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Last Updated: Monday, 15 March, 2004, 10:26 GMT
Should Islamic headscarves be banned in schools?
Lila (left) and Alma Levy - at the centre of the debate
We discussed this issue in our weekly global phone-in programme Talking Point. Our guests were the Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Hercegovina Dr Mustafa Ceric, French MPs Herve Mariton and Natalie Kosciusko-Morizet and Syrian analyst and commentator Rima Allaf

The French parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a ban on Islamic headscarves and all other overt religious symbols from state schools.

The bill was carried by a massive majority of 494 votes to 36.

Polls suggest most French people support the ban but it has outraged some Muslims and other religious communities.

President Jacques Chirac has said the ban is necessary to preserve the national principle of secularity.

Is it right to ban Islamic headscarves and other religious signs in schools? Or will such a move alienate, rather than integrate, communities such as Muslims? Send us your comments.

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

Your reaction:

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

Unity cannot be achieved by oppressive behaviour, but with love and respect for individuals freedom of choice it can be.
Taran, Ottawa, Canada

No. That move is a rather self defeatist move and one that shows the inability of the society to co-exist in a culturally diversified environment. Is Europe failing to accommodate their Religiously conscious population?
M. H. Ussif, London

I agree with the French about where to bring about some kind of equality, I would also start about banning religious schools and I hope that this starts to happen in my own country
Adrian King, West Bromwich, England

Trying to stop religious bashing or terrorism by banning the open practice of religion is like trying to stop people smoking by making breathing a crime.
Leszek Luchowski, Lille, France

Interfering in anyone's practice of their religion is oppressive (assuming the practice does not physically harm or otherwise impede on others).
Mike, Atlanta, USA

I'm having a hard time understanding how this ban will "integrate" children into mainstream French culture. Pointing fingers at these girls and telling them that what they're wearing is wrong will only cause more division.
S. Cardoza, San Francisco, California

Headscarves should be allowed in school because as long as it does not harm anyone else, people have a right to follow the guidelines of their religion.
Paul, USA

A ban on headscarves is not a ban on Islam or a ban on the decency of Muslim women
Bjorn H, The Hague, Netherlands

A ban on headscarves is not a ban on Islam or a ban on the decency of Muslim women. I think any developed society should look critically at all discriminating behaviour that is being promoted in the name of religion.
Bjorn H, The Hague, Netherlands

Of course it is not right, I am living in the Middle East where I see the people here have their say whether they wear the Hijab or not, surely it is against human rights to stop people wearing a sign of their religion. Should we not be looking more at what happens to these people than what they wear.
Alan Fawcett, Manama, Bahrain

In my opinion a person should be judged on there actions and not how they look. Muslims, Jews, Christians... can all be faithful to their religion by their actions and the treatment of others. I appreciate that head scarves are an important symbol but that is all it is. My point is that in order stop bigotry, racism and planned segregation, it should begin at grass roots levels. If or children can all get on and see each other as equals this is surely the best for the future.
Greg Hughes, Maldives

Democracy wasn't invented to give the majority the right to kick minorities around.
Julian, Brighton, UK

Yes, headscarves should be banned to ensure France's sensible efforts to keep religion separate from the state. Also "when in Rome ...."
Jessica Macfarlane, Hamilton, New Zealand

I feel that many people outside France don't understand the position of the French
Ingrid, Nogent, France

I feel that many people outside France don't understand the position of the French. A ban on these signs is not a ban on Religion but an effort to provide equal rights for education. The French are not racist they want to integrate rather than create communities which don't mix together. This has been going on for close to one hundred years. Also, a majority of Muslims in France are for the ban because they precisely have a choice in wearing a headscarf or not.
Ingrid, Nogent, France

What worries me the most is, what will they ban next? I thought the French had a revolution to have freedom. A Government should work for the people not tell them what to wear. I think the issue is bigger than just religious symbols. Surly the government should be protecting the rights of the people to practice the religion of their choice, even school children have that basic right.
Jackie Coughlan, Spain

I feel it is wrong to ban Islamic headscarves and other religious signs in schools.
Sajeer, Calicut India

Allow children to celebrate their similarities, not their differences
Mark, Dubai

French state schools may be the only place where impressionable children can interact without having each others' religious T-shirts sticking in each others' faces. It may be the one opportunity for children to form bonds devoid of religious indoctrination or prejudicial conditioning. Allow children to celebrate their similarities, not their differences.
Mark, Dubai

