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Last Updated: Monday, 6 September, 2004, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Should France repeal the headscarf ban?
Muslim girl wearing headscarf
The kidnappers of the two French journalists in Iraq have handed them over to another group that is apparently prepared to free them.

The deputy editor of Le Figaro, Charles Lambroschini told BBC News the journalists had been "switched over, not released".

The journalists had pleaded with their government to lift the ban on Muslim headscarves in schools, in order to save their lives.

A law banning "conspicuous" religious items such as Jewish skullcaps, large Christian crucifixes and the hijab - the Muslim headscarf from French state schools came into effect on Thursday, the first day of term.

BBC correspondents say the ban supports France's tradition of strictly separating state and religion but protesters say the ban interferes with women's right to cover their heads.

Do you think France should repeal the headscarf ban? Does this demand on domestic policy indicate a shift of tactics by Iraqi dissidents? Do you agree with the way in which the French have dealt with the situation? Send us your views.

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we received:

This topic was suggested by Graham Rodhouse, UK and Netherlands:
Are the French justified in making a stand by not backing down on the headscarf ban?
By Laurie, USA:
Should President Chirac nullify the headscarf law to save two lives?

The whole idea of not allowing headscarves in school is, in my opinion, not allowing for people to be who they are. It breeds intolerance as it forces everyone to conform to a non-religious state and does not allow for a multi-cultural learning environment. I believe in the South African Buntu expression, "I am, because you are. I am free, because you are free". We need to allow people to be who they are and create a multi-cultural environment where we accept people's differences and choices.
Vicki Schweitzer, Canada

The French people gave a clear mandate to their government to bring in this law
Pete, England
I have read and heard many arguments that interfering with the wishes of the individual, especially their freedom of expression, is undemocratic. However, isn't the definition of democracy that the will of the majority is paramount? The French people gave a clear mandate to their government to bring in this law. No one objecting to the law need stay in France or be part of its state school system. To protest is your right but to expect the democratic will of the French people to be overturned is quite another.
Pete, England

Currently, this internal social policy is simply a reflection of fear of the French people in the face of globalization and mass movements of people into their boundaries. Perhaps France should look to Canada for guidance on these matters as it has demonstrated that different peoples will not erode a nation, but make it stronger socially, economically and spiritually. I salute all my Muslim and Sikh brothers and sisters who have stayed true to the teachings and traditions of their Elders and Gurus.
Anonymous, Canada

France should never have imposed this ban to begin with. Government exists to preserve the right of the people to practice whatever religion they choose, not to keep society free from it. Government should neither endorse nor oppress religion. The duty of government is to protect the freedom of religion, not impose a freedom from religion.
Erik, Washington, DC

People go to school to learn, not to practise religion. If western states start allowing overt religious practice in school, next they will be catering to special minority diets and then being told not to teach scientific facts that conflict with 6th century mythology. So long as the ban is only for schools I see no issue. Outside schools however people should be free to practise their religion as long as it does not harm anyone.
N W Lowe,

I cannot believe the press has been so naive as to label this a "headscarf" ban; it goes much further than just Muslims or headscarves. As a Sikh I went to school with a turban; not an optional part of the Sikh religion, or just a hat one can take off, but a fundamental part of my religion that is worn over long, uncut, hair. Not being able to 'wear' it, as this ban enforces in France, would be stopping me from practising my religion.
Mandeep Singh, Preston, UK

We the Muslim community of Minnesota highly condemn the barbaric actions of the so called Hostage takers and kidnappers of the innocent, in the name of Islam. We equally condemn those reporters who call every act of revenge by an Arab, for the death of his kin to be Islamic. Timothy McVeigh was not called a Christian terrorist and he did not do what he did in the name of Christianity, so why relate what this madmen does to be Islamic? We once again support the stand taken by the French government and we wish them victory over this faceless enemy.
Hargelle, Minneapolis U.S.A

It is a sad day when what is meant to be a tolerant society, is making aggressive moves against religion
Adnan H, UK
I am a Turkish national, and I am afraid that France might end up like my country, where the secularist fanatics in the army keep an iron grip on politics against the will of the majority. Women wearing headscarves are banned from government offices and assaulted and humiliated publicly. It is a sad day when what is meant to be a tolerant society, is making aggressive moves against religion.
Adnan H, UK

