France Passes Religious Symbol Ban
Published 09 February 2004 | Vivian Park
PARIS ?On Tuesday, the ban against religious symbols in public schools in France was passed by a vote of 494 to 36. Now the students are not allowed to wear Muslim headscarves, Jewish skullcaps, and large Christian crosses in their schools.
The law reads: "In primary and secondary state schools, wearing signs and clothes that conspicuously display the pupil's religious affiliation is forbidden."
The government asserts that the ban does not discriminate any on specific religion but cabinet ministers admit that the ban is targeted on Muslim students.
"What is at issue here is the clear affirmation that public school is a place for learning and not for militant activity or proselytism," Assembly Speaker Jean-Louis Debre said.
Public opinion polls indicate about 70 percent of the French are supportive of the ban and even in the French Muslim community, Muslim women favor a ban 49 percent to 43 percent. However most Muslim population is against the measure calling it “discrimination.?
Education Minister Luc Ferry thinks the ban would help to keep classes from diving up into “militant religious communities.?He said the ban would also clarify about the official curriculum that students are not allowed to skip classes for religious reasons.
People speak of the problems that the ban will solve but at the same time, they anticipate of the greater social problems the ban could provoke.
"The majority of Muslims want to practice their religion in peace and in total respect of the laws," said Lhaj-Thami Breze, president of the Union of Islamic Organizations of France, France's largest fundamentalist grouping.
"When you persecute, when you make fun of, when you refuse, when you don't respect beliefs, what is the consequence?" he said. "The consequence is radicalization."