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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 February, 2004, 12:11 GMT
Should Islamic headscarves be banned in schools?
Lila (left) and Alma Levy - at the centre of the debate
This is a third page of your comments on the French Parliament's vote to ban Islamic headscarves and all other overt religious symbols from state schools.

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

Religious signs and tokens mean a lot to the adherents of a religion. Religion gives an identity to an individual and telling him or her what to do about his or her religion is a blatant attack on his or her identity.
Shafiqa Azraq, Malmo, Sweden

Absolutely not. As a fashion conscious country, France should take the headscarf not as a religious symbol but just a type of ethnic attire. Provided what one wears does not hide one's identity (such as veils would), banning the tradition in question is an act of intolerance.
J Augusto Cotta, Carcavelos, Portugal

Has the French government really thought through their actions? As I understand the law will only apply to government schools. This law will drive the Muslims to set up their own private Muslim schools - so instead of integrating them into the main stream you have the opposite affect.
B Selvadurai, Klang, Malaysia

France is a secular state, therefore it has every right to ban any kind of religious propaganda.
Stefano Brini, Helsinki, Finland

Education and religion are diametrically opposed. Religion is the dogmatic belief in dusty old books, education should encourage sceptical questioning. Keep religion out of schools and let religious people practice their ancient way of thinking at home.
Chris, Newcastle, UK

Having been brought up in a strict Roman Catholic School I personally believe that it is in all children's interest that all religious signs including Islamic headscarves should be banned from schools. Children should be allowed to decide which faith they wish, if any, to follow and not have them imposed by parents and the vested religious establishments.
Kenny, London, UK

Banning hijab will only make our women more coercive to wear one. This could be a blessing in disguise, since a woman who has adapted to a hijab can never be without it. It's like asking someone to go naked in public when she has been modest and decent throughout her life. But this foolish action by the French government will only encourage more women to re-think the option to wear the hijab. West is yet struggling to understand the Muslim. It's such a pity.
Niyas, Kuwait

People should be free to practice their religion
Sarah, England
Headscarves are not a mere religious symbol, they are a necessary part of the Islamic faith. The main purpose of headscarves is that women are not judged by their appearance, but by their character. They are not a sign of oppression as some people believe. In any case, in any democracy, people should be free to practice their religion, even if others perceive it as oppressive.
Sarah, England

Psychologically, the scarf works as a textile barrier against the outside world. How can integration of Muslim girls into a modern society succeed, if they are permanently encouraged to separate themselves from others? Please, don't give in to the calls of representatives of a religion, which in history has oppressed so many women! Openness, secularity and the emancipation of men and women are constituent parts of modern democracy. Religion is a matter of one's inner attitude, not of permanent outer display!
Michael, Hamburg, Germany

Can anyone tell me what the perfect uniform of secularism is? Should it be applied to the new fashion to look French enough? Or is it hard for some to understand that some women like to cover themselves as some like to uncover?
Ahmad, London

I consider my religion a part of my whole identity
Matthew Ford, Cambridge, UK
Secularism has become the new religion of the Western world, and it is imposed in countries like France in the same way that Islam is imposed elsewhere. As a Christian, I consider my religion a part of my whole identity, and not something I "practice" on specific occasions. Telling a Muslim or a Christian to act secular 5 days a week is an insult, and is rather like forcing a left-handed person to write with their right hand.
Matthew Ford, Cambridge, UK

Religious clothing, jewellery and artefacts should be left to the discretion and desire of the wearer. End of story!
Ronnie Bray, Huddersfield/England-Troy MT/USA

Personal costumes and attire of religious significance do not belong in public schools. Church and state are separate and should always remain so. When schools are publicly financed students must adhere to the conventions of France and its government run colleges. Headscarves unless worn because it is cold or raining attract attention and create unwelcome differences, and that is not a desirable situation for young females surely.
Cam, Toronto, Canada

Let them wear the scarves, the skull caps, the crucifix. Let them also have prayer in school. Let them as we used to say in America when I was a child, "One nation, under god...for liberty and justice for ALL."
Tfife, Des Moines, Iowa

It is not the place of a democratic government to meddle in religion
Alan Crocker, USA
Banning headscarves or any other religious symbols is an unacceptable curtailment of basic human rights. It is not the place of a democratic government to meddle in religion, and that includes banning symbols simply because the government disapproves of them.
Alan Crocker, USA

Of course not. We had a similar controversy in Canada several years ago, when people objected to turban-wearing Sikhs in the RCMP. Considering the noble record of Sikhs in the British armed forces, I thought the objections petty and ridiculous.
J Brian Clarke, Calgary Canada

These women are innocent. Let them wear their head scarves. Schools are a place of learning and exposure to different philosophies and ways of life.
If this bill passes then 20 years from now, after all this has faded, we will look back and see France as a part of the problem of intolerance.
Land, Dallas, US

