a headscarf or a turban, fair enough, their choice, they harm no one by doing so.

But at the same time, I don't think religion gives you a license to break the laws of the land you live in. That is why I'm quite in favour of Sikhs not being allowed to carry kirpans into aeroplanes, and I think most Sikhs would agree with me. The only issue then is if this law makes sense. Does it really threaten public security if a Sikh is photographed in his driver's license the way he looks in real life? I don't think it does. What motivates the ruling then?

Tricky, isn't it?

(AP link via email from MadMan.)
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