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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 January, 2004, 16:27 GMT
Scarf rally in Scottish capital
Pupil wearing headscarf
Thousands of Muslim schoolgirls in France wear headscarves
About 250 protesters have demonstrated outside the French Consulate in Edinburgh against plans to ban the wearing of headscarves in France's state schools.

The protest was organised by the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) as part of an international day of action.

Other campaigners travelled from Scotland to join a march in London.

The association said it was encouraging non-Muslims to wear headscarves in the Scottish capital to show "solidarity" with those in France.

Organisers said 25 protests were planned across the world, including London, Paris and several other French cities.

Academic year

French President Jacques Chirac announced plans for a ban on overtly religious symbols in schools last month after an official report into state secularism.

It will include the Islamic headscarf, the Jewish skullcap and large crucifixes.

The move is set to come into effect during the next academic year.

There would be a public outcry if a Muslim country was enforcing the wearing of the headscarves, while the French proposition is no less heinous
Fowzia Ashraf
MAB campaign co-ordinator
The proposals have been defended by the French Government, which criticised the demonstrations.

A spokesman said that the country's strict separation of church and state was "an essential element to protect French citizens, whatever gender or belief they hold".

However, MAB campaign co-ordinator Fowzia Ashraf said: "It beggars belief that in the age of promoting human rights and having the liberty to live one's life as one sees fit, that the French Government is considering taking such draconian action.

'Strong support'

"There would be a public outcry if a Muslim country was enforcing the wearing of the headscarves, while the French proposition is no less heinous."

She added that the Muslim community was feeling "increasingly victimised" in Europe.

Fellow MAB organiser Osama Saeed said: "There was strong support today from both Muslims and non-Muslims.

"We wanted to send out message of solidarity during an international day of action in support of French Muslims."

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