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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 11:36 GMT
Should Islamic headscarves be banned in schools?
Lila (left) and Alma Levy - at the centre of the debate

This is a second page of your comments.

The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

Why not ban revealing clothes?
Jaybeen, London, UK
This move would alienate Muslim women. After all it is like saying, "You're too stupid to make up your own mind about how you dress. Let us make it for you". I wear a headscarf and guess what? I wasn't forced by some tyrant/fanatical mullah, father, brother, husband or anyone else to do so. I CHOSE to wear it. Why not ban revealing clothes? After all what is the chance that people (especially men) will want to talk to you about your "brain" when you're wearing a few flimsy bits of cloth?
Jaybeen, London, UK

In schools, in the United States, we allow headscarves and other conspicuous signs of one's religious affiliation. We consider one's right to display such signs as freedom, but keep in mind the United States is a much more conservative nation than France or other European countries. In many Europeans countries, including France church attendance has dramatically decreased, whereas here it has remained steady so it underscores our belief in morality. What we think, despite our strong moral beliefs is, it is a personal matter in which government has no right to meddle.
Saad B, NY, U.S.

With the rise of "hate crimes" throughout the EU, but particularly in France, Chirac's decision was the right one. One's religious identity has become a polarising issue once again in Europe and this is one way to eliminate the problem before it gets any bigger than it already is.
Irene, Stuttgart, Germany

It is right for schools to leave RE to outside the classroom but I think you are crossing the line when you start dictating what individuals can and cannot wear. Headscarves are not offensive in any way and you don't hurt anyone in the process of wearing one, so what it the problem?
Simon Rerrie, Birmingham, UK

Religion has no place in school
Laurent, Paris, France
School is a place where children learn universal teachings, far from any religious enforcement. Religion has no place in school - you can do whatever you want outside school.
Laurent, Paris, France

Banning the head scarf is complete discrimination. Why are Muslims being targeted? I'm a Muslim and I wear a headscarf, not because my parents want me to wear it, but because I want to, as I see it a sign of modesty and humbleness and I do not want to be judged on what I look like.
Roxanna, West Midlands

Why is this being seen as an anti-Muslim issue? The law applies to all religions equally, whether Jew, Christian, Muslim or any other religion. France is a secular country, religion and the state have long been separated. A lot of people have talked about freedom, but what about the freedom to be educated without interference from religion? People have talked about the French not respecting Islam, what of the respect for French ideals and laws?
Chris, Leeds, UK

The headscarf is not just a piece of cloth but an Islamic religious exposure
Maarten B, The Netherlands
The headscarf is not just a piece of cloth but an Islamic religious exposure. By sustaining this in public schools it will divide the classroom. Children not wearing a headscarf will automatically be marked as Non Muslims thus an unwanted religious aspect is introduced and will be put on those who didn't asked for it.
Maarten B, The Netherlands

It is agreed by all Muslim scholars that not wearing Hijab is considered a sin in Islam. How can a country claiming "democracy" and "freedom" restrain someone from following the orders of their religion, especially as it does not harm anyone. We have never heard this issued about Nuns or Priests not able to go to government building with their dress code! This issue surfaced only because of Hijab and not as they claim against all "Religious" signs.
Rami, Oxford, UK

Remember the saying that if you're in Rome, do as the Romans do. The French people have been very accommodative of people from different cultures. Now if these people find that they cannot adhere to French rules, they can always relocate to their countries of origin where the wearing of the headscarf is normal.
Elizabeth, Kampala, Uganda

France is right to insist on secularity in education, but this is a step too far. I am strongly opposed to all so called "faith schools" but I think that people should be entitled to wear what they like, within reason.
Alan, Scotland

I think it's unfair to ban the Muslim girls wearing the headscarf. They have equal right to participate their religion whether in school or any where else!
Nebiha, Jeddah KSA

I work with youth from the Muslim communities in France since 22 years. Our problem is that not all of the girls voluntarily wear the headscarf. We have problems with forced marriages, brothers who beat their sisters so they will be "good" Muslims. Mothers, fathers who force the girls to follow, what for them, are backwards traditions. It is one thing if the girls "choose", another if forced.
Jean, Caen, France

Banning headscarves is a breech of Muslims' human rights. It's ridiculous that in a democratic country, people are banned from wearing what they want. Headscarves are meant to protect women and it is an integral part of Islam. Isn't better that women respect themselves and are humble rather than parading around with hardly any clothes on as we see in the media today? Higab ensures that women are respected and seen for their intelligence rather than their beauty, doesn't a democracy guarantee freedom for citizens? Shouldn't it be up to the individual to wear what they want and not up to the state, or so we thought in a so called democracy.
Heba Mansour, London

I think it would good if we didn't know each others religions
Stephen Arscott, Slough
I agree with what the French are doing. I think in an ideal world it should not be necessary since diversity is something to be cherished in the human race, however, unfortunately it also tends to create divisions. Remember religious related differences have been the greatest single reason for wars to date. I think it would good if we didn't know each others religions for a while and kept it to ourselves to see the persons heart first and not form opinions and divisions based on religions (via clothing etc). I think then we would be more accepting of religions and all they bring.
Stephen Arscott, Slough

I'm with Chirac on this issue, it draws a fine line between church and state. I would think, however, that such action will only increase the resolve of those who will be affected, to defy the ambitions the French Government has through its secular school system. Rather than absorb French culture, I think this will lead affected peoples to indentify with their ethno/religious roots.
William Sutton, Quesnel, British Columbia, Canada

Banning the wearing headscarves by schoolgirls is not the solution at all. It will only encourage the religious and cultural feelings attached to wearing headscarves and politicize a whole generation. Adopting this policy is certainly not a sign of strength on the part of France.
Dr Chipasha Luchembe, Perris, California , USA

