Archbishop attacks French hijab ban

The head of the worldwide Anglican church has attacked France over its proposal to ban religious symbols from state schools.

    Rowan Williams represents 70 million Anglicans

    Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, used his traditional Christmas Day sermon at Canterbury Cathedral to launch the broadside.

    He said President Jacques Chirac's support for a law

    banning religious symbols such as

    the Islamic hijab was

     unsurprising "in a

    secular environment that looks at religion not only with suspicion

    or incomprehension but with fear".

    "The proposal to ban Muslim headscarves in French schools

    suggests that there is still a nervousness about letting commitment

    show its face in public," he said.

    'Religious extremism'

    "Discomfort about religion or about a particular religion may be

    the response of an educated liberal or, at the opposite extreme, the

    unthinking violence of an anti-Semite.

    "It isn't easy to face the

    fact that sometimes the effects are similar for the believer."

     

     

    The Archbishop, who represents 70 million Anglicans worldwide, also spoke out

    against religious extremism and intolerance

    .

    "Discomfort about religion or about a particular religion may be

    the response of an educated liberal or, at the opposite extreme, the

    unthinking violence of an anti-Semite.

    It isn't easy to face the

    fact that sometimes the effects are similar for the believer"

    Dr Rowan Williams,
    Archbishop of Canterbury

     

     

    "Alas," he said, "religious faith has too often been the

    language of the powerful, the excuse for oppression, the alibi for

    atrocity."

    And he said religious intolerance was being given a new lease

    of life "by the threat of terror carried out in the name of a

    religion - even when representatives of that religion at every

    level roundly condemn such action as incompatible with faith".

    War critic

    Dr Williams has been preoccupied with relations between Christians

    and Muslims over the past year and was a leading critic of the

    US-led war on Iraq.

    He has also criticised the holding of Muslim

    prisoners without trial by the United States and Britain, saying

    this complicates relations with followers of Islam.

    President Chirac last week declared his support for a ban on "conspicuous"

    religious insignia after an advisory committee said they contravened

     French schools' secular nature.

    He indicated

    he would like to see the ban written into law by the start of

    the next academic year.

    SOURCE: AFP


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