Ban of Religious Symbols Seen as Targeting Islam

February 5, 2004

Source: The Economist

On February 5, 2004 The Economist ran an in-depth article on the integration of the growing Muslim population in France to French secular society, spurred by the controversy over the proposed law banning religious symbols in public schools. The article reported, "Outside France the headscarf ban has caused bafflement and indignation, and not only in the Arab world. Yet French support for the ban remains strong...and unites unlikely bedfellows. Secularists join ranks with feminists, who are dismayed that daughters now choose to wear the veil their mothers battled to discard. Politically, the ban is seen as a way to take support from the far-right National Front. It is also regarded as a message to fundamentalist Islamists, whose certainties are seducing disaffected young French Muslims. The government stresses that its new law refers to all religions, but nobody is fooled. How many schoolchildren turn up to class wearing crucifixes of a 'manifestly excessive dimension'? 'It's not the crucifix or the kippa that is targeted,' insists Khalil Merroun, the rector of the Evry mosque, 'but Islam.'"