In Singapore, students in mainstream schools are banned from wearing Islamic headscarves and often religious signs in schools. I think that banning headscarves actually protects freedom in a way. Students, who are young, should not be forced to wear headscarves if they feel uncomfortable with it. When there are adults, with experiences and knowledge they learnt at school and place of worship, they can make a conscientious effort whether they think wearing headscarves/religious symbols are necessary for their faith.
Having said that, if a student who is mature enough to make a decision to wear headscarves/religious symbols and if he/she thinks that that is more important that a mainstream education, then he/she then has private/home alternatives to choose from.
Wayne, Singapore

This decision brings choice and opportunity to young Muslims. Outside their prescriptive community they now have a chance to experience a genuine secular education hopefully enabling them to make informed decisions about religion based on knowledge rather than custom.
Phil, Chester, UK

The ban on the headscarf clearly shows up the lip service paid by the western societies to freedom
Salih, Chennai,India
I am amazed by the French decision. The ban on the headscarf clearly shows up the lip service paid by the western societies to freedom. Underneath - they are uncomfortable with the Muslim presence amidst their midst. It is ok to attend schools in semi-naked state with mini-skirts and so on and wrong when a girl chooses to cover her head in modesty.
Salih, Chennai,India

The French government does not know what else to say or do. The wearing of headscarves in schools should not be a debating topic that any reasonable government should be talking about. The government should allow anybody to practise his or her religion the way it is supposed to be practiced. Personally, I see this headscarf ban as another plot against the Muslim community.
Abdulgafar kehinde, Lagos, Nigeria

I think that it is not only the headscarf which is a problem. But these girls do not want do gym, do not want to go to the swimming pool and sometimes do not want study Zola, Voltaire etc. The problem in the French schools is there.
Bernadette, Paris, France

As an atheist, I applaud the promotion of secularism. In the States we have laws that prevent the schools from officially teaching or promoting religion. However, I do believe that liberty requires us to allow expressions by students of any sort, so long as they don't interfere with others abilities to express themselves, or are not inflammatory. This is not unlike Britain's great philosopher John Locke's notion of liberty. Are children people with rights and liberties? Or should we stuff them all into "secular uniforms" in order to demonstrate out tolerance? What an irony!
chuck, Portland, Oregon, USA

I don't agree with the banning of headscarves in schools. As a Sikh, I would be outraged if a ban were made on Sikhs to prevent them wearing a turban in school. If the headscarves were in school colours and were part of the school uniform then what's the problem? School is the first real experience children have to meet and understand different types of people. It's the first steps to open their minds and educate them on more on life. The world is a very multicultural place, and everyone has a place within it. This being said, I think Muslim countries should also show the same respect they ask other countries to show towards Islam and its belief and cultures.
Kiran Kasbia, Bristol, UK

The state has a right to ban headscarves but a duty to allow educational choice
Rick Hough, Knutsford, Cheshire
As a Jedi Knight (yes it is a "proper" religion) I would like my lads to be allowed to wear the long flowing robes of our religion at school and carry deactivated light-sabres. No, not really - but my point is, what one person finds ridiculous (e.g headscarves) another takes seriously. Choice is very important, and if a school sets the rules, you agree to those rules when you send your kids there. If you don't like the rules you have the choice of sending your kids to another school.

The state has a right to ban headscarves but a duty to allow educational choice. Of course this is going to end in religious segregation in education (and therefore society as a whole) but its not a clear cut issue, and that's why France is (bravely) having the debate. The issue is a no-win one for the French government, therefore they must do what they believe is for the common good - vive la France!
Rick Hough, Knutsford, Cheshire

I wonder how some people are very critical regarding women covering their bodies, while they do not bother about the porno and sex business in their societies. Women should feel free to cover their body parts if they wish like those who have the freedom to expose whatever he like.
Hussain Elsayes, Egyptian in UAE

France is only enforcing its laws to ensure the separation of church and state
Jamie, Scot in New Zealand
We shouldn't forget that this law was originally brought in by the French to prevent the Catholic Church from regaining its grip on the country. This is not simply Christians against Muslims. Turkey, a Muslim country has already banned the wearing of the scarves in their public schools. France is only enforcing its laws to ensure the separation of church and state.
Jamie, Scot in New Zealand

I think that Arabs/Muslims should really sit down and re-read the Koran because it does not mention headscarves. If we followed the Koran literally and exactly people would see that Islam is extremely progressive. One must dress humbly is all that is required, so to answer your question, no Muslims should wear headscarves!!
Mazi, Iran/Aussie

My gran (white, C of E) used to wear a headscarf when she went shopping. Was she a threat to civilisation?
Anon, UK

I think that banning headscarves in schools will definitely alienate Muslims who live in France. I am a Muslim girl but I don't wear a headscarf. Most women who wear it, do so willingly. Some people are saying that everything related to religion should be practised outside school, but this is totally inapplicable in this case. If a woman decides to wear a headscarf, she should always wear it whether at school, at work..etc any place she knows she would be seen by strangers.
Nevine El-Saeed, Cairo, Egypt

Choice is paramount
Rob Bennett, Nantwich, Cheshire
This is a clear failure to tolerate the diversity that multicultural societies pride themselves on. Banning headscarves is as oppressive as if they had been forced to wear one. As many here have said, choice is paramount.
Rob Bennett, Nantwich, Cheshire

In the US I would say that while separation of church and state are important, people should be free to dress as they see fit. This includes dress that honours their culture. As long as others are not required to participate in religious ceremonies, the separation of church and state has been maintained.
William Evans, Ithaca, NY, USA

Respect is a word we hear regularly linked with Islam and other non Western religions. Why can't Muslims respect the culture and traditions of France?
John Henderson, London UK

