French Muslim leaders in Baghdad for hostage talks

2nd September 2004, Comments 0 comments

BAGHDAD, Sept 2 (AFP) - A French Muslim delegation arrived in Baghdad Thursday for talks aimed at securing the release of two French reporters held hostage by an Iraqi group demanding Paris scrap a ban on wearing Islamic headscarves in state schools.

BAGHDAD, Sept 2 (AFP) - A French Muslim delegation arrived in Baghdad Thursday for talks aimed at securing the release of two French reporters held hostage by an Iraqi group demanding Paris scrap a ban on wearing Islamic headscarves in state schools.  

The delegation of French Council for the Muslim Faith (CFCM) flew in from Amman where it met with French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, a French embassy spokesman said.  

The two vice-presidents of the umbrella group, Mohammed Bechari and Fouad Alaoui, as well as a representative from the Paris mosque and several other Muslim officials were part of the delegation.  

"We are going to meet the Committee of Muslim Ulemas in Iraq and the other people we have to meet. We are going to do everything we can to secure the release" of the two journalists, they said Wednesday in Amman.  

The self-styled Islamic Army in Iraq, which has kidnapped Radio France correspondent Christian Chesnot and Le Figaro reporter Georges Malbrunot, has demanded that Paris rescind its ban on the Islamic headscarf in state schools.  

The law prohibiting the wearing of headscarves and other "conspicuous" religious insignia went into effect Thursday with the start of the academic year in France.  

In an interview with Le Figaro published on Thursday, Bechari said: "Today we have to worry about the fate of the two hostages. The political battle, a purely French one, for religious freedom will resume later on."  

While some Muslim girls could provoke a showdown by wearing their headscarves, the government seemed optimistic that the day would go smoothly, especially given the hostage drama in Iraq.  

"The resumption of classes is a difficult moment to get through. The hostage-takers are waiting for some kind of provocation. We have to be responsible," Bechari said.  

"We want to show our attachment to the republic, to the nation and to French society. Everyone must understand that laying a hand on a member of French society affects all French people, all members of the Muslim community."

 

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article