Muslims Protest Against the French Ban as Expected

( [email protected] ) Feb 18, 2004 08:41 AM EST

PARIS – As the media expected, Muslims took action immediately after the new law banning Islamic headscarves along with other religious symbols in schools passed.

According to AFP, hundreds of Muslims rallied Saturday in French cities in protest against the new law to have the French government recognize their rights and to vote against the government in regional elections next month.

In Paris, an estimated 1,000 men and women with headscarves protested with a sign saying “No to the racist law against young people who wear headsacarves” and “One scarf = One vote.” In the southern city of Marseille, 300 to 500 people gathered to protest.

Hundreds of Muslims marching in French cities to protest a new law banning Islamic headscarves in schools threatened to show their discontent by voting against the government in regional elections next month.

The law bans the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols such as Islamic headscarves, Jewish skull caps and large Christian crosses in public schools. It may also be applied to the turbans worn by France's tiny Sikh minority and to students wearing bandanas or beards.

Muslims, especially women, including some French politicians and rights groups across the nation are against the law because of its discriminatory attitude toward the Muslim population in France and in North Africa .

Muslim women look at the ban as violating their religious freedom because putting on the headscarves is strictly their own choice. A 33-year-old woman said the law "is a false problem that hides the real problems of the Muslim community: unemployment, poverty and exclusion."

Another woman ridiculed the French motto “liberty, equality, fraternity” by saying “Liberty, equality but only on their terms.”

On the other hand, teachers and the French public support the ban, saying it upholds France's republican ideal of a strict separation of state and religion.

Jacques Myard, the mayor of Maisons-Laffitte and MP for the Yvelines region outside Paris where high number of Muslims reside defended the measure saying it was needed to prevent a rise in radical Islam. .

"In schools, religious neutrality provides the necessary serenity for the absorption of knowledge while respecting the opinions," he said during an interview with International Herald Tribune.

"These rules operated perfectly until 1989, the moment when fundamentalist Muslims wanted Islamic headscarves to be permitted in schools."