Report outrages France's Muslims

French Muslims have reacted with anger to an official report which recommends that Islamic headscarves in schools be banned.

    French Muslims say a hijab ban would be discriminatory

    Muslims argued on Friday that

     they were being targeted by a new tool of


    Drawn up by a 20-member committee under former minister Bernard

    Stasi, the secularity commission report was handed over to President Jacques Chirac on Thursday.

    The key proposal is that "conspicuous" religious

    insignia such as headscarves, Jewish skull-caps and "large" crosses

    be prohibited in the classroom.

    Chirac will

    deliver his verdict on Wednesday, but judging from past

    pronouncements he seems likely to follow its recommendation to put

    the ban into law.

    Social disharmony 

    However, Muslims have questioned whether a law

    aimed primarily at the country's five million-strong community could

    do anything to improve social harmony.

    Stasi also wants skull-caps and
    large crosses banned in schools

    The country's most-visited Islamic Internet site,,

    issued a blistering rejection of the proposed law, saying it exposed

    the hypocrisy of a nation supposedly wedded to the principle of free


    "What is happening in France? The country that once elevated

    reason above all other forms of thought is now beating itself into a


    "How could the nation that forged the rights of man descend

    to such obscurantism? Our 200 year-old republic is shaken by a piece

    of clothing," it said.

    According to's editorial director Said Branine,

    ordinary Muslims who grew up in France feel deeply offended by the

    Stasi committee's recommendations.

    Archaic France

    "This is a law that targets Muslims. Up till recently there were

    two religions in France. Now there are three, but in typical French

    fashion the establishment is years, even decades, behind reality.

    "France likes to boast of being 'exceptional.' It's rubbish. France

    is just archaic." 

    He added: "French Muslims are republicans, democrats, secularists. But we

    also have our Islamic identity transmitted from our parents. We are

    not going to give it up. To expect us to is a colonial frame of


    "How could the nation that forged the rights of man descend

    to such obscurantism? Our 200 year-old republic is shaken by a piece

    of clothing" editorial


    Others warned that a headscarf ban would be self-defeating,

    encouraging the kind of "extremism" that France is trying to combat.

    French establishment

    "My fear is that a law would be seen by the most militant part

    of the Muslim community as a frontal attack against Islam. We would

    end up with even more headscarf problems than we have now," said

    sociologist Jean-Yves Camus of the European Research Centre on

    Racism and Anti-Semitism.

    But France's leading Islamic cleric, the rector of the

    Paris mosque Dalil Boubakeur, said he would urge Muslims to obey

    any law, although he suggested a grace period of several months so

    that families could get used to the new


    However, a

    s President Jacques Chirac began deliberating the findings,

    politicians, religious leaders, teachers and editorialists gave a

    guarded welcome to Thursday's ruling.

    Most French newspapers applauded what they saw as the

    reassertion of the country's secular identity, with the conservative

    Le Figaro pronouncing it "is not for the republic to adapt to

    Islam, but for Islam to adapt to the republic".



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