So long as all children are taught the same subjects, I fail to see how dressing the same helps anyone. Surely this just inflames an already sensitive situation?
Ben, Derby, UK

It is important that children are not brought up with the sense of religion divisions
Tani, UK

I am a Muslim and I very much welcome this decision. It is important that children are not brought up with the sense of religion divisions. This will be a step forward to a better understanding of each other, as human beings, and not which religion we belong to.
Tani, UK

I think it is wrong to ban the wearing of the hijab. For many devout Muslim girls and their families this will cause great distress, and might even mean they feel unable to go to school because of it. What on earth is wrong with displaying your religion? We should be proud of our religious diversities, not seek to hide them.
Kate, Wales

It's respect for their religion
Bijaya, USA
Ask the girls what they want to do. Leave it up to them. Just because some people think that school children should all look the same doesn't mean that the girls should be made to take their scarves off. That is oppression. A headscarf is an identity, it's respect for their religion. Let the girls be, there are more important and more relevant issues the government can be arguing about.
Bijaya, USA

I agree with the French law. I think that education and religion should be kept entirely separate and that all schools should be secular. Perhaps, then the hatreds that exist between religions and religious sects would fade away.
Les Blaber, UK

I worked in Saudi Arabia, where I was told to cover my head in public, despite not being Muslim. If the Muslims complain about being forced to remove them, it is a clear case of double standards.
Wendy, UK

Will nuns also be banned from wearing headscarves? If not why ban Muslims?
Momodou Ousman Ceesay, London, England

All students should wear the same outfit to school, so everyone will look the same (no scarves), problem solved.
Monika, USA

It is not for the state to decide what the standard of dress should be in a secular society
Moosa, London, UK
Leave it to the girls to decide. If they leave home wearing the headscarf/hijab as many Muslim girls do in the UK and take it off before they enter school the girl will have made her own choice. If on the other hand she keeps it on to protect her modesty and dignity she should have the right to do so. It is not for the state to decide what the standard of dress should be in a secular society.
Moosa, London, UK

Maybe the religious hysteria on both sides should cool it. Schools in many countries enforce dress codes and school uniform which is not allowed to be dressed up or down. As for wearing what we like in public, that always depends on a country's laws.
Janet, Scotland, UK

This is a free world, let the women wear what they want!!
Suhail Shafi, Malta

The hijab is not a voluntary expression or outward show of a Muslim woman's faith. It is an absolute, unequivocal and undeniable requirement of Islamic law and to prohibit it is akin to prohibiting Muslims from praying (as required five times daily).
Farouk, London, UK

It's up to the French to decide what is and what isn't allowed in their schools
Andy, Toronto Canada
In my opinion, it's up to the French to decide what is and what isn't allowed in their schools. If a majority of the French population wants headscarves banned at public schools, so be it.
Andy, Toronto Canada

What sort of society will these people be integrated into? One that denies them the right to fulfil their religious obligations to comply with a law that serves no good purpose? As a Christian, I feel it necessary to respect, if not agree with, other people's religions and defend the right to wear the clothing their religion demands.
Steve Jones, Wigan

France is a secular country. Deal with it. The majority of the population don't like overtly outward signs of a person's religion. I applaud France's position and only hope it can be repeated worldwide. Don't forget also that this isn't solely about Muslim headscarves, other religions are affected also.
Pete, Nottingham, UK

It will make French Muslims resentful
Jim, NJ, USA
I think the argument that this will help Muslims integrate into French society is a load of nonsense. If anything, it will make French Muslims resentful and more likely to stick together in tight communities. Many will send their children to private schools to avoid such religious intolerance. I also think this is an obvious point that the French government could not have overlooked.
Jim, NJ, USA

If the individual concerned decides to display their religious beliefs then that is up to them. It is what is under the scarf that counts and not what it represents.
Rachel, Oxford, UK

I respect the religious diversity that many immigrants have brought to my area. I see headscarves on a daily basis and find no problem with allowing any reasonable display of piety and religious belief. A bit of cloth is no more indicative of fundamentalism or militancy than a beard or a turban. It is a shame that the French Government has taken this stance.
Christopher Magee, Washington, DC USA

A truly civilised society would choose tolerance of all religions over enforced secularism. If Chirac imposes this ban, it will be a very sad day for France.
Rita, Glasgow, UK

I have never heard of anything so pathetic. Firstly children should not be used as political tools for adults with phobias. Secondly, when are we going to learn to live with each other and accept each other!
Matt, Germany

I have no problem with headscarves. I think the real issue is that children of all religions and races should have to go to the same schools to teach them tolerance at an early age. Sending kids to specialist religious schools is fundamentally wrong as it breeds hate.
Neil, Wrexham, Wales

I'd rather see them ban people wearing attire with corporate logos
Michal Zlotkowski, Christchurch, New Zealand
By forcefully banning the wearing headscarves France is running the risk of being just as oppressive as many believe Islam to be towards women. I'd rather see them ban people wearing attire with corporate logos - they're certainly more damaging, mentally and socially, and have done harm at a faster rate then any religion has ever managed to.
Michal Zlotkowski, Christchurch, New Zealand

It seems that my belief that France is the nation of liberty is mistaken. Islamic dress is neither a hindrance to school participation nor a symbol of oppression. It has no sinister influence on fellow students. On the contrary, students with high moral values and the courage to express them despite peer pressure are obviously a desirable influence in any classroom. I converted to Islam at the age of eighteen and wonder if I would be able to show such integrity at such a sensitive age.
Sheryl Ghamati, Shiraz, Iran

