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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 September, 2004, 19:35 GMT 20:35 UK
Girls 'observe' French scarf ban
By Hugh Schofield
Paris

Headscarf protest
Few Muslim girls choose to wear the headscarf
France's education minister has said about 100 Muslim girls are still refusing to adhere to the new ban on Islamic headscarves in schools.

Speaking on French radio, Francois Fillon said that the number was far lower than many had predicted.

Implementation of the law had gone smoothly, the minister said.

In his first assessment of the impact of the law, Mr Fillon said that more than 600 girls had initially refused to remove their headscarves.

But in the majority of these cases the school authorities had eventually prevailed.

That left 101 girls still holding out.

Absence of chaos

Every effort was being made to persuade them to comply, Mr Fillon said, but if they continued to refuse, then school heads would have no choice but to expel them.

The French hostages were shown on al-Jazeera TV
Kidnappers are holding two French men in Iraq in protest at the ban
With some six million girls attending French schools, the number of headscarf problems is minuscule and the government is clearly pleased that the chaos which some predicted has never materialised.

In this, the hostage crisis - the demand by an Iraqi extremist group holding two journalists that France rescind the law - and the subsequent universal outcry among French Muslims may have helped.

But the fact remains that, even before the law came in, the number of Muslim girls wearing the headscarf to school was in the hundreds, no more, with the vast majority either indifferent to it or opposed.


SEE ALSO:
France says hostages still alive
17 Sep 04  |  Middle East


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