It is totally a freedom for those people to wear what they like
Rasha, Egypt
I think that the hijab is a symbol for Islamic women and it is to differentiate between her and any other woman, and it can't be banned as it is part of Islam. If it is banned, the one who does that is trying to hurt Islam and Islamic people. From another point of view it is totally a freedom for those people to wear what they like.
Rasha, Egypt

In this day and age religion should not be practiced in school, but in places such as churches, synagogues and mosques. Keep religion out of our schools.
Martin Blank, Scotland

The proposed ban for the sake of secularism has no sound foundation. Secularism within France traditionally has the ethos of not imposing a single faith on the people. It was not thought out so that the state may impose a lack of faith on the people. President Chirac, please think on the noble intent of those who established your country's rules in the first place.
Nayab Khan, United Kingdom

An argument could be put up that it is the parents of these young people, and their (parent's) religion that are removing freedom of choice by bringing them up that they need to wear the head scarf. It could also be argued that it is discriminatory against girls. Two wrongs don't make a right though, and on balance I don't think that there should be such a ban.
PJ, W. Yorks, UK

Yes, headscarves should be banned, because they are not a purely religious symbols such as Sikh turbans, Jewish skullcaps or pieces of jewellery that indicate a religious affiliation. The headscarf stands for oppression of women and conveys an idea of women that is not compatible with the standards of a free, liberal and tolerant society.
Monika, Erding, Germany

ALL religious symbols should be banned, from crucifixes to headscarves, to turbans. Schools should be about learning and respect for people: that is why uniforms are mandatory in some schools - it also puts everyone (rich, poor, etc) on an equal footing. Let's face it: religion is the cause of many wars, and do we really need wars in the classroom?
Sue Hudson, London, UK

This is called secular fundamentalism. As long as we Muslims don't have the state the Muslim nation will face things like this. There is a protection for Americans everywhere in the world and for British and so and so. Where as for Muslim countries it's a protection for Pakistanis, Saudis and etc. We do not need a Pakistani state but Islamic state to protect Islamic interests.
Tauseef Zahid, London, UK

It seems to me it's one rule for those with religion and another for less religious people and I don't think that division is acceptable
Sharon, Newport

There are many comments here about the banning of wearing religious symbols being wrong as it removes freedom of choice and expression - but is not removal of self expression the result (and intention) of every school uniform and inflicted on every child? If a child wishes to wear a particular t-shirt say, to express him or herself why is it at present acceptable to ban them from this form of self expression while its considered immoral by some to prevent religious self expression by banning a headscarf? It seems to me it's one rule for those with religion and another for less religious people and I don't think that division is acceptable.
Sharon, Newport

Every person should be free to dress as he/she wants. I think this ban is wrong because it takes away some freedom. We all should respect each other and be grateful of our differences that make life interesting. No one should be forced to change. Are we any better because we don't wear headscarves?
Tony Paratore, Italy

I think it should be banned, if so many people don't want to understand it. I was on a medical training course in a western country, and the doctors wouldn't say my name in front of the patients lest they were offended. I can't stand any patient refusing treatment from me because of my religion.
Mohamed Nadeem, Egypt

As I am a non believer I wouldn't like to see all these religious signs in schools, yet by the mere fact of banning these people will wear these symbols just to spite others. So I think that the best thing is to be mild with them and to teach them in a smooth way that these signs lead them nowhere. I am against these symbols yet banning them doesn't help to remove them on the contrary it would increase the phenomenon.
Ghania Al Nakadi, Rome, Italy

Knowing something about a person before the first conversation can be helpful
Emily, Chicago, Illinois, USA
I am for letting people express themselves and show their views in ways such as dress and religious jewellery. This may promote real thinking and pride, as well as avoid violent means of expressing one's views. Knowing something about a person before the first conversation can be helpful to both parties and even make communication more likely by reducing awkwardness and doubt. People are different from one another, and I don't buy into my country's promotion of all cultures' destroying themselves through trying to become one.
Emily, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Too often the wearing of hijabs and yarmulke have been used as excuses by the student and parents alike for not participating in sports activities, which is a shame. Until the end of the fifth form (11th year) why not ban the overt religious symbols in schools, but offer the privilege of wearing them to those who stay on to do advance studies? By then the student will have the maturity and be able to give a sound reason for doing so apart from "obeying one's elders".
Hazel, UK

I have to disagree with the ban because I appreciate freedom of will and expression. Wearing hijabs or skullcaps doesn't hurt anyone. So why oppose? The risks of wearing such items are for those who wear them; insult, discrimination, or whatever. They know the drills and they know how to handle them. It's the price of freedom anyway. Don't the French government have better issue to discuss?
Nur, Jakarta, Indonesia