If they do ban them they should as well prevent nuns, priests etc...from wearing their traditional clothes and crosses. What to do with piercing and other fashion statements? People express their opinion and way of thinking often through visual aides which make clear to others who they are and what they believe in. If governments deny people the right to express themselves like that we are headed for a grim boring future.
Frank, Belgium

Why do western women have to cover their heads when in Muslim countries? Do we have to adapt to them respect their believes wherever we are?
Luis, Bangkok - ex UK

No nation or country has ever been successful by forcing everyone to be the same, rather success has always come by allowing and respecting individual differences. Forcing everyone to have the same opinion (in this case that the head scarf is repressive) has always brought discontent which if it lasts long enough has led to revolutions. Just read the history of the previous nations.
Faiza Mubin, North Carolina, USA

Their integration cannot be achieved unless they accept European values
Dimitri, France
Islamic headscarves is more than a religious sign. It is a sign of woman's inferiority in the Islamic culture. Europe has its own values that people coming from other cultures should respect; their integration can not be achieved unless they accept European values and even better adopt them.
Dimitri, France

Speaking from a non religious viewpoint since I don't have a religion. I think it is completely wrong to ask people to go against their way of life. It should be up to the individual whether or not to change such a thing. Everyone has a right for access to and expression of their religion. The only thing that needs to be changed is peoples understanding and acceptance of others who have different beliefs whatever that religion, whether is Muslim, Christian, Jewish etc. It's not the religions that are at fault, it is only the way that some people twist it to suit their own goals that is at fault.
Anisa, London

I think that it is highly contentious to ban Islamic headscarves and other religious signs in schools. I am not a Muslim, but feel that their rights should be respected. On the other hand, I do think that some Muslim girls may not want to wear headscarves and may be forced to do so by their parents, but that is another issue.
Ann-Monique Stellinga, Halesowen, West Midlands, England.

A country like France where democracy is cherished needs to allow freedom of speech and the right to practice religion of one's choice. So, the headscarves should not be banned
Nas, Sokoto, Nigeria

The Islamic headscarves should not be banned in schools. Islam is more than a religion- it is a complete way of life. It gives regulations on all aspects of our lives - dressing not being an exception. Please let the headscarves stay on our Muslim sisters even in school.
Saeedah, Lagos and Nigeria

We should allow people to practice their different beliefs and respect them for who they are
Saliha, Rochester, New York
Why should it matter what people have one their heads, everyone is unique and different, if we do not allow for these differences we will became a society that can not tolerate others, we should allow people to practice their different beliefs and respect them for who they are and how they want to dress.
Saliha, Rochester, New York

As a Muslim women who wears the headscarf I am appalled at the overt Islamophobic statements being made on this discussion point. The Hijab is increasing becoming part of the Muslim women's identity wherever she may live, with increasing numbers of Muslim women choosing to wear it. Its about time people began to accept that as an act of free choice rather than an act of oppression.
N Shah, UK

What happened to the so call freedom of religion in the Western Civilization? All I have to say is shame on those who support this policy. I can make many arguments that the western Civilization is decaying behind repair. But, this is not the time or place for it.
Alex Seta, KC, USA

Covering of the hair is mandatory for Muslim women. This is no doubt to the faithful; of course the non-practising will claim otherwise. Nobody, not even the president of France has any say to the ruling of Almighty Allah. The Creator, he makes law. Men, a puny creation of the Almighty should not be arrogant to go against His law since everybody will eventually will die and meet his Creator where all disputes will be finally resolved. Truth will prevail!
Adam, Shah Alam, Malaysia

Islamic headscarves should not be banned in schools. Islam is more than a religion - it is a complete way of life.
Saeedah, Lagos & Nigeria
Islamic headscarves should not be banned in schools. Islam is more than a religion - it is a complete way of life. It gives regulations on all aspects of our life - dressing not being an exception. Please let the headscarves stay on our Muslim sisters even in school.
Saeedah, Lagos & Nigeria

I think that it is sad and a disgrace that in this day and age, governments believe they have the right to impose such restrictions on individuals. What happened to living in a free society where you can say, wear and act as you think is right. Many women wear the headscarves because they want to. If anything should change it should be people's attitude and respect towards beliefs and religions.
Azza, London

I cannot believe how so many people from the so-called "civilised west" can so passionately support such a ban. Whether headscarves are an emblem of fundamentalist Islam or not does not make this ban rightful. Do they think there are no Muslim women in France (or elsewhere) who cordially want to cover their hair? Let all people go to school the way they want, and let them decide what to wear or not for themselves.
Leyla, Turkey

'Islamic headscarves and other religious signs' are not only 'religious signs', they are equally expressions of one's inner values, and a means to connect with others who share those values. It is up to these people to decide what to do with the so called 'religious signs', not for the state or the town council, or any other body. Any effort to ban such symbols of self expression are dangerous, because they target at the very root of peoples' identity.
Berhanu, Ethiopia

If head scarves are banned then it should be extended to the nuns residing in France as well.
Murtaza Mewawala, Dubai. UAE
If head scarves are banned then it should be extended to the nuns residing in France as well. Why should one community be allowed to express their faith and the other be banned?
Murtaza Mewawala, Dubai. UAE

I strongly urge that all anti-ban supporters be blindfolded so that their modesty is not outraged by witnessing their kinswomen minus their headscarves or whatever form of repression that they have been practising since time immemorial.
Subbu, Dubai, UAE

No, headscarves should not banned in school.
Mohamad Khatib, Toronto, Canada

All women should have choices to wear whatever they want to wear on their heads. This is freedom.
Kathleen Russell, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA
All women should have choices to wear whatever they want to wear on their heads. This is freedom. Many women feel safer in a head scarf. Let them wear what they like.
Kathleen Russell, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA

Jesus had a beard, so they should be banned? Also, it is sexist that only men can wear beards.
Colin Heyes, UK citizen in Germany