From arguments I have heard people are commenting on how this ban will cause people to loose their identity, which I think is wrong. The French are asking for the ban to be during school time not at all times. I think that this ban will be very beneficial when religious tensions are so high as it means that all the children will look the same within school and bullying cannot be put down to racism.
Lindsey Hudspeth, Durham, England

The French gave hope to the Sikh community that they will find a solution for their Turban. Why is there no public statement about French offering to find a solution for Muslims women or men who choose to wear certain cloths? If Sikhs are allowed it will clearly be a ban against Muslims which seems to be the real issue any way.
Faisal, Toronto, Canada

There should be freedom of worship and dressing, if a particular religion defines its mode of dressing or covering, so let it be.
Philip A Jamani, Lagos, Nigeria

Only a symbol of female oppression to people who have a poor understanding of Islam
Samira F, London, UK
The headscarf is only a symbol of female oppression to people who have a poor understanding of Islam and no contact with women who wear headscarves. I pray that this absurd law and the publicity that surrounds it encourages people to find out what drives strong Muslim women to want to make the choice to wear a headscarf when it causes them so much hassle.
Samira F, London, UK

A lot of schools worldwide request children to wear a uniform to go to school. One of the most important purposes of this is to make social classes, religions and money differences disappear and allow serenity at school. French schools do not require the children to wear such a uniform. Therefore, I think all strong signs of distinctiveness should be banned, in order to not divide a small school world in clans. I strongly support the French decision.
Christophe, Argentina

I understand the sentiment but think the ban is likely to be counterproductive.
Martin Douglas Petry, Hiroshima, Japan

Schools should not be allowed to ask girls to remove headscarves or any other item of clothing in a decent society.
MAK, London, UK

In the opinion of the majority of French people, the headscarf is inappropriate in schools. It would be a travesty of the democratic process if the views of the majority were ignored simply to appease a minority of people who are unwilling to accept the culture of the country where they live. If any French Muslims have a problem with this, they are quite within their rights to go and live somewhere else.
Jo, London

I believe that allowing some children to show what religion they are and denying others alienates Muslims anyway
Sarah Green, West Bromwich, West Midlands

I think that the headscarves should be banned. While I was at school, we were not allowed to wear hats, even caps during break times when it was sunny but Muslims were allowed to cover their heads, this was unfair. Muslim children were also allowed to wear religious jewellery where as Christians were not allowed to wear St Christopher's or crosses, this is also unfair. I believe that allowing some children to show what religion they are and denying others alienates Muslims anyway.
Sarah Green, West Bromwich, West Midlands

If these people want to set themselves aside, above and different from the infidel non-Muslims, then they must be allowed to. Laws shouldn't apply to minority groups and religious law should take precedence over national law in every case. Gavin Do-Gooder, Scotland
Gavin Blod, Aberdeen, Scotland

I believe that the are on the right track, and we should do the same here.
David, Leeds

If Muslim women want to wear a headscarf then they should be allowed to, it is their right. We don't ban miniskirts/microskirts, low cut tops or anything of that ilk on women who decide to wear them. Whatever happened to the so called values espoused by the French - liberty, equality and fraternity. I personally think that the French find Islam a threat to their way of life. Islam isn't a threat. so people should be allowed to wear what they like freely.
Asif, Slough, England

I think the French government is badly confused! Secularism needs to be practised by institutions and not by individuals. As long the following of one's religion does not infringe upon the rights of others, what business does the govt. have banning things like the Hijab?
K. Lal, Cambridge, UK

Why are we making such a fuss of France trying to deprive women on the right to wear a headscarf, but almost completely ignoring Iran's law that forces women to wear them in public? This is blatant double standards and we ought to start being consistent.
Graeme Phillips, Berlin, Germany (normally UK)

I think the French are right to ban overt religious symbols. When children go to school they should have the opportunity to develop themselves away from their cultural and religious baggage; baggage which they are given by their parents. Only then will they have a chance to become integrated in any true sense. The French position is not one of intolerance but one of great clarity which will allow the children greater freedom to build normal relationships with their peers.
David Brough, Basel, Switzerland

As an American, I find that Baseball is my religion. Would that mean I could not wear a baseball cap in a French school? This sounds to me that we are talking about a dress code. Not Islam vs. the West.
John T, US/UK

The present situation arose because the rules were unevenly applied
Neil Allen, Paris, France