I don't see how the Republic of France can advocate the idea of an individual's right to freedom and liberty, when they forbid women to choose how they dress? For the most part, it is not their husbands nor their brothers that request they wear the headscarf, but it is their will. What is wrong if modesty prevails? Is it not attractive, in itself? As a Muslim American I do not think we should capitulate to the kidnappers, for what they did is morally wrong. Although not equally so, what the French Government did is also morally misguided.
K. Safavi, Orlando, Florida, USA

After having read many comments, I have two things to say. First, this law is not only about the headscarf, it also about the attitude of some Muslim students criticising the subjects learnt at school. Second, this law is our problem. Do we say something about Christian and western women obliged to wear headscarves in Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan or Afghanistan?
Bernadette, France

I understand the reasoning behind the law but consider the solution to be irrational. The world is made up of different cultures and people. You cannot ask them to be the same. Instead, people should be taught to be more understanding. Tougher laws to deal with extremism and ethnic discrimination should be in place, not a ban on people who already abide by law.
Bilal Siddiqui, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Any argument that bases itself on the premise that overt symbols of belief lead to division and hatred seem to me to be missing a major point. Hatred and ignorance are not caused by overt symbols of faith they are encouraged by fear, lack of understanding and also a simplistic belief in one's own way of life being the 'only' way of life worthy of understanding and respect. These are the very things that schools are best placed to tackle through interaction and education. Leaving it up to individual communities to find their own ways of breaking down boundaries seems such a pointless waste of the perfect forum for learning through experience not what your peers tell you about "them".
Darrell, Cambridge UK

As a Christian and a citizen of the USA, I find it appalling that the government of any country should dictate to me or anyone else how I should practice my religion and how to dress! I think that the French have overstepped their own since of decency and normalcy with this ridiculous law banning religious symbols of any kind. Our faith(s) in God and the different ways we express that faith is what makes us all part of the human race.
Tony Aguirre, Odessa, TX USA

Please stick to it, France! As Richard Dawkins wrote immediately after 9/11, "it is time to stop pussyfooting around". Religion has no place in school, and those who are eager to indoctrinate their kids should at least have to do it in private.
Kostia, St Petersburg, Russia

I believe in the separation of church and state but I don't think it should include a restriction on what people can wear in a public school. Wearing a headscarf is not offensive and the only reason it may incite anger or even violent actions in others is because of the other person's ignorance or hatred. Shouldn't you instead allow students to wear headscarves and skullcaps to help educate others of different cultures and religions to help them be more tolerant? I don't think there should even be a ban but it's up to the French people to decide if it should be repealed.

As a French man who spent 7 years in Malaysia, I really can't understand all that fuss. In Malaysia, some schoolgirls wear a scarf, others don't and no-one even think about it. The "animation" it generates in France seems totally unnecessary.
Bruno, France

Of course the French shouldn't repeal their ban against the wearing of Muslim headscarves in their schools. On the contrary, it is high time we showed some solidarity with them and banned them in our schools, too, for exactly the same valid reasons.
Andrew Waldron, Bournemouth, England.

It's not only self-expression, it's freedom of religion
Tumma Zraick, Brooklyn, New York
What French education officials don't realise is that for many conservative Muslims, the hijab is a religious obligation. I happen to live in one of the largest Arab communities in North America, Bay Ridge Brooklyn. In the public schools here, Muslim girls often choose not to veil, but when they do, they can. It's not only self-expression, it's freedom of religion.
Tumma Zraick, Brooklyn, New York

I, myself, am half Turkish but I do not think that the headscarf ban should be revoked. ALL public services including health, education and all politics should be 100% secular in my opinion. Mixing religion with any of these things can be dangerous, especially in Turkey where the religious fanatics still threaten to topple the secular constitution. Yes - it is right of France to bring in the headscarf ban in my opinion
Murat Urunsak, UK

All of us must respect the laws of the country we live in. It would be inappropriate for women to wear short skirts and drive a car in Saudi and it is appropriate that headscarves are not worm in French schools as the law requires. Why should Muslims be above the law?
Lawrence Toye, Newcastle, England