It is wrong to impose one's beliefs onto others, as in this case. The scarves of Muslim girls and women are just another piece of clothing representing their beliefs and character, just like the clothing of western women, just like the clothing of the catholic nuns, representing their religion.
Amra, Australia

This only applies to public schools, to avoid young girls to be forced to wear headscarves. If some women don't want to adapt to a 100 years old law, they can still go to private schools (one opened this year in Lille) or learn at home, all expenses being endorsed by the educational system. Out of public school, they can express their religion as they want. And please take note that lots of Muslims in France agree with this law, especially women, because the scarf is exploited by some fundamentalists who try to make the Muslim women who don't wear scarves to feel guilty.
Nicolas, Paris, France

Next they'd be banning beards and spiked hair! It's none of the state's business
Claire, Philadelphia, USA
It's wrong for the State to hinder a person from following the precepts of his/her religion. The wearing of a cross is voluntary, as, I believe, is the skullcap, whereas the headscarf is mandatory when Muslim girls reach a certain age. However, I'd be against banning any one of them. Next they'd be banning beards and spiked hair! It's none of the state's business.
Claire, Philadelphia, USA

There is no point in banning religious emblems. The fact that headscarves are not a religious emblem of Islam does not change the situation, because many believe they are. Whatever France does, they are further advanced than the UK, in that they have at least removed religious observance from schools. Let the UK make that important step first.
Aj, Manchester,

The headscarf symbolizes repression of women in Muslim countries. To wear it in a free western civilization is to voluntarily submit to that repression. I think the French are saying this repression has no place in a free society.
Charles , Montreal, Canada

France is a secular country and intends to remain so. It separated the church and government in 1905 after fierce clashes with the Catholic Church. There are no reasons why there should be an exception for the Muslims. On top of that "le voile" is a definite sign of oppression for the women who have to be "modest" (why not the men?) and of segregation against non-Muslims. Ban the "voile" in all public places and administrations, let the "liberté de conscience" for every individual and do not label everyone as belonging to a "community" which is another mean of oppression: that's what France is all about.
Patrick, France

If the French want to exclude overt religious symbolism in State schools, perhaps they should not have a school holiday at the end of December, for Christmas, as it is clearly supporting a Christian world-view over other religions. What would the French public think of that idea?
Danny W, London UK

Nowhere in the Koran does it say anything about headscarves, all it talks about is 'modesty'. It is the men's problem if they cannot control themselves if they happen to see a strand of hair on a woman, why should women be made to suffer headscarves because of that? Headscarves have been imposed on women by men, plain and simple, and it is time that women are freed of this recent form of female subjugation.
Ibrahim Aladwani, London, UK

Why on Earth should anybody be offended by someone wearing a headscarf? Why should anybody be offended by a skull cap. Or a crucifix? As long as it doesn't interfere with the learning then what on Earth is the problem?
Matthew, London UK

I believe in separation of the state and church - religion. If Italian schools can remove crosses from their classrooms, so can pupils and teachers with scarf. As much as cross on the wall intrude on Muslim religion, so does scarf intrudes on Christian and Jewish religion. Leave your religion at home when going to school - practice it on Fridays, Sundays or not at all, but not in the school. School is for learning not praying.
Dakic Ana, Canada

Yes - should be banned. It is a blatantly sexist custom. It will not hinder integration -- it will promote integration because integration means the acceptance of some universal norms by all sections of society.
Suhail Ahmad Banglori, Detroit, USA

Why do we find problems where there are none? Has it now become a crime for somebody to respect his religion and culture? Very soon there will be a law forbidding African people to wear their traditional attires during official gatherings in France. For God's sake! What has freedom become? Allow each person to decide on what to wear and to freely respect and apply the precepts of his or her religion or culture.
Somo Jaire, Bamenda - Cameroon

I think they should ban it, these people are in France not Islam, I think we should do it in England to!
Megan, Hertford, England

As a Muslim woman who doesn't wear Hijab I believe Saudi Arabia is wrong telling women it has to cover their heads. However, France will be equally wrong if it tell women they cannot cover their heads.
Shaista Hayat, Cambridge, UK

It's simply an effort to impose western culture on our Islamic values
Rana Sulaiman, Sialkot-Pakistan
Is it democratic behaviour to curb freedom of Muslim Women not allowing them to practice their religion by imposing such bans. If a scarf is symbol fundamentalism, what does the hanging Christian crosses mean to French Government? Will it be banned too? If they want to do it justly, then one must start by closing all the churches and then minorities shall be treated same way. It's simply an effort to impose western culture on our Islamic values by imposing such bans. It must be condemned by whole civilized, democratic and free world.
Rana Sulaiman, Sialkot-Pakistan

Condemning someone else's religious customs is no better than condemning the religion itself. Not until people of all ethnic and religious origin are allowed to live freely together will this world of conflicts ever find peace.
Sara, Hong Kong

Another politically correct idiocy aimed at creating problems rather than solving them. I wonder if the French will ban also the headscarves of catholic nuns, Jewish yarmulkes, Buddhist shaven heads and other such religious symbols that are likely to appear in schools.
Simintab, Slovakia

Is that the freedom we are advocating in the world today, where we say we want everybody to have freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom in religious activities, and so on? In my own view if the government in France went ahead and banned headscarves and other religious symbols in schools, are we not infringing in our right to freedom?
Abdulrahman Adamu, Minna, Nigeria

Surely a major factor about school is setting a comfortable environment in which to learn. A Muslim girl who wishes to wear a headscarf, but cannot due to the new proposed law, would surely feel very uncomfortable and distracted about this in school. Same for those Christians who feel improperly dressed without a crucifix.
Bruce, Bristol, UK