There is supposed to be a ban on religious symbols in French schools already. The present situation arose because the rules were unevenly applied, leaving individual heads to take ad-hoc decisions. This resulted in the government being asked for clarification of the law, which is now being provided.
Neil Allen, Paris, France

The French ban on headscarves in school is an excellent idea. Schools are no place for rigid ideologies of any variety. When children become adults, they can decide for themselves but until then it is crucial that the State provides a secular environment.
M. Hill, UK

M. Chirac has scored a potentially damaging own goal. His action is clearly designed as a political ploy to curry favour with those of a xenophobic persuasion in France but the policy will almost certainly be overturned by the European Court of Human Rights. Fortunately for him the court will rule long after the political benefits of his action will have been reaped by him, after which he can give a Gallic shrug and say "Well, I tried." It's an own goal because he has polarized French opinion and created unnecessary resentment. Live and let live is my view.
David, London, UK

In the UK we are fortunate to live in an ethnically mixed society. The contribution of different cultures and religions helps our society to develop rather than stagnate. I would be horrified to see such a ban coming to the UK. We should embrace and enjoy these differences.
Steve, London UK

Before we all start getting hysterical, it's not just Islamic headscarves - it's all overt religious symbols.
Fraser, England

Secularism should not mean religious fascism. To have a secular state is fine, but the people should be treated as individuals within the state, not as identical drones of the collective. To deny someone their religious practices is to deny them their rights and choices. We talk so freely of "western civilisation"; are we really any better than those we claim to fight?
Tanya, London, UK

The French have every right to insist that those that wish to live in their country abide by its rules and values. Being a multi-cultural society means we must appreciate, accept and enjoy cultural diversity, but it must be based around that society's core values. It is legal to have more than one wife in some parts of the world, while it is not here, as but one example. Equally if I were to live in the Middle East I would expect tolerance of my Christian persuasion but accept the need to conform to their core values. If you allow a minority to impose its own particular core values on the indigenous population it resides within, on the basis of human rights, you run the danger of ultimately subverting the core values of that society to the minorities' position.
Anthony Newstead, London, UK

I can't understand why this is causing such a huge problem. The head scarf is compulsory for women, but I can't see why the colour of such scarves cannot match the school uniform. It worked well at my school. France is taking an extreme view by banning them altogether; however I feel that European Human Rights Law may have the last say.
T Shafiq, London, UK

I admire the French Education System for one reason and that is that after the revolution it was decided that education should be free of all religious influences. This is now being enforced and does not reflect badly on the Muslim people within France itself. The removal of all religion in our schools should have been done years ago, teaching the basics of all religions as a social science.
Derek, East Kilbride, UK

He could keep discipline simply by warning any of these girls that if they misbehaved he would tell their parents about the removal of the scarves
Lorraine, St Albans

A friend teaching in a Bradford Girls' School with a high proportion of Muslim children noted that many girls arrived with traditional headscarves and wearing trousers under their skirts but then immediately took them off so that they looked 'Western' during school hours. My friend was also aware that he could keep discipline simply by warning any of these girls that if they misbehaved he would tell their parents about the removal of the scarves and thus they risked finishing their education in stricter Muslim schools in Pakistan. It seems that school for some children already represents freedom from the constraints of their religious traditions. It also seems that not all Muslim girls are happy being expected to look so different from their friends.
Lorraine, St Albans, UK

No, it shouldn't be banned - however one looks at it, this is a breach of personal freedom. Equally, an atheist should be able to wear clothing declaring "God/Allah/Deity-of-choice doesn't exist" on the front. What is utterly unacceptable is that headscarves/skullcaps etc are allowed if one claims allegiance to a religion, but not if one just likes wearing them.
Gordon, UK

I think the French parliament is correct to enforce this ban - France is a very secular society, and it is their culture not to have outward signs of religion associated with the State. If people are going to immigrate to France from a religious, Islamic state, then they have to accept that - if you want to live in an Islamic state, don't emigrate to a secular one.
James, UK

It is not the ban that discriminates. It's the religious signs that make children believe they are different even though they are not.
Dominique, Paris, France

As a Muslim I have to say that if you are living in a country then you have to respect the decisions of the government
Leon, Singapore

As a Muslim I have to say that if you are living in a country then you have to respect the decisions of the government. At the end of the day it is not that you do not want to wear it but you do not have a choice and God will understand. If we all understood each others religion and respected it as much as we respect our own religion then this world might just be a better place to be.
Leon, Singapore

