Government Warns Muslims Not to Defy Headscarf Ban

July 5, 2004

Source: Reuters

On July 5, 2004 Reuters reported, "French officials warned Islamic activists against testing the state's patience on Monday after a second large Muslim group urged schoolgirls to defy a ban on headscarves when schools reopen in September. The headscarves, which will be banned from state schools after the summer break, surged back into the news when the large Union of French Islamic Organisations (UOIF) pledged last week to give legal aid to any girl expelled for wearing one. A meeting of about 100 imams (prayer leaders) in the Rhone-Alpes region around Lyon joined the campaign on Sunday, prompting a prominent Socialist politician and a spokesman for school principals to denounce the trend as worrying. 'I'm afraid of provocations,' said Manuel Valls, a Socialist deputy and mayor of a town outside Paris with a large Muslim population. 'We should be very strict in applying the ban on religious symbols in schools.' The resurgent headscarf dispute has publicly split leaders of France's five-million strong Muslim minority -- Europe's largest -- and worried authorities who fear dramatic protests this autumn against the ban voted in March after heated debates."