Surely the best idea that has come from France. All religious paraphernalia should be kept in places of worship, where they belong. Not in schools or public places where they may cause offence.
R Berrow, Birmingham, UK

Live and let live
Falak Malik, Sugar Land, Texas - USA
Why not ban clothes that expose too much skin? Like maybe mini-skirts? And why not tell Sikhs to take off their turbans and cut their hair? This is totally ridiculous. The way one dresses up has nothing to do with inter-religion harmony. No one has the right to tell others what to wear and how to practice their beliefs. Live and let live (how ever they want to.)
Falak Malik, Sugar Land, Texas - USA -

Secularism is good when it is protects from the power of a dominant Church: Italy could use a bit of it. But secularism is bad when used to limit the freedom of a minority, as France is doing.
Carlo Rovelli, Marseille, France

This is truly an example of a situation where the government has failed to provide justice. If people are protective about themselves, and therefore they choose certain means of protecting themselves without doing any harm to anyone else then where is the problem. If the French government passes this bill, then they have truly failed to understand justice.
Saboor Khan, London, Ontario, Canada

I would think that there are many people who will find alternate places for education, maybe through private school, or a church or temple school. This will just separate people further which is the opposite of what they are trying to accomplish. It will also make people feel like they have to hide there religion, which is not good.
Brian Alterman, East Meadow, USA

The Quran (24:31) asks women to "draw their veils over their bosoms" there is no mention of head. Wearing a headscarf is not Islamic though Mullahs, a political entity, have convinced most Muslims that it is. The French government should encourage the girls to read the Quran, preferably in a language they understand if they don't speak Arabic. It is important the girls understand this is not an Islamic requirement. Equally, it is important the government understand banning is an infringement on freedom. Veils and Brukas are important in societies where bands of frustrated armed men roam the streets. France doesn't need them. At least not yet.
AN, Oakville ON Canada

I am in favour of people wearing what they like
Rick, Helena, Montana, USA
In these days when bare midriffs and "sex bracelets" are the outgoing and incoming rages, seemingly, in the US, a bit of modesty on the part of some schoolgirls, for whatever reason, is actually quite refreshing. I am in favour of people wearing what they like in these relatively closed environments (schools), as long as they do not do it to further a particular limiting agenda. "Don't force your views on me, and I won't seek to limit yours in response." However, I expect the same tolerance and consideration for those wishing to wear their hair in the "gone dread" style, or sport pirate costumes or the dusters of drovers, as further examples, insofar as the disruption to the learning environment is kept at acceptable minimums.
Rick, Helena, Montana, USA

I'm an atheist and even I don't think that it is right to ban religious symbols in public places. This is just as stupid as requiring all girls to wear headscarves, and all boys to wear a "skull cap" so that everybody looks the same. Absolute nonsense!
Andrew, USA

I think that women should be free to wear what attire they wish. However, what is really interesting to me is that everyone seems to be jumping all over France for considering this measure, yet no one is censuring any Arab country for not allowing women out in public without being covered up. The Taliban used to publicly whip women unless they were "properly attired." It seems that tolerance is a one-way street. They can institute extremely oppressive measures, but God forbid that any western country do likewise. Perhaps that is why in no small measure millions of Muslims have emigrated to the West, and why it has not been reciprocated by Westerners emigrating to Muslim countries.
Richard, Window Rock, Arizona

Real believer means a real good human being, wearing a headscarf may be important, but it is not everything
Enam, Crawford, TX
France showed that they are the real secular country. Each people from every belief start fighting for displaying their faith in public than the only outcome will be religious and cultural clash. I am a Muslim. If people want to practice their faith in that displaying form, they are free to go to any other countries who allow this practice. Real believer means a real good human being. Wearing a headscarf may be important, but it is not everything.
Enam, Crawford, TX

There are countries where the wearing of headscarves is normal, why aren't people who insist on these 'badges' of identity encouraged to re-locate to a place where their religious preferences are considered normal
Dave Bancroft, Vienna, Austria

Do they not also in France have a concept of "freedom of religion" like we do? I think that banning head scarves would be quite despicable. Wearing a head scarf is not at all "conspicuous" religious symbol--it might be to the French Christians because they don't wear them. But a Muslim could very well find that 15 year old French high school girls bearing their midriffs or wearing really short shorts could be a "conspicuous" symbol of secularism.
Jenni, Sewanee, TN USA

As a non-Muslim female, I was raised in a Muslim country and was FORCED to wear the headscarf with no ifs and buts. So my suggestion for those individuals with strong beliefs in their religion is; either attend a private school or go to a country where you have similar ideology. That's what I did!!
Jazz, NY, USA

The attitude of the French Government in this issue is surprising. In most Muslim countries (except Saudi Arabia and Iran), there are thousands of Muslim women, who choose to wear a scarf or not to wear one. To the best of my knowledge, the majority of these women are not forced to do so. In Iran and Saudi Arabia, it is a legal requirement for women whether Muslim or non-Muslim to wear a Hijab/Scarf. If France passes such a draconian law, it would place itself firmly on the same but level of oppression as Iran and Saudi Arabia. I think that if France does decide to pass this law, then the EU should seriously consider disciplining it for having breached the EU's Charter of Human Rights.
Navidul Haq Khan, London, United Kingdom

Children should never be forced by their parents to put on display what is essentially their parents religion
Ryan Neilson, Limerick, Ireland
This ban is a good idea. Children should never be forced by their parents to put on display what is essentially their parents religion and not their own. Most children are never given the choice of what religion to worship. Their parents narrow their horizons and views by deciding this for them. It should be illegal to force children to learn or be made to display religious teachings and practices.
Ryan Neilson, Limerick, Ireland