It seems to be the logical conclusion of modern secular liberal social ideology that in preaching equality, what is actually promoted is an intolerance of diversity. The ultimate goal seems to be homogeneity through moral consensus. My hope is that the legitimate campaign for individual (religious) freedoms against state control does not become associated with acts of wholly deplorable terrorism.
DW Roberts, Edinburgh, UK

Such a ban is a blot on any country's democratic values. There is a fine line between having the liberty to choose one's manner of following faith and a government imposed code of religious conduct. Let's not forget the separation of church and state is meant to be a separation of ideologies that find their way into law and create problems for minorities. This is just another French effort to keep itself isolated from new cultures, religions and ideas. Remember the Huguenots and their struggles?
Bob, Hicksville, USA

If they repeal the ban then it will be true that their decision was just to impact Muslims
Ketoya Denton, Kingston

I believe that France should keep their ban. I think that if they repeal the ban then it will be true that their decision was just to impact Muslims. Also, it will seem that the war on terror is the West versus the Muslims of the east.
Ketoya Denton, Kingston, Jamaica

I don't think that they should repeal the headscarf ban. Istanbul as a predominately Muslim city has banned the scarf for 20 years from schools, workplaces and universities!
Kel, London

Thank you to the Philippines for giving into the terrorists - now look at the mess you've gotten us all into. Appeasement emboldens the aggressor. France of all countries must know this.
Michael, London

Separation of church and state is a cornerstone of the legal system and public life in the US, yet we have not seen fit to institute such bans. France is under pressure due to immigration and the militancy of those newcomers and it took controversial steps to ensure the survival of that historical separation through a very modest adjustment to school dress codes.
John Muller, DuPage County, Illinois, USA

I think the Muslim extremist are covertly and overtly expanding their frontiers and at same opening a closed door. France must maintain the ban or the entire Western civilisation will gradually collapse to a Taliban like tradition. The question is: Do the women wearing hijab actually like it? A scientific survey is likely to show that majority of the women sincerely will not put on the hijab but for their religious bondage which they just cannot question.
Joseph Ochogwu, Abuja, Nigeria

As an atheist I gladly ban the headscarf, skullcap and crucifix from our schools, streets and shops. At best religious garb looks like clothing from a rather dull museum at worst it is the uniform of social intimidation.
Andrew, London

Other religious symbols were also barred, so why is it just the Muslims that feel intimidated , the kidnappers should have a rethink as they are only worsening the situation of the good Muslim people out there
Charles , UK

Muslims all around the world dedicate their lives to following the Qur'an, and many live happy, peaceful lives whether it is in the east or west. Demanding that girls remove headscarves is disrespectful and disgraceful, as you are stripping them of their rights and beliefs and for what?
Sarah Sorrell, Marbella, Spain

Head scarves, skullcaps, crucifixes only highlight needless differences between people
Nveed, Biberach, Germany
I am a Muslim living in Germany, the ban does not apply to just Muslims but all religions and any form of religious out-showing. We live in a multi-cultural secular society as is the case in most of Europe. We should all be equal in such societies and there is no reason to outwardly show what religion we are. Religion is a personal thing and should remain that way. Head scarves, skullcaps, crucifixes only highlight needless differences between people instead of bringing common humanity together. France is right to ban these symbols of religion, the rest of Europe and the World needs to follow.
Nveed Chaudhary, Biberach, Germany

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

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

Considering how many problems religion causes in the world is it any wonder that a government wishes to ban religious symbols?
James, UK

France should not lift the ban on headscarves and give into hostage takers as it will encourage this sort of thing even more. However, as a Muslim I was disgusted when this ban was implemented as it infringes a person's basic human right. This was a political move by the French to appease the Far Right.
Qadeer, Bucks, England

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

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

I would urge France to repeal that law immediately. We know well that fanatics see such laws as acts of war and it is gravely irresponsible to think that French schools won't be the next target of fanatic terrorism. Don't make schools attractive targets because religious fanatics have no compassion even for children if they think they have a real cause to fight for. All discrimination is wrong.
Paul Sanderson, Sheffield, England

If the French government gives into terrorist threats it will just embolden these into terrorizing again to get something else they want. Stay the course France and earn some respect.
David, Philadelphia, USA