The whole point of uniforms in school, is to make everyone equal, and ensure that no-one gets special treatment in comparison to others. When I was at school, not wearing the correct uniform would result in a warning, and if you still abused the system, detention followed every day afterwards until you wore the correct uniform. Would Muslim girls enjoy this? We had Muslim pupils at my school, but they didn't seem to have any problems with abiding by the rules, and getting on just as well with others. Religious symbols just aren't needed in schools, regardless of the religion.
Andy, Leeds, UK

The sooner we come to just accepting people for who they are, the better off we'll be. We can't make everyone "act" or "be" the same. We just need to learn to live with it. Let them wear the hijab.
Marty, USA

This bill is naivety and ignorance in the extreme
Rachael, Bath, UK
The ban will do more to separate communities than it will create a 'perfect' secular society. People have different faiths and follow different religions. Trying to hide them won't take them away. It would be far better to teach youngsters about their differences and the different meanings of their different symbols. This bill is naivety and ignorance in the extreme.
Rachael, Bath, UK

Although I can understand the desire to avoid class disruption, there is no reason a Muslim girl can't wear a hijab and a Jewish boy can't wear a yarmulke in the classroom. If you want to foster tolerance, have the two of them work together on a project explaining to each other (and their classmates) why they wear the items in the first place.
Joshua, Jersey City, New Jersey, USA

Yes they should be banned. Why shouldn't the French decide what happens in French schools? When in Rome ...
Caroline, Herefordshire, UK

At my school, Sikh boys were teased about the "hankies" on their heads and the white girls fought to be allowed to wear trousers like the Muslim girls. I think the removal of all religious symbols from STATE schools is a good idea as it brings down the divisions between children. What better way to learn about other cultures and religions than mixing together and forming friendships with children from other cultures?
Jenny, Leicester, UK

No, I don't agree with the ban. I understand the headscarves are more than just a "symbol" - aren't they part of the religion? Will they also be banning Christians from wearing crucifixes as necklaces and wedding rings - both of which symbolize a religion. This ban would inflame an already delicate situation and seems to be pointedly anti-religion rather than showing the tolerance that is now so very much needed.
Lynn Belmar, Cheshire, England

Religion is not taught in French schools, the children are given time off during the week to practice whichever religion they choose, so the French Government is not trying to outlaw religion, they are trying to create a atmosphere which is free of religious bigotry - if only they would do that in Scotland and stop separating catholic schools!
Joanne, Glasgow

The students themselves should not be forced to compromise their values in order to quell the fears of government
Richard Williams, UK
Presumably the idea behind separating church and state is to avoid educational bias towards specific cultural theologies. This is fair enough, but to deny individuals the right to follow their own cultural norms seems short-sighted. Secularity should be limited to the curriculum only. The students themselves should not be forced to compromise their values in order to quell the fears of government. Besides, a variety of herbs makes the stew taste nicer.
Richard Williams, UK

When all Islamic states respect my Christian symbols and beliefs, then I will not support a ban. While I cannot follow my religious beliefs in countries such as Saudi Arabia, which is home to the two most important sites in Islam, I fully support the banning of religious symbols.
John Atkins, Bridgwater, UK

If these are banned, are they going to go as far as banning all types of "symbols" of religion the Christian cross worn as jewellery? If "ALL" of these "symbols" are banned then it will be a good idea, as it will make everyone equal in the school's as they should be in real life. Otherwise it is just segregation
Trevellyon Newell, UK

I think the point that is being missed entirely is that the rule does not go against the child's faith, but the parents. How can a child come to any conclusions about what he/she believes in if they are told what to believe? The only way they can make up there own minds is to learn about all religions before deciding whether to follow one. So yes no religious symbols would be a good start - when they are old enough, after secondary school, they will be able to decide.
Nathaniel Burrows, London, England

Will members of the clergy be asked to remove their crucifixes in public?
Paul, Colchester, UK
Banning Islamic headscarves, Jewish skullcaps and Sikh turbans will only serve to alienate those communities that the French government is seeking to integrate further into society. Does this mean that church bells won't be allowed to ring on a Sunday? Will members of the clergy be asked to remove their crucifixes in public?
Paul, Colchester, UK

This is a very narrow question asked to incite anger when the real issue is that ALL religious symbols, NOT just Islamic are being banned to make school uniforms uniform. I would have thought the BBC might have learned something about reporting the facts rather than this sensationalist tabloid gutter style adopted here to try to evoke a stronger reaction, shame on you.
Duncan McDonald, Salisbury, UK

Muslims do not look kindly on other religions and do not wish to comply and fit in with others
Mr P Conaghan, Croydon, Surrey
How is it that Muslim countries practically enforce a dress code on women visitors / tourists , but the when the same ideas are suggested by a country that is not of Muslim culture, the very suggestion that they comply and fit in with others in that non Muslim society, sparks outrage and racism claims? This just shows, as anyone been to a number of middle east countries knows, Muslims do not look kindly on other religions and do not wish to comply and fit in with others as they have and intend to keep their own closed society away from the other peoples that make up that countries society.
Mr P Conaghan, Croydon, Surrey