Throughout our history human beings were engaged in debates about the freedom of a person. Telling people that they should not wear headscarves is like telling them to forget about their freedom rights and be the same like everybody else.
Lena, Moscow, Russia

What are they going to do next? Ban the Pope unless he comes to France in suit and tie?
Shiraz Dawood, Canada

This is another example of France's inability to decide how to deal with its ethnic communities. Does France want to be a multicultural society, or try (probably vainly) to preserve a uniquely French culture? Does France want its ethnic minorities to add to and enhance its society or does it feel it necessary to "integrate" them into whatever the state decides is "French culture"? Does France want its citizens to freely decide what to listen to on the radio, what to watch on TV and what to wear, or have this imposed on them by the Ecole Superieur-educated monoculture that is the French civil service?
John, London, UK

The point many are missing is this is taking place in Public schools. Outside of school you can wear whatever you like, but while attending a secular school you should respect each other and limit the outright "statement" dress that act to divide each other. It no different then schools having uniforms.
Cab, USA

I live in France and have followed this debate closely. My gut reaction is that the wearing of headscarves is a sign of oppression - and it is not required by the Koran (the very intelligent and enlightened Mufti of Marseille made that quite clear). I don't think though that it should be banned - excluding these young women from schools will do nothing to encourage their integration and emancipation. More dialogue and more religious education in the widest sense, so that we all know more about each other, would be much more useful.
Sue, Paris, France

If a woman wishes to be modest in her dress she should not be prevented by the State from doing so
Peter Yeboah, London, UK
Wearing a headscarf or obayah (long gown) is an expression of modesty and cannot be compared to wearing a crucifix or skull cap. The proposed law does seem to target the Muslim community, although it pretends that this is not so. If a woman wishes to be modest in her dress she should not be prevented by the State from doing so.
Peter Yeboah, London, UK

Although I see why people in some countries without this problem fail to see the logic of this ban, those people are wrong and the ban is right. It all has to do with protecting the Muslim girls who do not want to wear the headscarves, or burkas, or whatever, from being forced (implicitly or explicitly) by the others to wear them or be "marked" out. Those who mark themselves as being religious like this in an area controlled by the state are simultaneously marking the others who do not share their choice in a negative and potentially oppressive way; and the state should not allow this to happen.
Cem Say, Istanbul, Turkey

I am a Muslim woman, I am very educated, I am a modern professional woman. And I choose to wear hijab because I do not wish to expose all parts of my body to the gaze of people I do not know. Everyone knows that men look at and admire women's bodies and beauty. The ban of headscarves amounts to a demand that women should go about in what they consider to be undress, and should be punished for refusing to expose themselves for others to enjoy. Is this freedom?
Inci Kaylan, Windsor, UK

If this ban is implemented than we should tear up the EEC's human rights charter.
Saladin Ali, London

How can such a move happen in France, the country which inspired much of the world in 1789, with it's pursuit for equality and personal freedoms for all? Wearing of the headscarf/hijab is an integral part of the Islamic religion, and not a 'religious sign'; to therefore deny a woman from practicing this fundamental right defies all fairness and logic. What group will be targeted next? Rather than alienate an important segment of the French society, (and over one billion Muslims worldwide), why not find ways to further bridge and enhance our understanding and acceptance of one another - we need this more than ever given the current state of world affairs. France should celebrate it's cultural diversity, not find ways to destroy it.
TSA, New York City, USA

When I went to school in the 70s the school uniform was defined for us and compulsory. The whole point I believe was to minimise self expression to ensure that everyone looked and was treated more or less the same. I had no trouble with this and I think it worked. I believe that schools would be a whole lot better today if they still enforced such standards. If I'd have adorned my head with any sort of regalia, and refused to remove it when asked to I'd have been in one of two places; the headmaster's office or sent on my way home!
Peter Long, London UK

When it genuinely promotes Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, France is a country to be admired. But this decision respects none of these principles. Why should the state interfere with people's clothing at all? To outsiders, the Muslim scarf may represent the oppression of women, but there are plenty of Muslim women who will say that it represents the same kind of choice not to be a sexual object that some Western feminists adopted in their refusal to wear make-up. Thank goodness that in England we seem to be intent on creating a genuinely multi-faith society, rather than this neutered down "secularist" model favoured across the Channel.
Roger Moss, Brighton, England

A ban might be necessary to help bridge the increasing religious divide in Europe
Mehdi, Rotterdam, Netherlands
I tend to agree with the French commission. Not because the headscarf is a symbol of Islam as such. But because it is a symbol of an interpretation of Islam in which women are subdued to men. In this interpretation it is an obligation (not a free choice) for women to cover their heads when not in a safe/trusted environment. Wearing a headscarf with this conviction thus symbolises a disapproval of women who do not wear one and a distrust of the values of Western society. Add to this an increasing number of Muslim girls who are forced to wear the headscarf wherever they. It makes me think that a ban might be necessary to help bridge the increasing religious divide in Europe.
Mehdi, Rotterdam, Netherlands

If the French Government decides to ban headscarves, what will they do about Catholic Nuns in their schools? It is clear that they both represent the same thing - a woman's desire to cover herself in the interests of being modest and giving a clear message: "I do not want any male advances". Maybe this is the most difficult pill to swallow.
Daniel Bernard, Belfast, Ireland

As somebody with a generally left-leaning and progressive political orientation it is very tempting to trivialise this question and simply say: "It's everybody's own business what they wear." Things are unfortunately not that simple. There are persistent currents among Muslim communities in Europe that are opposed to integration and general tolerance, and who would curb most of the freedoms we enjoy in the West if they had half a chance. This is a serious threat to Western society that should not be trivialised. Headscarves are in fact not compulsory for Muslims and in the case where they are used solely to express rebellion against a secular society, a ban might be considered. I think we should take care to ensure the long term stability of the free and tolerant societies in the West.
E N, Switzerland

