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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 March 2005, 07:31 GMT 08:31 UK
The Headmaster and the Headscarves
France's controversial law banning religious symbols from schools has provoked outrage from its five million strong Muslim community.

Students of Delacroix: Khadidja (left) and Iptiseim (right)
The Headmaster and the Headscarves
Tuesday, 29 March, 2005
2100 BST on BBC Two

This World follows a group of veiled girls at Eugene Delacroix school in Paris, who decide to resist the new law in defiance of its headmaster, Raymond Scieux.

Monsieur Scieux firmly believes that "religion must remain a personal matter," but the 10 veiled girls at Delacroix insist that this issue is more complex.

One of these veiled students, Khadidja, is asked: "If you had to choose between education and religion, which would you choose?"

She answers: "That's a very good question and I really don't know. I can't distinguish between the two because for me, education is part of religion."

The majority of teaching staff at the school are in favour of the ban because they feel that French schools have a duty to help girls withstand religious pressure from their families.

But the girls insist this is not the case, that wearing the veil is a personal choice, and that they do not need protecting.

In fact, Khadidja says her parents would ask her to de-veil before sacrificing her education.

Khadidja is one of five veiled girls from Delacroix who meet once a week - with a handful of anti-law teachers and non-Muslim schoolfriends - to discuss how they can fight a strict interpretation of the law at their school.

Their fear is that the headmaster will decide to ban all headcoverings, so they search for a compromise.

But events take a dramatic turn after Iraqi terrorists kidnap two French journalists and demand the repeal of the ban.

And in a meeting at the school to discuss the new rules, the veiled students soon feel victimised and misunderstood.

Filmed over a year, with unique access to events at the school, this documentary captures the anguish of veiled schoolgirls, teachers, and school authorities as they grapple with rules which threaten to inflame the tensions they were designed to calm.

Directed and filmed by Elizabeth C Jones
Executive producer: Alison Rooper for In Focus Productions
Editor: Karen O'Connor

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