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Chirac calls for headscarf ban

PARIS, Dec 17 (AFP) – President Jacques Chirac of France said Wednesday that a law is necessary to ban the Islamic headscarf and other religious insignia from the classroom.

“The Islamic veil — whatever name we give it — the kippa and a cross that is of manifestly excessive dimensions: these have no place in the precincts of state schools. State schools will remain secular. For that a law is necessary,” he told a selected audience at the Elysee palace.

The president was giving his verdict on the findings of the so-called Stasi committee of experts which recommended last week a ban on “conspicuous” insignia in schools.

He said the law should be in effect by the start of the next school year in September 2004.

The president rejected a second committee recommendation under which the Muslim Eid el-Kebir and the Jewish Yom Kippur would be introduced as annual holidays in state schools.”However I do not think any pupil should have to say sorry for being absent on a major religious holiday… as long as the establishment has been informed in advance,” he said.

The president also called for a law to stop patients refusing treatment from a doctor or nurse of the opposite sex; a “secular code” to be issued to all state employees; and an observatory on secularism to monitor the relationship between religion and the state.

“Secularism is one of the great conquests of the republic. It is an element crucial to our social peace and national cohesion. We cannot let it weaken. We must work to reinforce it,” he said.

The headscarf issue has become the focus of the growing debate over how best to integrate France’s five million-strong Muslim minority, with “secularists” fearful that the Islamic garb is an outward sign of a refusal to assimilate fully into French society.Chirac said a firm stance against headscarves most be accompanied by an greater determination to involve Muslims in society.

“I share the feeling of incomprehension, of disarray and sometimes even of revolt by those young French people – immigrants by origin – whose job applications go in the bin because of the sound of their name,” he said.

“All the children of France, whatever their background, whatever their origin, whatever their belief, are daughters and sons of the republic. They must be recognised as such, in law but above all in the facts (of everyday life),” he said.


                                                                Subject: France news