Canadian Muslim Group Lifting Its Voice In Opposition to French Ban on Religious Symbols

( [email protected] ) Jan 13, 2004 08:54 AM EST

The decision made by French President Jacques Chirac on December 17 to ban on the Islamic headscarf and other "conspicuous" religious symbols in state schools, which includes Christian crosses, is effecting other Muslim leaders around the world.

The rules are most likely written into law by the start of the next academic year.

Along with Germany, Canada is in concern of this issue as well, objecting the ban calling it violation to freedom of religion and human rights of Muslim population.

"We consider this move to be a regressive one which clearly violates Muslims' democratic freedom of religion and the human rights of some five million French citizens -- especially those of Muslim women who wish to exercise their rights and freedoms in a democratic and liberal French society," the Canadian Islamic Congress said in a letter to France's ambassador to Ottawa.

The group continued, "If your country's proposed legislation against religious clothing becomes law, it would set a very dangerous precedent for the further erosion of the rights of religious minorities in other Western countries.”

"It would signal a return to the ugly period of the Inquisition and place France outside the world's civilized community," it added, noting that "the anti-Islam law deserves to die before it kills the rights of countless patriotic and law-abiding Muslim citizens."

The Canadian group also said it was "totally unacceptable" for top Sunni Muslim authority Sheikh Mohamed Tantawy to "express his views in favour of France's proposed Hijab ban without consulting Al-Azhar's Board of Scholars," asserted CIC national President Mohamed Elmasry, who has met personally with Tantawy on several occasions. "His statement is totally misguided. Unfortunately, it will be misused by the French government."

The 20-member commission headed by former government minister Bernard Stasi gave its report to Chirac after three months of consultations with religious leaders, teachers, politicians and sociologists.

The report also asked for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, and Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim day marking the end of Ramadan, to be celebrated in state schools.

It also recommended the establishment of a national school for Islamic studies, as well as the provision of alternative meals in public canteens for observant Muslims and Jews.

The report said "conspicuous" signs of observance included the Islamic "veil" -- which would include the controversial Muslim headscarf, as well as Jewish kippas and large Christian crosses.