Chirac: Those Breaking Religious Symbols Ban Will Be Prosecuted

July 14, 2004

Source: Reuters

On July 14, 2004 Reuters reported, "French President Jacques Chirac said on Wednesday anyone who defies a ban on headscarves and other religious headwear when state schools reopen in September could be prosecuted. Chirac's warning followed an appeal for girls to defy the ban which was issued by the Union of French Islamic Organisations (UOIF), a Muslim fundamentalist organisation. 'If anyone is thinking of getting round or not taking any notice of the law, they will be putting themselves in the wrong and deserve to be punished or prosecuted,' Chirac said in a television interview. 'We cannot accept that one organisation or another organisation which thinks it represents something in France can deliberately ignore or criticise the law...The law applies to everyone,' he said. The conservative government says the ban will guarantee religious freedom by keeping all faiths out of state schools, and is intended to preserve the French principle of secularism. But some of France's five million Muslims oppose the ban and the government fears it could provoke protests when school reopens in September after the summer holidays. The UOIF says Muslim women should cover their hair as a religious duty and that it has advised girls to wear bandanas to school in September to get around the ban on headscarves."