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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 September, 2004, 17:07 GMT 18:07 UK
Multilingual debate: French headscarf ban
Women protesting against the headscarf ban in Paris
BBC users across our language sites have been debating France's ban on Islamic headscarves and other religious symbols.

The debate has been intensified by the kidnapping of two French journalists in Iraq. Their captors are demanding the law to be scrapped.

Included below is a selection of comments on the issue as part of a new series of multilingual debates.

"All children should be equal and not labelled with religious symbols" Lisa, France

"I call this a breach of human rights"
M' Shah Zeki, Afghanistan
"Kidnapping is a crime and banning the veil is an even greater one"
Arabi, Libya
"It should be up to the French people to decide on this law"
Ejaz Ahmed, Saudi Arabia

"If some people do not want to comply, they should probably leave France"
Francisco Medina, Guatemala


France should keep the headscarf ban. School is a place where all children should be equal and not labelled with religious symbols of any kind. It can only cause division and hatred. If this can be avoided at a young age it can only help them as they enter their adult lives and hopefully lead them to a more tolerant and peaceful future.
Lisa, France

France should change the law. It is unfortunate that it will be perceived as caving to terrorists, but I also hate to see people killed over a law that was ill-conceived to start with. In western democracies tolerance of diversity is suppose to be a bedrock. If this is the case why should we all have to hide our differences if they do not infringe on anyone else. Skullcaps, crucifixes and headscarves send a message, one that is important to the wearer and potentially important to people they interact with.
Rey, Spartanburg, SC, USA

I completely support the French government's decision to uphold the ban on religious ornamentation in state schools. People need to remember that church and state are separate in France and should be kept as such. This isn't about headscarves, it's about keeping religion out of schools.
Rhian, Wales

France was never free. With the new law, they have begun the official conversion from a state of Orthodox Catholicism to one of orthodox secularism. A pluralistic and free society does not enforce conformity, even for the sake of the "secular and free state" itself.
Jeff, Cleveland, USA

As an American, I see the headscarf ban as a bad law, infringing on the right of religious expression. That said, once the law was passed, it is law, and it certainly should not be rescinded because of terrorist pressure! Giving in to terrorists breeds more terror. It will never lead to peace!
Shuli, Maalot, Israel

If Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries of the same nature have the right to ban Christianity and the building of churches in their countries, why are they so annoyed at us banning headscarves?
Vassilios, Paris, France


Everyone has the right to freely choose what they wear. If we are putting restrictions on this matter how can we call it democracy or freedom? I, not as a Muslim but as a person, call this a breach of human rights.
Mohammad Shah Zeki, Mazar Sharif, Afghanistan

In my opinion wearing "conspicuous" religious apparel - no matter what religion - should not be allowed in public, especially at schools. In France all religious apparel is banned but the Iranian government only considers matters related to the hijab.
Mohsen, Tehran, Iran

People dress according to their culture and while observing the basic requirements of decency, which is necessary for the survival of any society, are free to wear what they choose. Nonetheless if followers of different religions insist on specific dress codes the society would lose its coherence and become divided. This would be more apparent in countries like France where immigrant population is high. Following religious dress code could revive racial and religious prejudice and it has been proven that sacrificing such tendencies is a just price to be paid to achieve the ultimate ideals of any society.
Sowroush, Tabriz, Iran

Freedom is acceptable so far as it doesn't meddle with any others. Therefore we have to accept that it is up to the individual to choose his or her clothing. The point of the hijab is to limit displays of sexual desire in society and leave all such needs in the privacy of bedroom and in effect to promote marriage. The hijab makes the relationship between a man and a woman more attractive and also solidifies the constitution of marriage.
Mostafa, Maragheh, Iran

If forcing women to wear the hijab is against civil liberties, then forcing them not to wear it is against freedom too.
Kamran, Tehran, Iran

Each and every person should be free to choose what he or she wants to wear. Neither wearing the hijab nor taking it off should be made into a law.
Sabouri-Qazvini, Tehran, Iran


Kidnapping is a crime and banning the veil is an even greater one.
Arabi, Libya

Those lunatics who carried out the kidnappings are being manipulated by entities who don't want any convergence between Arabs and French. As for the veil issue, it is an internal matter concerning French Muslims, and Iraqis have much more important issues to deal with.
Islam Maher, Cairo, Egypt

Wearing the hijab is one of our religion's priorities, whereas wearing the skullcap for Jews or the cross for Christians is optional. Therefore the victims had to resort to the only language they understand.
Atallah Al Anzi-Taymaa, Saudi Arabia

The French government has to comply with the kidnappers' demands and lift the ban on the veil.
Moussa Abdel Hameed, Sudanese in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

France is persecuting non-Christians and forbids them to display the symbols of their faith. Does France forbid Christmas celebrations? Of course not. Therefore the feelings among Muslims cannot be predicted. This is a kind of persecution contradicting the alleged secularism of the French State.
Mohammad Noureddin Abdin, Sudan

I am really outraged that such acts of kidnapping are committed in the name of a religion or a culture. Practising journalism in Iraq has become a life threatening job because it is now forbidden under the name of religion. I hope to see these perverted mentalities die away one day. France has the right to implement the laws it sees are suitable for its society. However, I support the freedom of wearing the hijab and commiserate with the ones who want to wear it, and I believe that most of them are against the ban.
Khaled Yuba, Libya


The French government is intervening in the basic human right of Muslims but the kidnappers have no right to kill French journalists in the name of the Hijab. The people will hate Islam if they do so. Islam spreads through love not through the use of the sword. The Hijab is the private affair of Muslim women.
Moqaddus Kazmi, Lahore, Pakistan

The ban is wrong but should not be lifted under any threat. It should be up to the French people to decide on this law.
Ejaz Ahmed, Saudi Arabia

Although the French government should ensure the full freedom to its citizens but the demands of kidnapper are completely unacceptable. They are giving a bad name to Islam by such acts. Islam does not allow at any cost to take lives of innocent people. These kidnapers are after cheap publicity.
Kamran Sajjad, Gujranwala, Pakistan

Kidnapping is a not a solution. If this law is no good for French people, then they should protest. But as a Muslim I request to French government to review this law.
Aamir Riaz, Tokyo, Japan

No doubt, France should lift the ban, as it's a personal religious choice and such freedom is the right of every citizen. But taking hostages to get this done is not the right way either.
A B, Oxford, UK


It is a pity that France, a country that brought to the world the ideas of freedom which derived from their revolution, should fall into this state of intolerance when it should be promoting freedom of creed and of expression. These people live in France and not for free, they work hard to earn a living and have decent lives in that country, which means they should also be allowed to follow their own beliefs.
Sayda Armenta, Mexico City, Mexico

Everybody's religious beliefs and practices should be respected, as long as they do not interfere with the normal life of the rest of the people in the country. Any other attitude is discriminatory, particularly coming from a country that portrays itself as the cradle of civil law and human rights.
Juan B, Abuchaibe, Medellín, Colombia

I agree with the rules established by the French government and if some people do not want to comply, they should probably leave that country. I would not like anybody to come to my house, eat at my table and impose some different rules in my household.
Francisco Medina, Guatemala

We live in a world of different colours, different people, different religions. Let us all learn to live in harmony. Respect each other. Freedom for everyone. These kinds of rules can only provoke more division.
America Labrador, Copenhagen, Denmark



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