Paris mayor defends hijab ban

A suburban Paris mayor who banned all religious symbols from civil weddings as part of France's campaign against the hijab has brushed off criticism that his hard line would alienate Muslims.

    Several protest against the hijab ban have taken place

    Jacques Martin, a member of President Jacques Chirac's conservative UMP party, reacted on Monday after a cabinet minister warned him France's strict separation of church and state did not mean a couple could not express personal convictions at their wedding.

    Earlier this month Chirac proposed a draft law to ban religious symbols such as headscarves, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses in schools and public institutions.

    Martin's ban is one of several cases of official fanaticism over the issue. In another, a bank branch refused to admit customers wearing the hijab.

    The proposed ban has triggered loud protests from the five million-strong Muslim community, the largest in Europe making up about eight percent of the French population.

    "The state does not have to adapt to Islam today just as it did not adapt to Judaism and separated itself from Catholicism 200 years ago," Martin, mayor of Nogent-sur-Marne east of Paris, told the daily Le Figaro.

    Martin banned the hijab at civil weddings in November.

    Patrick Devedjian, a minister in Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin's cabinet, warned Martin last week of the risk of alienating citizens.

    "A civil marriage service is often the only ceremony marking the wedding," he said. "Participants...find it natural on such an occasion to act according to their traditions."

    Couples marrying in France must be wed at a civil ceremony at their local city hall and may also have a religious wedding.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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