I am an atheist, but can see no reason why the headscarf or any cultural symbols should be banned or even offend anyone - Part of the today's problems stem from the fact that followers of 'low effort' religions like Christianity do not begin to understand the levels of devotion required by religions such as Islam and Sikhism and how important they are to every aspect of people's lives - For some of these girls, coming to school bare-headed is as uncomfortable as coming to school naked, and we should respect that. After we remove symbols of religious difference, what will be next - skin colour?? Different cultures enrich our society and we should teach everyone to respect that, not to suppress it.
John Taunton, York, UK

I am totally shocked that so many people seem to support a blatant infringement on an individuals freedom and personal choice. It is almost as if the French Government and trying to shame those with strong religious beliefs. I wonder how many orthodox children will stop attending school if this ban is enforced? Surely this isn't worth jeopardizing a generation of young peoples education for?
Gemma, London, UK

You would sooner take off my head than my scarf.
Emina, Bosnia
It is so ironic that it is almost always non-Muslim women who are claiming that Hijab is oppressing, while Muslim women who wear the scarf are fighting to keep it on. Please don't make a decision about our hijab when you don't know the significance of it, or the real reasons behind it. Forcing someone to wear hijab is wrong, and it is oppressing, but when a woman chooses for herself, it is a beautiful thing for her. I am a Muslim woman and I love my hijab! I had to fight my entire family to keep it on and it was worth it! You would sooner take off my head than my scarf. I live in western country and my hijab brings me respect and NEVER pity !I feel proud of it and NEVER ashamed!!!
Emina, Bosnia

Perhaps the question we should be asking is why people feel the need to broadcast their religious beliefs to everyone else in the community. Surely this is all about showing off in public and trying to make some kind of dramatic statement about being 'special' or somehow different or better than everyone else?
Kevin, UK

The Taleban passed a law forcing women to cover their head & the world hated them - even though most of the women in Afghanistan wear those burqas out of choice. Only those who didn't were outraged to be forced and rightly so. Yet the French government is passing a law to force women, who wear the hijab out of their own free will, not to wear it! Yet majority of the self-proclaimed civilized world agree with this action, which forces women to follow the government's rules rather than their own free will or choice! Where has the humanity and tolerance & the freedom of choice has gone? No one is oppressed if he or she chooses do something out of their own free will!
Amused, NA

Headscarves are very elegant and far less disturbing than many fashionable clothes of our western women
Vito Sardo, Catania, Italy
Headscarves are very elegant and far less disturbing than many fashionable clothes of our western women. As long as they do not hide the face of persons there is no harm in wearing them. Why should not Islamic women wear them freely in the schools? Do they oblige our girls to wear them? Ever thought of what happens if headscarves become a fashion in the west? If I were a girl, I would wear them as a reaction to human stupidity: why make such a fuss for a non-problem?
Vito Sardo, Catania, Italy

In Scotland we have state sponsored Catholic schools (quite a symbol in their own right) and I would like to see anyone try to take these out of circulation or even try to remove Christian religious symbols from them. The backlash would be highly entertaining and a huge number of MPs, MSPs and local councillors would be reeling from unemployment or abuse - or both. Don't get me wrong I'd love to see the back of religion in schools full stop but the likelihood of our West of Scotland turkeys voting for Christmas is nil! As for wearing headscarves - what a fuss about nothing! Let them wear what they like.
Forbes, Glasgow, Scotland

This is madness! How can it enhance women's freedom to pass laws telling them what they can and can't wear? Hijab, like any symbol, has different meanings for different people. Women need the freedom to choose, the state won't help by interfering. And why pick on Muslims yet again? We need to learn from history. Religious intolerance tore Europe apart for centuries, until we learnt to live and let live and respect freedom of worship. Let's not go backwards!
Ben Drake, York, UK

A Muslim believes Islam is a way of life - it's not a religion with a few ritualistic practises to carry out once a week. It encompasses life in its entirety. So secularism for a Muslim, separating religion from life, cannot apply - Islam is life. Every obligation from our Creator, be it the Hijab, prayer, or the rules on how we conduct ourselves in society, are all the same.
Shohana, UK

I do not believe in any religion but I think people should have the freedom to wear what they like
Adrian Cannon, Edinburgh, Scotland
I do not think it is right to ban the hijab as it is a case of restriction of freedom. I do not believe in any religion but I think people should have the freedom to wear what they like. What is next, I have heard that some would like to ban beards- where will it stop?
Adrian Cannon, Edinburgh, Scotland

A secular education system is one which does not promote any religion, not one which denies religious freedoms to those under its care.
Iain, Cambs, UK