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

This is a French problem and no one outside France has any right to interfere
Nigel Richards, Prague, Czech Republic
I think I'm tolerant and have spent many years in Muslim/Arab countries. Firstly, much is being made that the Muslims are being targeted but the ban applies to all religions. Secondly, this is a French problem and no one outside France has any right to interfere. French Muslims should make that point loud and clear. Theoretically, there should be no problem with anyone wearing a religious item, but France has a different relationship with its various ethnic groups. It's not like the UK. The Arab/Muslim community must realise they are living under French laws. In many Arab countries, non-Muslims either follow the rules or pay the price. You can't have it both ways. The ban should stay.
Nigel Richards, Prague, Czech Republic

The argument that headscarf might incite hatred among children is ridiculous. My name clearly indicate my faith. Should it be banned as well? To Nigel Richards, Prague, Czech Republic. Western countries keep criticising Saudi Arabia and the like for their record in human rights, women etc... How on earth you can condemn something and then use it to justify your own faults? "You can't have it both ways
Muhammad, Liverpool

Yes, it should absolutely be repealed! This is nothing but a racist, bigoted act. France should know that most Muslims are appalled by this criminal law, which seeks to deprive Muslims of their right to practice their religion. When will such overt racism and bigotry in Europe ever end?
Hamdee, USA

Headscarves should have never passed in the first place, but the French should not repeal it because of these kidnappings, they should repeal it because the law is a violation of the right of religious expression.
Miguel Gonzalez, California, USA

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

France should certainly not repeal the headscarf ban. I am a Christian, and would be more than happy to co-operate and not wear a crucifix to school. Firstly, school is a place for learning, not for religious politics. Secondly, I don't need to wear a cross, or go to church to prove that I am a Christian, nor will it make me a 'better' one. The same goes for every other religion. Whether you follow a religion is a personal belief and should be kept that way.
Amy, Reading, Berks

It is curious to see much of the Muslim world decries French internal affairs, but a Christian or a Jew in those same countries can all but forget about any sort of protest.
Brian, Chicago, IL, USA

By banning religious practices France is getting closer to banning free speech. People should be free to do what they believe in. No-one should have the right to take away that freedom.
Chris Rosenbloom, Dover, MA, USA

Absolutely not. It would be another example of kow-towing to the religious fanatics.
Bennett, Los Angeles, CA

I notice there has been no hostage taking over the ban on crucifixes, or skull caps.
Nigel MacDonald, Camborne, UK

Of course they should repeal it! Get those people free and stop following the Bush strategy. If France goes out of its way to offend Muslims, this is what they will get! They have to be sensitive to others if they want to stay on good terms with the Muslim world. Islam is peaceful unless it's deliberately attacked with laws like these.
Roberto, Madrid, Spain

France - like Spain - has lost its way - in negotiating with terrorists. Read the comments of Roberto of Madrid: Like Kerry he advises dealing "sensitively" with terrorists.

France - like Spain - has lost its way - in negotiating with terrorists. Read the comments of Roberto of Madrid: Like Kerry he advises dealing "sensitively" with terrorists.

We are multicultural societies and need to accept people from different religions
Brendan, NSW, Australia
They should get rid of this stupid law. We are in the 21st Century, we are multicultural societies and need to accept people from different religions etc. By keeping this ban, it will just create more anger towards the western world for not accepting the religion.
Brendan, NSW, Australia

No they should not repeal the ban! What is it first vicious kidnappings and murders then an attempt to turn the western world away from anything that is not Fundamentalist Islam even though a country is secular?
Heather , New York, NY USA

France should repeal this stupid law. I don't see any valid reason for this law. France is clearly a multicultural society and head scarf ,skull cap or a cross should be tolerated, people are different.
Paul, St Leo, USA

It is really easy for non-Muslims to sit here and pronounce why they think Muslim women wear the Hijab. I am a Muslim convert married to a woman from The Gulf. I know many women who wear the Hijab and non of them do it for political reasons, they do it because they feel it is a duty to God, in much the same way devout Jews and Orthodox Christians follow religious rules on dress. The French ban is going to have the exact opposite affect they want it to. Instead of fighting extremism it is going to promote it.