The head scarf is not forced on girls; I wear one out of choice. It is not a symbol of repression but a symbol of a tolerant society which would not object to a head scarf anymore than it does to trousers on women and longhair on men! Total freedom of expression.
Nazni, United Kingdom

France is a secular state and The French people fought long and hard to make it such. As a secular state religion of any kind has no place in the classroom and that means all religions. This is fair and correct. Britain, however, has an official church and religion has long been a required element in the curriculum. This has led to total nonsense in the classroom and divisions between schools and, indeed, segregation that is growing every day. The church should be disestablished and schools should be secularised.
Thomas Priaulx, London UK

If you wear a symbol of your faith then you should not be offended if others wear symbols of other faiths. I believe that we should keep our religion private, and not show it off in order not to offend others or provoke others who have a less "enlightened" state of mind. The choice whether to wear religious symbols should be left open for everyone to decide for themselves, for there is no right or wrong in this issue, only different points of view.
Thomas, England

How can France deprive individuals of their basic human rights such as religious belief and practice? This make s a mockery of Europe if other countries follow suit. The French are displaying great ignorance in introducing these laws, it will make Muslims more defiant.
Asad Choudhary, Manchester, UK

There should be no religious links or teaching in school. Teach it at home if needed. How can we expect our children to not have pre-conceptions about different people if they are constantly told that "they" are different. Time to live together.
Colin Maciver, Glasgow, Scotland

Women and girls do not need to be told what they can and can not wear by their fathers, husbands, or their government. If governments are truly interested in helping women achieve equality, they need to look beyond the veil.
Kristin Truse, Princeton, US

I don't see how wearing a headscarf in obedience with your God's wishes infringes on anyone
Christena LuQuis, Ft Worth, Tx, US
As long as no one is forcing their religion down someone else's throat then all should be well. I don't see how wearing a headscarf in obedience with your God's wishes infringes on anyone.
Christena LuQuis, Ft Worth, Tx, US

How can be said that the headscarf is a threat when it has been worn for nearly 1400 years? You can't change people minds by changing their clothes.
Dundar Durlanik, London

The banning of headscarf by the French government is very encouraging. One does not have to show to what religious group they belong to in a public place, it is private matter behind your close doors. br />Vinoo, London, UK

Islamic headscarves, Sikh turbans, Jewish caps...who do they offend? Everyone has a right to be proud of who they are and stand out in their own way...and no government has the right to stop them. We all have a constitutional right to freedom of expression.
Shazia Sharif, Huddersfield, England

It is very shameful to ban women from wearing scarf in school by the name of protecting secular society and freeing Muslim women. You are dictating to us freedom of living and at the same time you are telling us Muslim women what to wear and not. All Muslims you have to prepare from now the hard life in Europe because they start by preventing women and will come other similar issue after issue until you left completely your religion and convert like them.
Mussa, Eritrea

European religious belief is in severe decline. In the UK there are more Muslims than attendants of the C of E. The hijab should be banned from school on the basis of respect for European mores and liberal values. A friend teaches English language to Muslim students at university. Progressively she has been asked by her students to draw exterior room blinds on the ground of modesty, not to teach mixed classes and recently, censorious remarks have been made about the fact that her ankles were visible. Is this the 'tolerance' that we wish to observe?
Alan Tayler, Wivelsfield, UK

Let's keep politics and religion out of the schools
Patricia Giulietti, Cattolica, Italy
If there is a school uniform which is strictly adhered to, then of course no-one should wear a headscarf. If there is no school uniform or one that is not used by everyone then the girls should be allowed to dress as they and or their families like, just as the others do. Let's keep politics and religion out of the schools.
Patricia Giulietti, Cattolica, Italy

How can we in the West prescribe to others what they should or should not wear? When I go to worship services, I wear a Yarmulka (Kippah). Even though I do not wear it outside the place of worship, I wear it to show my respect for my heavenly Father. Are we not overstepping the line here - what about an individual's human rights?
Jim Coetzee, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

The French Assembly is absolutely right to pass this law. For that country to work, and to safeguard the rights and freedoms of all groups, children from all backgrounds need to learn to be responsible members of the French Republic above and beyond whatever else they may choose to believe or do in private. Those who can't accept this responsibility should move to other parts of world where society is organised more to their liking. Hats off to the government of France.
Jonathan Edwards, Dubai, UAE