It seems many people don't understand this ban. It's only in state schools which are and have been considered secular for a long time. All religious symbols are banned - not just Muslim symbols. It's an equal ban and I consider it a good one.
Rob Smith, London, UK

No. This is a free country, and while I am an atheist, I would not want to ban religious articles to favour one belief over another. On the contrary, there is a great richness from cultural diversity and freedom of thought and behaviour, so it is inherently wrong for schools to impose a set of rules to dehumanise a person of their cultural roots, as if they were in prison.
Andy Millward, UK

Yes, they should be banned. In Turkey (a secular country with a Muslim majority) women are barred from wearing headscarves in universities. France (a secular country with a Christian majority) wants to impose a similar measure for schools. Nobody condemns Turkey for trying to secure its secularity, so why condemn France for doing the very same thing?
Claudia, Germany

France and Britain are Christian countries with a Christian tradition and culture. It is therefore an affront to suggest removing our religious signs, symbols and holidays (derivation Holy Days) from schools so that we can portray a PC even handed policy. If Muslims come to our schools they must abide by our rules and culture, which means no Islamic scarves or symbols.
Richard, Sweden

Yes they should, but the Muslims need to be French and look after the country that hosts them.
Ahmad Hmoud, Jordan, Amman

As long as everyone is treated the same, I don't see what the problem is. It has got to be all or nothing. You have a class of children where religious labels are not an obvious division or distraction or you have a class where all religions are on show.
Mark H, UK

I am a Christian and I am more insulted by the question. Why would the French moves insult just Muslims? As Christians we like to see a crucifix on the wall. Our voices are never considered in these matters.
Martin, UK

If you believe we live in a secular society, then why do firms and businesses owned by practitioners of faiths besides Christianity need permission to open on Christian holidays? If you want to ban religious artefacts in schools, then go one step further and ban all religious holidays as well.
Karl Brown, Norwich, UK

The key word here is State
William Sutton, Prince George

The key word here is State, as in state schools sanctioned by a secular country. I would suggest to those who oppose this ban to either put their children through a private denominational school or if it really troubles them, find another country to live in. It would be a scar on French democracy to bow to the pressure of a few angry religious factions at the cost of upholding French national values.
William Sutton, Prince George, British Columbia, Canada

The French want to keep religion and the state separate - if all countries had the same policy then the world would be a much safer place!
Mark E, England

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

The separation of state and church can only lead to better governance...Politics do not have any religion.. The French is right to propose the ban on overt religious symbols. Religion should be free of political influences.. politics belongs to every community...religious symbols is not a part of every member of the community...
Kerr, Bedfordshire, England

One fails to understand How can wearing a hijab, a skullcap, a cross etc go against secularism. We must be taught to respect all beliefs and teachings that go with it. Laws like this one proposed by the French lawmakers add to the confusion and misunderstanding and in no way promotes secularism as many claim. Lets face it most of the letters here speak about hijabs but what about the Skullcaps or the turban? We ought to let people practice what they think is right.
Arif Sayed, Dubai, UAE

Religion imprisons many people by hoodwinking them about that religions' beliefs. Free our children from our chains of the past and let them grow up free people.
Richard Davie, Scotland

I was shocked when I first read about the ban of headscarves in France. My black brothers and sisters went to France during the Harlem Renaissance Era (1920-1940s) when racism was at its height in our country and found intellectual and professional freedom. It seems to me that the French government did not analyze how a ban like this would affect individuals. If this ever happened in America, I would feel that our civilization had gone down a notch. Hopefully, France will rethink the ban and not display such utter disrespect for the Islamic culture (I am a Christian).
C. Wesley, Eureka, MO USA

Let's finish removing student's individuality by issuing uniforms that will make them all look the same. That way nobody will be offended by anyone's appearance or beliefs.
Mike, USA

Muslim headscarves should indeed be banned in schools, as should the Star of David, crucifixes, and other religious totems. Furthermore, religious schools should also be banned: Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Muslim, and all other such schools. Schools "owned" by political parties, as in Austria, should also be banned. Let children mix together, "without let or hindrance." Encourage them to learn about and respect their schoolmates' cultures and beliefs. Tear down the walls. Build a real community.
Ian, Bournemouth, England

A mere head scarf cannot and does not in any way cause threat to any political, social, religious or environmental issue
Ayeshah, Pakistan
Of course not. Instead of labelling the head gear as "Islamic" it can also be termed as cultural. And a mere head scarf cannot and does not in any way cause threat to any political, social, religious or environmental issue. Why is it causing so much of concern to France is quite a surprise for me. What harm will girls wearing scarves bring to the world peace?
Ayeshah, Pakistan

In school, yes. In fact I think that all religious artefacts should be banned at school. Let's take a step further and ban single-religion schools as well. Kids integrate easily, so let's make it easier for them.
Mike, London

