The Sikhs residing in the country have petitioned President Jacques Chirac, urging him to protect and respect their religious sentiments.

"We invite the French government to grant the same freedom to Sikhs in the country so the Sikh religion can be properly respected and protected," Chain Singh, the spokesman for the community said in the letter.

The Sikhs join a global chorus of protests over the law, which predominantly aims at stopping Muslim schoolgirls from wearing Islamic headscarves.

Angry response

The issue continued to echo across the world on Friday with former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani insisting the ban was an "attack on Muslim human rights."

"The French authorities will not succeed in banning the Islamic veil in schools, but if they do so, millions of Muslims will curse them," Rafsanjani said at a Friday prayer.

"During the first world war, our Sikh ancestors died for France with their turbans on"

Chain Singh
Spokesman for France's Sikh community

"Wearing the veil is a religious commitment similar to other religious musts. Not wearing it is a sin," he said.

Expressing similar outrage, Sikhs in France reminded that "during the first world war, our Sikh ancestors died for France with their turbans on."

Thousands of Sikhs had fought in France then as a part of the British army. About 15,000 Sikhs live in France currently.

The community spokesman said Sikhs from France, Belgium, Germany and Italy planned to join a Muslim-led march in Paris on 17 January to protest against the law due for debate in parliament next month.

The ban would apply from next September.

French authorities support the ban to bolster France's strict separation of church and state. But religious minorities have denounced the move as discriminatory.