It is nothing but another cruel action from the Christian ruled nations
Suraj Chhetri, Nepal
Muslims women are recognised by the scarf they wear. That is their identity. I don't see any good reasons behind banning it. It is nothing but another cruel action from the Christian ruled nations. And I am sure President Bush would love to see it happen.
Suraj Chhetri, Nepal

Symbols should be banned if in society's view their use has been hijacked or exploited by extremists. They should not be banned if they recognise deep seated values held by groups wishing to live harmoniously.
Chris Clark, London, UK

The banning of headscarves will not integrate Muslims into society. If anything, it could alienate them. If the aim of the French is to reduce Islamic Fundamentalism, they must tackle the issue head on. This should include banning speakers who are intolerant of other religions/states (e.g. preaching the destruction of Israel). Banning headscarves won't achieve anything and also affects other religions
Nick, London, UK

I am absolutely for the ban. There should never have been a need for the debate in the first place. The law was made in 1905. Furthermore, I sincerely hope that now there will be a debate, it testifies to the beginning of a general "chasse à la réligion" in public places. In private, people can do or think what they like.
Michael F Jordan, France

It's ridiculous that many people are making a fuss about head scarves including the President of France. I am not a Muslim but I don't have any problem with ladies in head scarves. Why do we have to impose our belief on other people when we keep saying we are living in a free and civilised world?
Thanh, Australia

Banning headscarves is like banning any public display of faith
Peter, Jersey Isles
Banning headscarves is like banning any public display of faith. What about banning crucifix symbols on chains too then? Why not ban synagogues? I agree that the ban might encourage integration and think that should take precedence, but I propose that integration could be achieved more efficiently by promoting awareness and acceptance of different religions, by showing that visible differences do not necessarily go hand-in-hand with personal/political (etc) differences.
Peter, Jersey Isles

Headscarves (hijabs) Jewish Skull Caps etc, Sikh Turbans etc, should NOT be banned, this is a form of increasing discrimination to those who choose to practice their faith.
Akram, London, UK

I don't think banning head scarves is the answer, whilst to some the head scarf is a sign of oppression, some women choose to wear the head scarf. If its a free world, its a free world to everyone whatever your faith. Will they start banning people from wearing crucifixes next
Sam, Wales

The rise of Islam in the UK has seen women not only expected to wear headscarves but also in many instances totally covering of the face & body. Having just the eyes visible is alien to the majority in a secular society such as here in the UK. Whilst people should be free to practice their religion, if they choose to live in a Christian or secular society then they should confirm to the norms of that society. Westerners who go to Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia have to respect the conventions of that country, likewise those that chose to come here they should do like wise.
Brian King, UK

Since France is a democracy and they believe in freedom of expression they must allow people to express themselves the way they want to, whether it be wearing scarves for religious reasons or not. I don't think the government or anyone has right to determine what an individual should or should not wear and banning headscarves would be a step backwards for France.
Rahima Gambo, England

Where has the concept of freedom gone now?
Atif Salahuddin, UK
It amazes me that on the one hand the West claims to value liberty and freedom for everyone, something which is being "given" to the Iraqi people. Yet the wearing of a simple headscarf, something which is essential in Islam, is being stopped both in France and Germany. Where has the concept of freedom gone now?
This blatant hypocrisy is apparent to all Muslims and it is clear for all to see what 'Western values' really stand for: exploitation, tyranny and suppression of the weak all over the world.
Atif Salahuddin, UK

The beauty of today's world lies in its diversity in all aspects of our existence includluding, race, religion and gender. Personally, I see no problem in women dressed in headscarves. And I think it is important to respect other people's faith no matter how much we differ with them. I sometimes wonder there are in fact other faiths dressed in invisible gowns of hatred, racism, oppression and many more. I find these people more dangerous and a threat to society than people whose symbols of faith are clearly visible. Let us live in harmony with all our religious differences, God loves us all the same!
Francis Tailoka, South Africa

It is scary to imagine that pro-freedom states would begin to dictate people's dress codes
Roberts Ongus, Kenya
It is scary to imagine that pro-freedom states would begin to dictate people's dress codes. It would be a total contradiction of what these states preach and encourage on other states that are viewed to be restrictive.
Roberts Ongus, Kenya

Forcibly banning the use of a Muslim's religious headscarf is likely to provoke increased hatred and violence towards the West. I cannot take away somebody's belief without first replacing it with something else. Simply robbing a Muslim's right to wear their headscarf (an age old tradition) would simply make them feel insecure and resentful. This should instead be done gradually over a few years through education - teach them to believe otherwise.
Alvin Kiang, Singapore

Where is the freedom to express yourself if the scarves are banned? Banning is in my opinion just as patronising as forcing someone to wear a scarf. It never surprises me how eager we are in West to promote how free and democratic we are but as soon as people truly stand out and represent their culture or faith we are equally eager to impose bans. Not very open minded in my opinion.
Hilkka Järvelä, UK/Finland

Making this into law is absurd. It is insulting to Muslim women and non-Muslim women. Women can judge competently for themselves what they wear, and what its significance is to them. The French colonised many of the countries that Muslims now immigrate from, taking the resources for themselves, and now they still insist on attempting to banish what is precious to people. It seems like a gross overstatement to call it fundamentalism. It is simply ethnocentric and sexist to ban its wear in schools.
Louise Tero, USA

France awaits headscarves report
11 Dec 03  |  Europe
Second German state to ban scarf
09 Dec 03  |  Europe
Headscarves: contentious cloths
26 Sep 03  |  Europe
Viewpoint: Why I decided to wear the veil
17 Sep 03  |  Have Your Say



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