If the girls are banned from wearing headscarves then they will not be allowed to benefit from a western-style education
Jenny Riley, Scunthorpe
My daughter, who is a university admissions officer and married to a Muslim who is non-practising, says that if the girls are banned from wearing headscarves then they will not be allowed to benefit from a western-style education - they will have to stay at home.
Jenny Riley, Scunthorpe

There is a word: égalité. Those students can practice different religions in their temples, homes and of course in their hearts. If the symbols are creating separation instead of diversity, it is time to stop them. I agree with the decision made by the French Republic.
Elba Beolchi, Sydney, Australia

How can a ban on Islamic headscarves be imposed in a democratic society? The French seem to be more than willing to act "on principle" when it suits their own worldwide political agenda, but on this major issue of personal choice they are acting like totalitarians.
John C, New York, USA

Its is interesting that in a democratic western world, we cherish the rights and freedoms that we want to give to others, only to make everyone the same and disregard the rights and freedoms that our countries live and die by. The headscarves do not hurt anyone nor offend anyone.
Rich, Covina, CA, USA

According to the French, religion has no place in public life. So why are they very publicly debating and banning what is, in effect, a very insignificant intrusion of religion in schools?
A Smith, London

Schools are there to educate children. Religion is a personal thing which should be kept just that. The only exception could be in church schools.
Cazz, N Ireland

No good will come of this ban.
Bill, Colchester, USA

Banning is probably the wrong word. Standard dress code avoiding all religious symbols and inappropriate undress probably fits the bill.
Tim Rollinson, Tonbridge, UK

Ironically this bill might even increase the amount of teenagers wearing headscarves. In fact I'll bet that even non Muslim children will wear a headscarf as a sign of rebellion. Vive la difference!
Ryan Nielson, Limerick, Ireland

No. But maybe they should ban open bellies and mini skirts which seem to have become acceptable in London's schools.
Mrs Bowes, London, UK

As soon as my friends and I came home from school we all changed back into the clothes we liked to wear
Maureen, The Netherlands

When I was at school I had to wear a uniform like everyone else at school whether we were rich, poor or whatever the religion, so we all looked the same. As soon as my friends and I came home from school we all changed back into the clothes we liked to wear, so why can't the same be done with headscarves?
Maureen, The Netherlands

First, those who try to draw parallels with wearing mini-skirts in Middle Eastern countries are completely missing the point. If the bible supported the wearing of mini-skirts, it might be valid, but it doesn't!
Jim, Ottawa, Canada

With all due respect to the Muslim culture, I agree with the ban. When western people visit Islam states they are expected to cover up in accordance with Islamic law. Shouldn't the Islamic community respect our culture and the way we live, rather than worrying that their women should prefer not to wear the Hijab.
Lisa Drew, Northampton, England

I don't think headscarves and other religious symbols should be banned in school, we should not practise what we supposedly condemn in Arab countries. It is intolerance otherwise we are nothing but hypocrites.
John Sterianos, South African living in London, UK

I couldn't have worn a bowler hat at school had I wanted to
Stuart W, UK

A school uniform policy should not make concessions for religious beliefs. I couldn't have worn a bowler hat at school had I wanted to, nor should some be allowed headscarves.
Stuart W, UK

If religion is kept separate from the state, then the state should keep out of religion. How people dress, or adorn themselves is none of the state's business.
Michael A, Camb, UK

Rather than being a sign of oppression, it is, for me, a sign of respect - and the elevated status women have in Islam
Karla, New York City, USA
I'm a convert to Islam, and I wear the headscarf by choice. I do so because I believe it is God's commandment to women. Rather than being a sign of oppression of women, it is, for me, a sign of respect - and the elevated status women have in Islam.
Karla, New York City, USA

My worry about this ban is that Muslim families will use this as an excuse to keep their daughters away from school, thus depriving them of any exposure to mainstream culture at all.
Dave, Oxford, UK

Why do so many Muslim women say the headscarf is an issue of identity? Is their identity so weak that they need it advertised at every moment?
Hasan, Vancouver, Canada

France is a secular state, which means that there is no more state religion
David M, St Etienne, France
I think that people are arguing about the wrong issue. France is a secular state, which means that there is no more state religion, thank God. In other words everybody is free to have the religion they want, or no religion at all. The issue is not about them wearing headscarves, but about wearing them at school.
David M, St Etienne, France

Sikhism requires men to wear turbans, as part of their religious beliefs - yet this has never been an issue for anyone. What the French and German authorities really want, is to isolate Muslims even further, no doubt fuelling more hatred and opposition towards the West.
AZ, Bristol, UK