People should be allowed to practice their faiths without undue obstruction from the government. Personal attire in a school should not be a concern for the government unless it is for safety or morality reasons (e.g. nudity). Simply banning an article of clothing because it is affiliated with religious belief flies in the face of the Western tradition of liberal rights for the individual.
Tom, Denver, Colorado, USA

This would be the great secularism to allow all religions to be practised in a civilized nation. The headscarves give the due respect to women, they should be not treated as threat to any community.
Dr. M. Ashaq Raza, Asmara, Eritrea

No, these should not be banned. Ask yourself, "What harm or effect do pupils wearing any form of religious headgear have on upon us". The answer is clearly, nothing. We should respect other religious codes of dress even if we don't like or agree with them. It seems to me that the French are using this as excuse for their own bias hearts.
Athena, Leicester

Freedom of choice is being eroded at every turn and political correctness is the scourge of modern society! I am grateful that God gave us the right of choice, without which all rights would be diminished and an autocratic and racist society would become the norm. Leave religion alone before someone more powerful than man becomes offended!
Keith Maddern, Isle of Wight

Respect all religions or acknowledge none
A R Carpenter, Australia
Of course not. If they cannot wear scarves, then they might as well ban kids wearing crosses on necklaces or any outward appearance of religion. After all, individualism and culture is just horrible in a state school. I hold the opinion of all-or-none when it comes to religion in schools - respect all religions, or acknowledge none. Here, they are suppressing and devaluing one. That's a very cute message to kids - 'Muslim people are different and must change to be like others'. That's not very tolerant, is it?
A R Carpenter, Australia

I think the French government's proposal is right. I don't think a ban on headscarves should look on religious point of view only. But I admire this proposal and think that the rest of the European countries should adopt it.
Manjil, Freising, Germany

As soon as countries like Saudi Arabia afford me the right to enjoy a beer while I'm there (it's part of my culture, after all) then I'll agree that they too should be able to exhibit their culture here. Simple.
Tom Burrows, UK

Tom Burrows, what an outrageous thing to say on so many levels. Firstly the fact that other countries are ruled by fundamentalists is in no way an argument for us having one two. Secondly you are punishing people who have escaped from such rulers to enjoy the democracy of the Western world for the failings of the states they escaped from.
Anna, Cambridge, UK

70% of the population support the ban. That's democracy in action and therefore the end of the discussion.
John, Australia

John, Australia. You say that because 70% of the population support the ban that should be the end of the argument as being 'democracy in action'. There is more to democracy than that. If 51% of the population voted that the other 49% should be shot, would that be democracy as you wish to see it? Democracy must defend individual freedoms where those individual freedoms do no harm to other people. If the French government feels threatened by a small girl wearing a headscarf, it is a sad reflection on them.
Andrew Carter, UK

What will the children of France learn from this law?
Bob, USA
What kind of a message does this send to French school children? That learning about and respecting others' beliefs is unimportant? That anyone who doesn't choose to conform to the majority should be forced to? School is supposed to be a place of learning. What will the children of France learn from this law?
Bob, USA

I was allocated to a new doctor this week who wore a headscarf. I was surprised that my reaction was one of discomfort. On analysis, I felt that this woman was foreign and could not relate to my western concerns. The other doctor who I see is also Asian and I have an easy and relaxed relationship with her. The headscarf, in my opinion, is a barrier to the integration of these women into British society.
Msmo, London

Mode of dress is a personal affair, and should never be an issue for the state. The display of religious iconography, however, goes against a secular state's mandate. Neither the crescent nor the cross should be displayed in any publicly funded building in France.
Glenn Barker, Canada

Why should one pupil be allowed to look different from the next?
Graham, Wolverhampton
I think that people here are missing the point. The argument is about school children (not adult personification) and schools have uniforms. Why should one pupil be allowed to look different from the next? If no-one is prepared to take a stance at some point, what comes next?
Graham, Wolverhampton

I am a Roman Catholic and when I was young, 1950 - 1960, the women were requested to cover their head in church. Many wore a scarf. The men in those days wore a hat and were requested to remove it in church as a sign of respect. Am I to understand that these were ostentatious symbols of faith! Times change or is it because others wish to do it.
Pablo, Areias, Portugal

Children are not going to learn about tolerance by being intolerant to the traditions of others. You might not like the headscarf but you have absolutely no right to tell others that they can't wear it.
Nadia, Canada

As a Jew I fully and completely disagree with the decision of the French government. If the French are afraid of ethnic violence due to the current events in the Middle East then they should change their school curriculum to teach tolerance and not the dress code.
Mike S, Chicago, USA