Many young girls will opt out of public schools, where they are part of a diverse classroom, and instead go to Islamic schools which will then put them in an atmosphere where extremism can flourish. The only thing this does is marginalise and isolate a major part of the French community. And I don't buy that this law targets all religions, it sole purpose was to ban the Hijab, the other mentions of "kippas and crosses" was window dressing, and everyone knows it. I don't think now is the time to lift the ban because as a Muslim I denounce the hostage taking, but months down the roads the French people should take a long hard look at this law, and see the damage it is going to do to French society.
Marc, Washington DC

Nowhere in the Koran does it say a woman must or should cover her head; except when entering a holy place
Clif, Qld Australia
The ban by France against all religious symbols should be applauded, nowhere in the Koran does it say a woman must or should cover her head; except when entering a holy place. the western world should do what France has done and ban all religious symbols from public and private schools
Clif, Qld Australia

Even if the ban on religious ornamentation in schools is unjust (which, as an American, I tend to feel that it is, although I understand how it fits with the nature of the French Republic), France cannot change a domestic policy in response to a criminal act. However, I fail to understand why hostage-takers in Iraq would be concerned with a ban on headscarves in France.
Todd, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

The French government has the right to ban the headscarf in French schools, just as the Iraqi/Iranian/Saudi Arabian/Pakistani/Afghani/etc government has the right to insist on headscarves in Iraqi schools. If it's against your religion and you don't like it, move to a country where religion and government are inseparable (named above). You are in France now, abide by French laws. When you are in another country, you must abide by their laws. I'm sure if I was in Saudi Arabia, I would be wearing a headscarf, if that is the law in Saudi Arabia.
Catherine, Maine, USA

The French state should invest resources to employ disaffected Muslims
Israel Lachovsky, Calgary, Canada
The banning of religious items is interference of state in church affairs! The ban should be reversed, but, not now, to avoid the indication of caving to terror. The French state should invest resources to employ disaffected Muslims to remove cause for anger and violence; as well as foster better inter faith/cultural relations.
Israel Lachovsky, Calgary, Canada

Although I think the ban on religious items such as head scarves is absolutely ridiculous and an infringement on individual freedoms, I also know that by giving into terrorist demands you simply legitimise and reinforce their barbaric actions.
Amanda, Houston, Texas USA

While I disagree with yielding to coercion, our conflicts with Islamic extremists could be eliminated if we would stop antagonising the Muslim World unnecessarily. Banning the headscarf is a violation of the freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs and it in no way threatens the secularism of French schools. Let us cease our policies that provoke the hostility of the Muslims and we will stop finding ourselves the victims of terrorism.
Lisa, Hoboken, NJ, USA

This dilemma is far more reaching than the issue of head scarves. The fundamental question that the French have to address is whether they want their government to negotiate with terrorists? If the French say yes, I'm afraid they will be prime targets for future terrorism. Terrorism cannot be defeated by appeasement in the face of threat, nor will a terrorist ever accept or understand how democratic countries operate.
Todd Basler, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA

The extremists are testing which governments can be influenced by fear
Michael, USA
I am not so sure the kidnapping of French journalists is totally about headscarves. I think the extremists are testing which governments can be influenced by fear. They have had success with these tactics, so why should they stop? It matters not were you stand on the war with Iraq; we are all in the crosshairs of terrorists. We can encourage, excuse or appease this behaviour or we can stand up against it. Fortunately, the French response seems to be one of strength and resolve.
Michael, USA

See where religious symbols lead. They always did and always will. Religious symbols are a way for the clerics to say "this man (or women) is mine"; they teach that people should stand by the ones who wear the same symbol as you wear first and not by the others; they teach that all mankind is not equal. They are the very roots for hatred and violence.
Dominique, Paris, France

Dominique, Paris, France - you are so wrong. Religious symbols are not the very roots for hatred and violence these roots are in the hearts and minds of the bigoted and/or ignorant who cannot accept those who have different views to their own. The human race is diverse and we should not only accept but celebrate this. Let people be themselves and love them for what they are whatever religion they choose to follow and whatever clothes they choose to wear.
Karen, Southampton, England

