De Villepin defends French ban of veil

23rd January 2004, Comments 0 comments

MOSCOW, Jan 23 (AFP) - French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin on Friday defended a proposed law banning Islamic headscarves in schools, telling a group of Moscow students that secularism was the "fermenting agent" of the French republic.

MOSCOW, Jan 23 (AFP) - French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin on Friday defended a proposed law banning Islamic headscarves in schools, telling a group of Moscow students that secularism was the "fermenting agent" of the French republic.

"There is a very important French tradition, which I admit is not easy to understand. It is the principle of secularism, which has been the fermenting agent of our republic. It is the guarantee of neutrality, tolerance and respect for religions," he said.

"The (headscarf) law reaffirms this principle. At no point does it target Islam or other religions," he said.

On Tuesday the foreign ministry denied reports that de Villepin had criticised the proposed law on the grounds that it would damage French relations with Muslim nations of the Middle East and Asia.

Backed by President Jacques Chirac, the law banning "conspicuous" religious signs in the classroom is to be put before the cabinet on Wednesday before starting its passage through parliament.

Thousands of French Muslims demonstrated against the bill on Saturday, and there have been similar protests in a number of foreign countries.


© AFP

                                Subject: France news

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