Although I believe in the separation of church and state, the problem with banning headscarves and turbans lies in the fact that these are culturally linked as well as religiously linked. Just as we grew up wearing socks with our shoes, headscarves are often a part of daily attire among those from Islamic nations. It would be kind of like taking away our socks because someone didn't like what they stood for.
Kara, Portland, Oregon, USA

Yes, headscarves should be banned. Muslims should integrate when living in a non-Muslim country. After all, a Christian women in a Muslim country has to conform to the laws of that country and cover up so why shouldn't Muslims respect the traditions of the country in which they have settled?
Shalom Gold, UK

This is not racism, it is common sense and discipline
Andy, UK

If a school is not bound to a specific religion, then yes, headscarves and any other religious symbols should be banned. Headscarves, skull caps, crucifixes, turbans and other religious symbols do not fall into most schools' uniform policies, and so therefore should not be worn. This is not racism, it is common sense and discipline.
Andy, UK

Singling out one group's self-expression in this public and humiliating way does not seem like liberty, equality, or brotherhood to me.
Matthew, USA

Wearing a headscarf is a matter of choice; choice is paramount. Ordering people not to wear a scarf would be as intolerant as if these women had been forced to wear a headscarf.
Robert Bennett, Nantwich, Cheshire

I do not think people quite realise what secular society means in France. It stems from the days of the revolution and is an integral part of their society, as religion is to the religious. It is far more complex than merely the French being intolerant of faiths. It is far from seen as that in France. Quite the opposite really - as it allows all faiths to live as one without imposing others' rights. To understand French culture and society is to understand this debate. I certainly do not pretend to understand it and so trust that the French shall vote justly.
Ed T, UK

Europe is supposed to be the model of free society
Apu, Boston, USA
I am appalled by the argument that since the Middle Eastern countries don't allow (especially foreign) women to wear whatever they want to, European countries shouldn't allow that either. After all Europe is supposed to be the model of free society. It's wrong to force someone to wear head scarf. It's equally wrong to force someone not to. Will the catholic nuns be subject to the same dress code?
Apu, Boston, USA

To Apu, Boston: Catholic Nuns do not go to secular schools in France.
Becky, London, Ontario

I am a Muslim woman who has never worn a scarf. However, if a law banning scarves came to the UK, I would wear one in defiance. So authority, restriction of freedom leads to rebellion. I would leave women alone to wear scarves if they wish. That is their personal freedom of choice.
Furdos, Newcastle, UK

Presumably this law would also ban Christian nuns, monks and priests from wearing their traditional forms of dress (including dog collars) when teaching in French schools?
Ian, Toulouse, France

No! The hijab should not be banned. Why is there a big fuss? Why can't people get over the fact some women want to cover up! It's really sad...you are allowed and encouraged to under dress to the point were you are almost wearing nothing and it is deemed acceptable, but when someone wants and indeed chooses to be different and wants to cover up, it's deemed unacceptable! How strange a time we live when morality has declined so much. A mixed message is being given. On one-hand Muslims are told they are being excepted and then with the same breath they are being marginalized and discriminated against.

I vehemently disagree with the new French decree. Religious freedoms are important to any Republic or civil society. Laws forcing individuals to not wear something important to them is the equivalent to a slap in the face. The more government regulates on basic freedoms, the more invasive they will have to be in the future. Headscarves are a small part of the "slippery slope."
Heather B., Virginia, USA

We should all learn to live with such things
Tom Hunsberger, Canadian in Cholula, Mexico
No they should not be banned. Public schools themselves should not promote any particular religious belief but neither should they dictate what students may or may not wear on their heads. There's no need to be so uptight about cultural or religious differences as expressed in clothing. We should all learn to live with such things.
Tom Hunsberger, Canadian in Cholula, Mexico

We cannot be tolerant of intolerance. No headscarves. France is a secular country and should remain being that.
Lothar Froehling, Hamburg, Germany

No, absolutely not. We have supposedly developed enough in the 21st century to allow and even celebrate religious and cultural differences. Surely we can respect each others' differences, whether they be secular or religious. For the state to impose secularity is as bad as imposing one religious system over all others. While the state needs to have principles by which to stand, they should be general ones - such as laws against social crimes - and not religion-specific.
Andrew Beacham, Bristol, UK

The ban on headscarves is seen by Muslims as an attack on their faith and culture but the ban includes all symbols of faith including crosses, skullcaps, turbans etc. Muslims must realise that it is time to integrate fully in Europe.
Jane O, London

School is a place to learn and not expose your religion
Louis Belanger, Brussels, Belgium
Yes they should be banned. France is a secular country where public schools are free and provide you with one of - if not the best - education in Europe. It's a place to learn and not expose your religion.
Louis Belanger, Brussels, Belgium

If we believe we are living in a secular society, we should remove any form of religious symbolism from places of education.
Enver, London, UK