The ban is only in public schools. It was arrived at in an appropriately democratic manner. It is aimed at separating state and religion. And given the recent kidnapping of French journalists removing the ban would be cowardly and foolish.
Roger Andout

If a country gives in to this sort of blackmail then it might as well give up its independence.
Helen, Netherlands

The ban should be lifted for exactly as long as it takes to get the journalists back. Then it should be put back in place. There is no reason to deal honestly with terrorists.
Jim, USA

After using the head scarf as a political protest instrument they should not be shocked, or surprised, when the French protest it
Steve Mac, Boston

Although I do not agree with the ban on head scarves, as I believe everyone should be allowed to practice their religion openly, I can see why the French did it. It is disingenuous for Muslim school girls to pretend they are simply practicing their religion when, in fact, they are deliberately using the head scarf as a political symbol of protest and rebellion. They used it to slap the French people in the face and, congratulations, it worked. After using the head scarf as a political protest instrument they should not be shocked, or surprised, when the French protest it. Still, I think the French have made a major miscalculation, as banning does nothing so much as empower this potent symbol.
Steve Mac, Boston, MA, USA

The ban is not on headscarves, it is on all religious ornamentation. Since 1789 France has proved right to minimise the impact of all religions in our interior affairs. I support the concept of keeping the State separate from religion. People who want to repeal the headscarf ban are religious whether Catholics or Muslims who think religion can dictate everything in our life.
Frede G, Paris

Stick with it France - school uniformity is a necessity
Iain Steven, Bridge of Weir
Why all the fuss! The headscarf ban is not universal, it only applies to minors in state schools. The issue is "uniformity" and having all children the same. When old enough to vote, then the issue of "women" and not minors not conforming no longer apply. Stick with it France - school uniformity is a necessity.
Iain Steven, Bridge of Weir, UK

France should not lift the ban on religious symbols. A country can never give it to blackmail. As a reaction France should ban all religious symbols from public life (not only schools but every government service) and if needed France should send troops to Iraq this way once and for all showing these thugs that blackmail has the opposite effect. If all countries had a separation of religion and state the world would be a much safer place.
Filip Michielsen, Antwerp, Belgium

France should not have imposed such an intrusive ban on its citizens in the first place. However, having done so, the French government should accept the consequences and see it through.
Mike, Manchester, England

They cannot demand through threat that another country change it's own laws
Anya, London
Absolutely not. The ban is not on headscarves, it is on all religious ornamentation. They are not being victimised. And they cannot demand through threat that another country change it's own laws.
Anya, London, UK

I can appreciate & understand the reasoning behind this law in France, however given the choice many (if not most) of women wear headscarves because they want to and they would feel naked if they didn't. There is a tendency in the West to associate such clothing as repression and conservatism. I live in a country where some women choose to wear the hijab & others do not. It is all a matter of personal preference. A democracy should be when all religions, dress and colour intermingle in harmony & respect.
Nabeel Hamarain, Abu Dhabi, UAE

The French government is correct to stand by its prior decision. Militant Iraqi kidnappers - although I disagree with their tactics - may have some legitimacy protesting the occupation in Iraq, however attempting to influence domestic policy in a non-coalition country goes too far. I hope that the level-headed majority of Islam denounces this latest scare tactic, as I believe that most of both the Islam and the West want to have each other as friends and neighbours.
Catherine Kivelń, Helsinki, Finland

France has a right to dictate what is acceptable in it's own country, and if they wish to ban headscarves and skullcaps, it is their prerogative. Particularly if it is causing divisions. By removing obvious religious persuasion, children can hopefully integrate without prejudice and I'm sure the French have this logic in mind. I think the dissidents should be campaigning against the many medieval laws still in existence in their own country, never mind foreign policy on Islamic regalia.
K Evans, Caterham, Surrey

A scarf harms no one, and disturbs the rights of no one
Michael S Smith, USA
Freedom of religion must include freedom from religious oppression. A scarf harms no one, and disturbs the rights of no one. The French, like many modern governments, cry "LibertÚ!" on one side, while forcing all of their young to be just alike on the other. God's children should be free to serve him by whatever path he shows them.
Michael S Smith, USA

