Jordan protest at French headscarf ban

5th January 2004, Comments 0 comments

AMMAN, Jan 5 (AFP) - Around 60 people, most of them veiled female students, demonstrated Monday outside the French embassy in Jordan to protest against France's move to ban Islamic headscarves in state schools.

AMMAN, Jan 5 (AFP) - Around 60 people, most of them veiled female students, demonstrated Monday outside the French embassy in Jordan to protest against France's move to ban Islamic headscarves in state schools.

The demonstrators held up placards denouncing the decision which French President Jacques Chirac wants written into law and appealing on France's heritage of "tolerance".

"Does France Want War With Islam" by banning the headscarves, was the central message on the placards held up during the peaceful protest outside the embassy.

Last month a committee of French experts recommended banning "conspicuous" religious insignia - including the Muslim hijab veil, the Jewish kippa or skullcap, and large crucifixes - from state schools.

Dozens of Palestinian women also demonstrated Monday in Gaza City. The protest was organised by the hardline movement Islamic Jihad, and the women, waving Palestinian banners and the group's black flags, gathered in front of the French cultural centre.

They handed in a letter to the centre's director that was signed "Women of Palestine" and addressed to Chirac.

"We urge you, from our holy land, to go back on your decision to ban the Islamic headscarf in state schools and offices as well as other religious insigna," said the letter.

"Wearing the Islamic headscarf meets a divine obligation, while not wearing it is a religious sin. It is not fair to compare it to the Jewish kippa or the Christian cross," the text added.

In October 1996, Chirac became the first foreign leader to address the Palestinian parliament and was warmly received during his visit to the Gaza Strip, where he has remained by far the most popular Western president.

The French decision on headscarves has triggered an outcry in the Arab world, including Jordan where it has been denounced by Islamic groups, the press and trade unions.

It was further compounded when Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the head of the Cairo-based Al-Azhar, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, said last week France had the right to ban the veil.

Jordan's pro-government Al-Rai newspaper on Monday quoted the kingdom's Islamic leaders denouncing Tantawi's position.

"The Islamic hijab is a religious obligations backed by Koranic verses and Tantawi had to protect the sharia (Islamic law)," said Ibrahim Zeid Kilani, a former Jordanian minister of religious affairs.

The spokesman of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood, Yahya Shaqra, chipped in that Tantawi was "not the foremost authority on Islam".

© AFP

                                Subject: France news

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