France is a liberal country where everyone enjoys freedom, so why not religious freedom. France should not put a ban on headscarves, turbans or skullcaps. Otherwise people won't be able to trust its supposed liberty. This step would make it a dictatorship.
Manvind, India

We should not be tolerant of intolerance. The state should not allow schoolgirls to cover themselves up at school because they are taught that they are second class citizens and should be ashamed of their sexuality/gender by their religion. School should allow all pupils to be free from such intolerance to learn together as equals.
Phil, Chester, UK

France is trying to force everyone to worship at the altar of secularism
Jennifer, Moscow, Russia
This is the country whose device is Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite!? How can it be considered equal if I can wear my cross (how small does my cross have to be for it not to be considered overt?), but Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, and others cannot wear theirs? Does French law not uphold the right to practice one's faith? Devout people do not separate religion from the rest of their lives. Essentially, France is trying to force everyone to worship at the altar of secularism, and hence acting just like many countries in the Middle East.
Jennifer, Moscow, Russia

Forbidding people to wear headscarves is equally as wrong as forcing people to wear them. In either case it's a question of authority forcing its viewpoint onto private individuals. Wearing a headscarf (or any other type of 'religious item') causes no damage to others.
K Anthony, Qatar

If some Muslims object to this law then perhaps they should consider relocating to an Islamic country. There is also a double standard between Islam and other religions - they expect to be allowed to practice Islam yet if you tried to be Christian or Jewish (by wearing a cross or skull cap) in many Islamic countries you would be punished. They also expect non-Muslim women to follow in the wearing of headscarves yet object when the reverse happens. Respect for a country and its law on religion is a two-way street - something certain countries fail to understand. Try taking a bible into Saudi Arabia - you will find yourself in deep trouble. This law does not only apply to Muslims - all religions will be included.
Paul, UK

In a country that professes freedom of expression, how ironic it is when some women who out of their own choice prefer to wear the headscarf are prevented, because of the underlining ignorance and religious discrimination.
Kasim Ausaf, London, UK

If I was a woman and went to a Middle Eastern country I would be expected to cover up in line with their religious/cultural customs and taboos. Yet when they are asked to follow the principles of a secular country that they have moved to, they complain.
Adam, London, UK

Headscarves are a sign of suppression and prejudice
Emma Caldicott, Birmingham, UK
I am in full support of the ban. Headscarves are not a sign of modesty, but one of suppression and prejudice against women.
Emma Caldicott, Birmingham, UK

Faith and the pursuit of knowledge are incompatible. Keep all religious symbols out of state schools.
Frank, Bristol, UK

Good for the French! The headscarf has in the past few years increasingly been used not as a religious symbol, but as a political statement by a growing section of the immigrant Muslim community that refuses to integrate with the native inhabitants in a number of European countries. Through my work I daily come into contact with Muslim immigrants who have lived in the Netherlands for 10 or 20 years who still haven't made the effort to learn the most basic Dutch words and manners. And yet they feel that we should be more tolerant of their values!
Helen, Holland

How are French children going to learn to tolerate and embrace religious and cultural differences with this kind of example being rammed down their throats by their government?
Miguel, California, USA

All religious symbols should be banned from public places
John Keegans, Nottingham, UK
All religious symbols should be banned from public places, the majority of us in the UK are not religious, despite the census polls saying we are, the vast majority of us don't attend places of worship nor do we want it in our face. If religious groups, whether it be Muslims, Christians, Jews, whatever don't want to be excluded they should stop excluding themselves, the same way I wouldn't walk around Derby with a Nottingham Forest shirt on.
John Keegans, Nottingham, UK

The headscarves worn by Muslim women are not a part of the Muslim religion. They are only an old "regional preference" and in free open western countries they are sign of oppression and submission. The head scarf has no part in the Muslim religion and should be banned in western cultures.
P Pearce, Woking Surrey

It is a shame if the state intervenes in what the woman must wear, it arrives in one known century as the century of the liberties and in the country recognized for his/her/its principles of the equality and the liberty. Let's recall the headscarves is an obligation for all woman and not a sign to appear that she is a Moslem.
RAKKI, Casablanca, Morocco

Religion is generally a way of life. It is about culture, cuisine, attitudes etc. Therefore, to disallow the use of veils in schools is tantamount to depriving Muslims from practising the tenets and injunctions of their religion.
Lawan Adamu, Kano/Nigeria

The headscarf is a sign of respect and modesty for women in Islam so please don't link this matter to fanaticism.
Danish Lodhi, Pakistan

Why are Muslims so insistent to want their own way in Europe when Christians have to abide by their outdated rules in the Middle East? When in Rome......
Joseph Lloyd, Watford

Its all about tolerance and respect. They only way we can achieve these two is by knowing our differences. How about the festive Xmas trees in classrooms, or the Easter eggs during Easter celebrations? What signs do they portray? Will these celebrations be banned in school?

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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