Headscarved woman thrown off French jury
PARIS, Nov 25 (AFP) - French authorities have taken a French Muslim woman off a jury because she wore a headscarf after being sworn in, officials said.
Justice Minister Dominique Perben gave the order after hearing of the matter and deciding that the Islamic headscarf violated France’s constitutional commitment to upholding secularism in its institutions.
The issue was the latest development in a longrunning debate in France over the headscarves.
Government ministers are divided over whether Muslim schoolgirls should be banned from wearing them in state schools, and President Jacques Chirac has set up a commission to look into whether laws should be enacted to uphold France’s secular tradition.
Officials in the court in the Paris suburb of Bobigny said the woman of North African descent, identified in the press as Dharia Bhouhali, had initially worn her scarf around her shoulders when she was sworn in Monday as a jury member in a trial of a man accused of attempted murder against two police officers.
But after a lunchbreak she came back wearing the scarf around her head in the Muslim fashion, prompting the prosecutor to immediately demand she be replaced. Perben, though on a visit to Spain, backed that request after being informed.
Le Parisien newspaper quoted Bhouhali’s husband Mohammed as saying: “My wife is relieved to not have to pass judgement on that man (the defendant). It’s a big responsibility she wasn’t willing to shoulder.”
He added that his wife wore her scarf of her own volition and noted that his daughter went bare-headed.
“If the judges decided to replace her because of her scarf, I understand completely. Especially at this sensitive time for secularism in the schools,” he said.
Subject: French news