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French schoolgirl expelled for headscarf

THANN, France, Nov 27 (AFP) – A 12-year-old Turkish girl was been formally expelled from a state school in eastern France on Thursday because of her refusal to take off her Islamic headscarf, a representative for her family said.

The girl, who had been suspended from classes since October 13, and her parents were informed of the decision at a displinary hearing, the representative, Thomas Milcent, told journalists.

The principal of the Charles Walch high school she attended in Thann, Serge Blanchard, had maintained he was upholding school rules which banned ostentatious religious displays or ornaments among pupils.

The clash between the girl’s family and the school again highlighted a longrunning row in France over Islamic headscarves in schools.

In October, two sisters at a Paris high school were suspended for refusing to remove their scarves. The girls’ father, a Jewish human rights lawyer married to a non-practising Muslim, has been fighting that decision with the help of an anti-racist organisation.

While virtually all politicians have declared themselves in favour of upholding the country’s secular tradition in state institutions, they are split over whether a law should be imposed which expressly bans headscarves and other religious wear, such as Jewish skull caps or Christian crosses.

A commission set up by President Jacques Chirac to look into the issue is due to publish its conclusions December 11.

Last month Chirac hinted strongly that he supported a ban on headscarves when he told an audience in the northern town of Valenciennes that secularism was “not negotiable.”

“We cannot allow people to shelter behind a deviant idea of religious liberty in order to defy the laws of the republic or to threaten fundamental principles of a modern society such as sex equality and the dignity of woman,” he said.


                                                                Subject: French news