Old saying - when in Rome. As the Muslims are living in France which is a secular country they should abide by our rules. We would not go into an Arab country and start wearing miniskirts.
Dawn Nicholls, France

I think that France is justified in doing what it is doing because it is in accordance with their secular law. However, that does not mean that it is a particularly intelligent political decision - by many it will be seen as a racist and discriminating law and may cause unrest in an area of the population that has been troubled in the past. This decision may draw the line in the sand, but it may also encourage the throwing of rocks over that line.
Christopher Hogarty, Oxford, UK

Britain is a multi-cultural society and we should be accepting cultural differences and religion in order to live together in a peaceful society. The Islamic faith deserves just as much respect as Christianity. Headscarves should not be banned. The lack of understanding between religious groups is the main cause of conflict in the world today. People should be free to follow their faith.
Janet, London, England

This ban will achieve nothing except that headscarf-wearing girls will drop out
Aliya, UAE
Headscarves should not be banned. Why is it that western people are outraged by Muslim girls wearing a headscarf but tolerate women wearing skimpy clothes? As for those of you who commented that the headscarf is a sign of "oppression" please wake up!! I am a Muslim woman ( who not only wears a scarf but also wears a complete veil over the rest of the body) and I study, work, drive, go out and do things what other western women my age do. My headscarf doe not oppress me. In fact it frees me from the unwanted advances and sexual harassment faced by many western women.

This ban will achieve nothing except that headscarf-wearing girls will drop out and maybe some people will open schools for Muslims only. If the French government thinks that it will integrate the Muslim by this law, they will be proved wrong.
Aliya, UAE

If headscarves are a necessary part of the Islamic faith. Then why don't the men wear them? The answer is that under Islam women are oppressed. These young school girls are not given a choice. This is what the Islamic Men are really scared about, their loss of control.
John, Pinner UK

Good on the French, we are just too scared to impose such a sensible idea as we are terrified of offending anyone.
Noel, London, UK

I travelled to Dubai a few years ago, but had to change at Abu Dhabi. At the airport, a female colleague was marched off at gunpoint by two female guards and ordered to cover herself up in order to "maintain dignity". At the time, I felt it was a bit harsh, but respected their culture nonetheless. It certainly seems that this is rarely a two-way process.
Richard, UK

Since schools are the place where factual information should be imparted to our children I find it entirely appropriate that they should be stripped of all overt religious signs. It is healthy for society at large that the human mind to be freed of myth and misinformation, as these are intellectual cul-de-sacs that serve only to foster distrust, fear and hatred of those who don't share their beliefs. The history of humanity drips with the bloodshed in the name of ignorance and the blind faith of those who 'know' they are right.
James Rae, England

In 1905 the French state decided that religion was a private domain and should not interfere with the state
James, Paris France
I don't particularly agree with this law but I have to say that the way British and International press have covered the subject has been really badly explained and not always informative towards the people. Not once has it been mentioned in this article that France has a history of Laicity in its schools. It's not recent. It has been going on for nearly a 100 years. In 1905 the French state decided that religion was a private domain and should not interfere with the state. This Laicity was set up because of the thought of religion interfering with politics seemed a little archaic and should stay in the past. Little did we know at the time that the world wouldn't have evolved a bit in a 100 years, and that religion is still at the centre point of most wars that have taken place in the 20th and 21st century. I think French people think that schools and children should be spared and that all kids should be able to start their lives on an equal level. Now whether it helps the integration of the various religious groups, I'm not sure!
James, Paris France

I agree that no one should be forced to wear a headscarf or other religious symbol, but at the same time I do not think any one should be forced to not wear such items. I recently heard a discussion regarding this topic and the statement that stuck with me was that this was to help France be a secular society, it sounds more like they are looking for homogeny.
Fred Hooper, Massachusetts, USA

As far as I see it being a foreigner who for his whole life has lived outside his home country, you have to respect the laws and traditions of the country you live in. Add to that that the Koran does not impose the veil only modest clothing and that France has a tradition of being much more frank and direct than the UK also the French have no qualms about being politically incorrect something Britain sadly lacks, Britain has become obsessed with being PC and has a situation where minorities dictate to the majority what can and cannot be done
Mats E, Nottingham

This is not just a ban on Islamic headscarves - it is a ban on all overt display of religious items whatever the faith. So it cannot be something that is simply anti-Islamic. It is, in fact, anti-religion, whatever the religion happens to be. The law affects the wearing of Jewish headwear and Christian crucifixes as much as it does the wearing of the hijab.
Helen s, UK

