Canadian Muslims slam French ban on veil

7th January 2004, Comments 0 comments

MONTREAL, Jan 6 (AFP) - A leading Canadian Muslim group on Tuesday slammed France's move to ban Islamic headscarves in state schools.

MONTREAL, Jan 6 (AFP) - A leading Canadian Muslim group on Tuesday slammed France's move to ban Islamic headscarves in state schools.

French President Jacques Chirac on December 17 came out in favor of a ban on the Islamic headscarf and other "conspicuous" religious symbols in state schools. He wants the rules written into law by the start of the next academic year.

The decision, intended to reflect France's strict separation of religion and state, has set off a storm of protest by Muslim leaders around the world.

"We consider this move to be a regressive one which clearly violates Muslims' democratic freedom of religion and the human rights of some five million French citizens - especially those of Muslim women who wish to exercise their rights and freedoms in a democratic and liberal French society," the Canadian Islamic Congress said in a letter to France's ambassador to Ottawa.

"If your country's proposed legislation against religious clothing becomes law, it would set a very dangerous precedent for the further erosion of the rights of religious minorities in other Western countries," the group stressed.

"It would signal a return to the ugly period of the Inquisition and place France outside the world's civilized community," it added, noting that "the anti-Islam law deserves to die before it kills the rights of countless patriotic and law-abiding Muslim citizens."

The Canadian group also said it was "totally unacceptable" for top Sunni Muslim authority Sheikh Mohamed Tantawy to "express his views in favour of France's proposed Hijab ban without consulting Al-Azhar's Board of Scholars," asserted CIC national President Mohamed Elmasry, who has met personally with Tantawy on several occasions. "His statement is totally misguided. Unfortunately, it will be misused by the French government."

A French expert commission last month recommended a ban on "conspicuous" religious signs in schools, including the Islamic "veil" and the Jewish skullcap.

The 20-member commission headed by former government minister Bernard Stasi gave its report to Chirac after three months of consultations with religious leaders, teachers, politicians and sociologists. The report also suggested that Yom Kippur - the Jewish Day of Atonement - and Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim day marking the end of Ramadan, be celebrated in state schools.

It also recommended the establishment of a national school for Islamic studies, as well as the provision of alternative meals in public canteens for observant Muslims and Jews.

The report said "conspicuous" signs of observance included the Islamic "veil" - which would include the controversial headscarf worn today by several thousand schoolgirls in France - as well as Jewish kippas and large Christian crosses.

"Discreet" signs would be permissible, including small medals and crosses, stars of David or the hands of Fatimah carried by many Muslims.


                                Subject: France news

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