Hezbollah protests French veil ban plan
BEIRUT, Jan 8 (AFP) - Hezbollah organized Thursday a demonstration of about 5,000 girls, most in headscarves, outside the French embassy here to protest a proposed French ban on headscarves in state schools.
Most of the demonstrators were students brought in by bus. They marched from the Place du Musee to the embassy, where one veiled girl gave a letter to an embassy employee.
Men from the Lebanese Shiite movement acted as marshals for the march, as the girls carried French flags and banners demanding that French President Jacques Chirac block any ban.
Scrawled on the banners in French were: “Yes to the veil, no to repression”, “Freedom muffled at the heart of democracy,” “Liberty, equality, fraternity. Where is the liberty?”
Demonstrators dispersed without incident an hour later, as about 100 soldiers and police officers guarded the exterior of the embassy to maintain order.
Last Friday, a leading Lebanese Shiite Muslim hit out at the Cairo-based Sunni leadership over its support for France’s decision.
In his address at Friday prayers, Seyyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah demanded an apology from the sheikh of Al-Azhar, the highest authority in Sunni Islam, who said Tuesday that France had the right to ban Islamic headscarves in state schools.
On December 30, the sheikh said before meeting French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy: “The veil is a divine obligation for a Muslim woman … No Muslim, whether ruler or ruled, can oppose it.”
There is no ban on the headscarf in Lebanon, one of the most westernised countries in the Middle East, where Christians and Muslims live side by side.Chirac on December 17 came out in favor of a ban on the Islamic headscarf and other “conspicuous” religious symbols in state schools along with Jewish skull-caps and large crosses.
He wants the rules written into law by the start of the next academic year in order to reaffirm the country’s secular identity.
The decision, intended to reflect France’s strict separation of religion and state, has set off a storm of protest by Muslim leaders around the world.
Subject: France news