People need to understand that this is not an attack on Muslims
NG, London, UK
Some people seem to forget that France is a secular country. This ban is not just on the Hijab, it is for all religious symbols in state schools. These rules should be imposed because as a secular country France has the right to. People need to understand that this is not an attack on Muslims - this is upholding the beliefs/rules of a secular country. Try going to a Muslim country and not covering up when necessary - try going to a Hindu temple and not removing your shoes and washing your feet! You have to respect the rules of a country/religion. If you choose to live in a secular country then you are obliged to follow its rules - there are NO exceptions!
NG, London, UK

Headscarves should not be banned, as they are part of what every woman and grown up girls should do in Islam, so banning them will prevent Muslim ladies from following one of the rules of their religion. This makes it different from wearing a large cross or the head cap.
Mahmoud El-Haridy, Cairo, Egypt

NO, they should not be banned. To do so would be disgraceful. It is awful that France has felt it has the right to do so. It seems to me that the best point of a secular state is that it should stay out of religious matters and be tolerant of all religions. Banning headscarves, and other outward religious symbols, is not tolerant, it is an interference with peoples right to their own beliefs. Schools are places where tolerance ought to be taught.
Louise, Redditch UK

Having listened to speeches in the French Parliament on C-Span, it is clear to me that what the French are really concerned about is a demographic shift towards an unintegrated Moslem minority in their country. It will take a lot more than a ban on headscarves in public schools to stop it.
Mark, USA

I hesitate to voice an opinion because supporting a ban on headscarves could lead to me being branded a racist. However, in the interests of equality and the promotion of good citizenship through discipline, I believe in having school uniforms that all children must wear without exception or deviation.
Bruce Jones, Liverpool, England

To argue that the main purpose of the hijab is that women are not judged by their appearance is ludicrous. It is an extremely visible sign by which they are instantly judged - as a good Muslim, an oppressed woman, someone following a cultural custom, or a religious nutter. However the individual doing the judging perceives them.
Simon Dunsby, UK

It is not for a government to impose secular ideals on anyone
Peter Shiner, London, UK
It is not for a government to impose secular ideals on anyone, nor impose religious ones either. The government must rather ensure that there is mutual respect for all beliefs and that people are free to make their own decisions without pressure, either from a religion or a secular authority. A ban on headscarves cannot be right unless there is clear evidence that they are being forced on children against their will.
Peter Shiner, London, UK

France has much more severe racial problems than the UK, and this is another symbol of intolerance. Most Britons can see a woman in a headscarf without feeling shocked by the sight. By the way, doesn't the Human Rights Charter have something to say on the subject?
Herbert, Leeds, UK

Many years ago my father worked in Saudi Arabia and whenever my mother and I visited we had to be appropriately attired according to the law and custom of that country - there were no ifs or buts. As women we were not even allowed to go outside alone. Its time Muslims followed the rules and regulations of their host country. What was good for me in the middle east is good for Muslims living in the West. I say well done to France for having the courage, hopefully others will follow suit
Janeen, USA (American married to a Frenchman)

Of course the Hijab should not banned in schools. I do however find it ironic that in western Europe women are battling for the right to wear the headscarf, whilst women in Islamic countries like Kuwait are fighting for the right not to have to wear the hijab.
Jamie Reeves, Hounslow

Secularity is as much a modern religion as are other religions, so I don't think it is right for the French government to stop people living the way they want. The decisions of what children wear should ultimately be up to their parents and not the government.
Rav Singh, Portsmouth

The French state schools aim to be fair to all, no uniforms, no special treatment for one group or another. Keep it that way and let people after school age or out of school hours wear what they like.
Tim Lock, Netherlands

If Chirac wanted to preserve secularity then he should have proposed banning the hijab in all educational institutions
Kalpesh Patel, Leicester, UK
I think they should ban the hijab. Even though this ban will halt the rise of the hijab in state schools, the religious schools will still exist and probably be more extreme against the French culture than at current levels. If Chirac wanted to preserve secularity then he should have proposed banning the hijab in all educational institutions, not just state controlled schools.
Kalpesh Patel, Leicester, UK

I just ask those who are in favour of ban. How is this scarf bothering you personally? Please let us know.
Sohail M Rizki, Houston, TX USA