To Mike of the USA, children are not born with innate religious beliefs. These values are imposed upon them culturally or by parents etc. I agree with the French decision. A child should be educated at school. This includes education on all forms of religion or the freedom of choice not to "serve" as you say a "God". By being forced to remove the mantel of one religion a child will be free to observe the world through clear eyes. When people move to other peoples countries they should respect the democracy of that country, or stay in their own country. I agree with previous people: State and religion should be separate at all times.
Gina, USA/Britain

I support the concept of keeping the State separate from religion and I believe the Church of England should be disestablished. However, what happened to the French ideal of Liberty? I am a Christian but I support the right of Muslim girls and those of other religions to wear distinctive dress. They are wearing such items as individuals and as members of their families, not in relation to the State or the educational system. So why is the French government acting against them in the name of the separation of state and religion? This is French secularism gone too far. The consequences of this foolish position are all too clear, and utterly avoidable.
John Clifford, Norwich

France should withdraw the law, not because of threats from terrorists but because this law is unjust and infringes upon the human rights that the French pride themselves on
Rev G Jones, St Etienne, France

France's policy of appeasement is being tested...
Sebastian, San Francisco, USA

These actions only push moderate people like me against Islam
Colin Heyes, Germany (UK)
I was against the ban when it happened as I thought it was prejudicial and against civil liberties, but there is no way it should be repealed because of these kidnappings. Similarly, I was against the Iraq war, but no way should we pull out because of kidnappings. These actions only push moderate people like me against Islam, and provides the right wingers with proof that the only way to fight these people is by more violence. And on it goes....
Colin Heyes, UK citizen in Germany

Yes, France should repeal the ban on headscarves as it has now reached the stage where it has become a matter of life or death for two innocent men. Furthermore, anyone who goes on about 'not giving in to terrorists' should do well to remember that the two French journalists are not relations of theirs.
Phillip Wedgwood Brand, London, England.

Repealing the law simply to appease the kidnappers is not a good thing by itself. If however, the kidnapping causes the French to sincerely and openly question the founding reasons for the law, then they will have shown that Gallic arrogance is illusory. If in the course of this open and sincere review of the law, the French government decided to repeal the law, then that would show leadership and an ability to govern on the basis of today's realities.
Nigel Darwent, Trinidad and Tobago

To Nigel Darwent: It sounds as if "today's realities" include kidnapping as an effective political tool because it forces "open and sincere review". With all due respect, that is a terrible precedent to set.
Vincent, USA

This is opportunism at its height
Matt, UK
France should not lift the ban on headscarves. This is opportunism at its height, it is just posturing and flexing of muscles on the part of the kidnappers, making their presence known in the political vacuum that is post war Iraq. No doubt we'll have Americans on here, harping on about just deserts, but these kidnappings, sadly, signify very little regardless of any US glee at a payback on their old friends and allies.
Matt, UK

To Matt, UK: You are 100 percent wrong. There isn't one American person I know who is harping with I told you so. Many people here feel pity for the French journalists, as well as any other person caught by these terrorists and wrongly executed. I agree with the French keeping their ban and wish we'd do the same here in our own country. If these terrorists win, they will keep using acts of terror to get their way. It will be more frustrating to them realizing their efforts are fruitless and receive no support of anyone else.
Dain, Washington DC, USA

I applaud France for maintaining this ban. Headscarves have nothing to do with Islam but rather are a creation of ultra-conservative Arab culture. In Muslim Malaysia, the influence of headscarves is causing our own people to give up their own national identity and cultural traditions and adopt this archaic Arab practice. I wish headscarves were banned in Malaysia too.
Amir, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A Muslim women's identity stems from her modesty including covering her hair and body
Sharmeen Ziauddin, London
To Amir in Malaysia - It is ignorant of you to make such a statement about Islam and say 'headscarves have nothing to do with Islam'. This is not true. A Muslim women's identity stems from her modesty including covering her hair and body. Islam does not encourage nationalism, so what you say about maintaining Malaysian culture conflicts with what Islam teaches. France should never have imposed this ban in the first place. It is morally wrong and an infringement of human rights.
Sharmeen Ziauddin, London, UK

French hostages plead for lives
30 Aug 04  |  Middle East
Extract: French hostages' plea
30 Aug 04  |  Middle East
Black year for journalists
26 Aug 04  |  In Depth


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