Bahrain Protests France's Ban on Muslim Scarves
25 December 2003
by Anai Rhoads
At the risk of France no longer being called a free state, French President Jacques Chirac
asked the parliament to ban Hijabs (Muslim headscarves) from being worn in schools. Chirac
asked that the law be reviewed and passed before September 2004, when the new school year
Women gathered in protest outside of the French embassy in the Gulf Arab state of Bahrain
Thursday, urging an end to Chirac's plans to remove the Hijab from France's state schools.
The women complained citing that other children are permitted to wear crosses and Jewish
caps without a problem.
France has roughly five million active Muslims and the direction by Chirac is being viewed
as a focused attack on Islam and its beliefs.
Jamin Raskin, a professor of Constitutional Law at American University Washington College of Law,
was quoted during a live discussion,"Everything in French life revolves around
rationality and proving things correct through empiricism, science and logic. This is a
deeply admirable impulse, I think, especially in a world with so much religious fanaticism
and hatred. This policy may just be driving something
underground that needs to be expressed. Those Muslim girls should be in French schools
learning math and science and history and the values of La Republique."
France's private school system is run for the most part by the Catholic Church. Since this rule
cannot apply to private schools, there is great likelihood that Muslims will seek refuge in
those schools in order to practice freedom of religious symbolism. Independent schools
tend to accept religious and symbolic clothing as a freedom of expression. Since is not uncommon
to see girls wearing Hijabs in private schools, the opportunity to escape Chirac's law may
influence those practicing Islam to leave state run schools altogether.
The human rights advocacy group, the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC),
launched a campaign to urge the French government to
drop plans to ban Hijab in public institutions.
Blocking this law is the first step to preserve freedom and tolerance in France's state run
schools. Some view Chirac's request as ignorant of the Islamic faith, serving to feed
the ill-conceived generalisation that all Arabs and Muslims
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 Washtington Post Transcript
Chirac Urges Ban On Head Scarves in Schools