To Rizki, Houston: This is how the headscarf bothers me personally. I work in a French university where more and more students wear headscarves. Some, in another department, wear burkas and this, to the mighty Sorbonne. This means that far from being an expression of the modesty of the Muslim woman, they stand out like sore thumbs. So far I have seen no Jewish symbols and no Christian ones in five years of teaching here. Far from being a sign of Muslim modesty, the headscarf has become an open provocation in a nation which is officially secular.
Malcolm Mansfield, Paris, France

France is no better than the Taleban regime in Afghanistan
Nicola Fitzgerald, Chichester, England
France is no better than the Taleban regime in Afghanistan. Both are/were dictating to people what they can or cannot wear, and taking away people's freedom and choice. When I went to school, my classmates were from many religions and cultures. Being able to express themselves was all part of the educational experience, as I was able to learn and understand about other people's religions and cultures. Ignorance is far worse, as it creates unfounded fears and barriers which lead to racism.
Nicola Fitzgerald, Chichester, England

A ban on headscarves would be a basic breach of human rights.
Sumiya Hemsi, Dundee, Scotland

In Islam traditionally a child comes of age at seven, hence girls are encouraged to wear a scarf from that age onwards. Nowadays in France (I assume) the coming of age is 16 plus. Muslims (including myself) need to come to terms with the fact that times change and Islam is not set in stone, we can adapt. The French have a problem - start talking with each other and solve the problem. But don't dictate and follow the route of Islamic states. Perhaps the compromise is to wear the scarf to school and remove on school premises.
Naveeda Mitchell, London, UK

The French are actually proposing to ban all religious symbols from schools - that includes crosses, skull caps - the lot. Why has the debate only focused on how it affects Muslims, when clearly it would affect all religions? Clearly it should be a point of unity for the different religions- that would make a change!
Andy, Bristol, UK

The main purpose of the hijab is that women are not judged by their appearance
Abubakar Abdu, Mwanza Tanzania, East Africa
Headscarves are not a mere religious symbol, they are a necessary part of the Islamic faith. The main purpose of hijab is that women are not judged by their appearance, but by their character.
Abubakar Abdu, Mwanza Tanzania, East Africa

The French authorities are only doing what the authorities in the UK are so scared of even thinking about.
Stephen, York, UK

First of all, let's all be clear that we are not talking about "women", we are talking about girls - minors who have not yet come into their full decision-making rights. In public schools, not everywhere. And we are talking about all religious symbols, not just the hijab. This is not about the West versus Islam, and nor should it be. I would point out though that calling the hijab an "essential part of Islam" is nonsense - there's not requirement in the Koran for women to wear them, just for all Muslims to clothe themselves modestly.
Katherine, London, UK

Women should be free to decide what they want - or not - to wear. Headscarves are a symbol of oppression in most Muslim countries and also in other parts of the world since they often go along with the impossibility for Muslim women to act freely in their everyday life: visiting the doctor, attending biology classes at school...
Consol, Catalonia

If most French people support the headscarf ban, then the headscarf should be banned. After all, this is a French matter.
Lana, Lebanon

It's very simple. If you wish to live in France, obey French laws and traditions. The French secular state is engrained in the history and culture of France. This is just another case of the minority attempting to impose its will on the majority.
Ben Dobbyn, London, UK

I think adults should be allowed to dress as they please. But we are talking here about schoolchildren. If school uniform rules state no headscarves, then no headscarves should be worn in that school. Once a child gets to school leaving age (i.e. 16 in the UK), they should be allowed to wear what they wish as responsible adults, even if still studying.
Helen, Worcester

The argument seems to be more about Frenchness than Islam. Surely a French Muslim has as much right as a French non-Muslim to have a say in what it means "to be French".
Julian, UK

No. How are we going to live in a multi-cultural world if we ban the right to be different?
Palwinder Sangha, London

Whilst in the Middle East I was at times ordered to cover up which I did
Megan, Plymouth

I have travelled extensively and always respected that country. Whilst in the Middle East I was at times ordered to cover up which I did (no choice really) but felt uncomfortable doing so. However that is their rules so I did it. We are a Christian country and respect for us should be given. I don't like to see all these women covered up and it does create barriers.
Megan, Plymouth

No, it is wrong to ban Islamic headscarves and other religious signs in schools. Such a move will alienate, rather than integrate, communities.
Amer Al-Fadhil, Muscat, Oman

When in Rome do as the Romans do! Try visiting a Muslim country and not respecting their values! It works (or it's supposed to do) both ways.
Bob, Bolton



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