After months of heated debate, a committee of French experts last week recommended banning "conspicuous"
religious insignia, including the hijab, the Jewish kippa, and large crucifixes from state schools, which are secular.
 
In a speech last Wednesday, Chirac came out in favour of the ban, which he wants written into law by the start of
the next academic year.

"The French parliament... must avoid creating an (insoluble problem) in relations between France and the Muslim world," said the letter signed by 192 Iranian parliamentarians, mostly reformists.
  
"Opposition to the headscarf worn by Muslim women and girls in France could be seen by Muslims not as a sign of
liberty but an action to limit Muslim thought and its development," the letter said.
  
Global protest

An influential Muslim cleric in Qatar repeated a plea that he made last week for Chirac to go back on his decision.

Muslim students protest in Beirut
against Chirac's planned ban

Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian who has lived in Qatar for several years, last week wrote to Chirac urging him to "go back on his decision", in a letter addressed to the French ambassador in Doha. 

Al-Qaradawi's letter condemned "this unrelenting attack on the precepts of Islam by France, a country of liberty and
tolerance."

In Tel Aviv, Israel, a group of Arabs living inside Israel staged a protest outside the French embassy against the proposed law.

The protesters gathered outside to voice their disapproval of Chirac's backing for the bill. The demonstrators unfurled a large banner outside the embassy which read: "Banning the headscarf means the death of liberty."

The group handed a letter for ambassador Gerard Areau to embassy staff, in which they urged France "not to
infringe women's rights."