French headscarf ban to begin this week

30th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 30 (AFP) - France on Monday proceeded with plans to implement its controversial ban on Islamic headscarves at the start of the school term later this week, ignoring the blackmail attempt by militants holding two journalists in Iraq.

PARIS, Aug 30 (AFP) - France on Monday proceeded with plans to implement its controversial ban on Islamic headscarves at the start of the school term later this week, ignoring the blackmail attempt by militants holding two journalists in Iraq.  

The centre-right government of President Jacques Chirac, which introduced the law in March, vowed not to yield to the demands of the Islamic Army in Iraq and said the law would go into effect as scheduled at the return to classes on Thursday.  

"The law will be applied," said government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope.  

School-heads had been awaiting the new term with some nervousness amid fears of widespread defiance of the law by Muslim girls.  

However with the fate of Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot overshadowing the debate, French Muslim leaders joined in the universal condemnation of the kidnapping and urged pupils not to provoke confrontation by flouting the law.  

The "secularity law" was triggered by fears that France's rigid separation of church and state was being eroded as a result of the growing number of Muslim girls wearing headscarves in public schools.   

It stipulates that in state primary and secondary schools the "wearing of insignia or clothes by which pupils conspicuously display their religious affiliation is prohibited," and calls for "dialogue" with any transgressor before the launching of disciplinary proceedings.  

The legislation replaces a previous and less restrictive decree which outlawed only "ostentatious" insignia. Though formally aimed at all religious signs, including Jewish Stars of David and large Christian crosses, no-one disputes that its main target is Islamic headwear.  

Muslim leaders who have opposed the ban were on Monday fierce in their denunciation of the Islamic Army in Iraq, which has given the government till later in the day to rescind the law, and vehemently rejected any attempt to interfere in France's democratic process.  

"The issue of the headscarf, which has been invoked as a pretext by the kidnappers, is a matter exclusively for French national debate," read a statement by a group of Muslim intellectuals posted on the popular Internet site Oumma.com.  

"French Muslims can in no way accept that this question become an alibi or a motivation for acts of terror in Iraq or any other country. That kind of confusion must be condemned without ambiguity. It is odious, criminal and cowardly," it said.  

"Now that the law has been democratically adopted by our national representatives, French Muslims accept it," said Thomas Milcent, an influential member of the Council for Muslim Religion, who has been an outspoken critic of the ban.  

French Muslims have been asked to pray for the journalists' release and to attend a demonstration on their behalf in Paris later Monday.  

The universal sense of outrage at the journalists' kidnapping has taken some of the tension out of the return to classes. School-heads are also expected to avoid any high-profile confrontation on the day by insisting that problems are dealt with through discussion away from the eyes of the press.  

However the potential for disruption in the longer term remained high. Many Muslim leaders say that certain head-coverings are still permissible for girls as long as they are "discreet," while many teachers believe anything worn with a religious intent is banned.

 

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

 

 

 

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