Op/Ed: How the French Hypocrisy On Free Speech Has Left the Sikhs Out of Society

Sikhs march into Paris, France during World War 2
File Photo: Sikhs march into Paris, France during World War 2

The French government rallied international support for free expression in the aftermath of this month’s terror attacks [“More than a million march in Paris,” front page, Jan. 12]. It also should eliminate discriminatory laws that limit religious minorities’ freedom of expression.

As a Sikh, I support the right of Charlie Hebdo to publish satirical cartoons about religion. At the same time, it troubles me that I would be prohibited from attending a public school, working as a public servant or obtaining an identification card in France because of my turban — an expression of my faith. The same would be true if I were a Jewish man wearing a yarmulke or a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf.

Hundreds of turbaned Sikh soldiers died in France in World War I and World War II in defense of freedom, so it is ironic that the French government has dishonored their sacrifice by treating Sikhs and other minorities as if they are second-class citizens.

The massacre of French cartoonists by terrorists was an attack on freedom itself, and the international community must unite to address this challenge, but France cannot credibly champion the cause of freedom while denying it to its own people.


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