Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

'I love the Socialists'

Read more

WEB NEWS

Ukraine: Web users call for international assistance

Read more

WEB NEWS

France: Fighting political corruption with transparency

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

No strategy and a beige suit

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

South Africa: Four men found guilty of shooting Rwandan exile

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - August 29th, 2014

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - August 29th, 2014 (part 2)

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

French Prime Minister calls on ECB to go further to help economy

Read more

WEB NEWS

Using the web to further the cause: ISIS vs USA

Read more

  • Iraqi forces free Armeli in biggest victory over IS militants since June

    Read more

  • Anti-government protesters storm Pakistan's state TV

    Read more

  • PSG trounce Saint-Etienne 5-0 with Ibrahimovic hat trick

    Read more

  • Putin calls for 'statehood' talks on eastern Ukraine

    Read more

  • Rescue efforts under way after French apartment block blast

    Read more

  • Poland marks 75 years since German invasion of WWII

    Read more

  • Israel appropriates large tracts of West Bank land

    Read more

  • Tension rises in Hong Kong as Beijing rejects open elections

    Read more

  • French police stop 'teenage jihadist' from flying to Syria

    Read more

  • Kidnapped Yazidi women 'sold to Islamists' in Syria

    Read more

  • Confusion reigns after Lesotho 'coup'

    Read more

  • France's Simon beats Ferrer to advance to last 16 in US Open

    Read more

  • French PM vows to safeguard 35-hour work week

    Read more

  • Inside Novoazovsk – the pro-Russians' latest conquest

    Read more

  • Filipino UN troops escape Islamists in Golan Heights

    Read more

  • Fugitive British killer returns to French psychiatric hospital

    Read more

France

France denies plan to reverse veil ban in schools

© Photo: AFP

Text by Sam BALL

Latest update : 2013-12-14

The French government has denied it is planning to reverse a ban on Islamic veils in the country’s schools, following the publication of a controversial report that has sparked outcry among the country’s conservatives.

Commissioned by Socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, the report recommends going back on years of strict secularist policies in order to better integrate the country’s immigrant population.

It says France’s schools should allow Muslim pupils to wear headscarves, something that has been outlawed since 2004, as well as promote the teaching of Arabic and African languages.

The report, compiled by a panel of experts, also recommends a number of other changes designed to provide greater recognition to the "Arab-oriental dimension" of France’s identity.

These include changing street and place names, an overhaul of the history curriculum taught in schools and the creation of a special day to honour the contribution of immigrant cultures.

Authorities and the media should be forbidden to refer to people's nationality, religion or ethnicity and a new offence of "racial harassment" should be created, said the document, which was posted on the prime minister's official website last month but only came to public attention Friday after a report in French daily Le Figaro.

‘Explosive and irresponsible’

France’s main opposition party, the conservative UMP, immediately labelled the proposals “explosive and irresponsible”.

“This report is an attempt to make multiculturalism the new model for France,” said party leader Jean-Francois Copé in a statement.

"It would no longer be up to immigrants to adopt French culture, but for France to abandon its own culture, language, history and identity to adapt to other people's cultures.”

He accused the government of using the report to deliberately drive voters towards the far-right and anti-immigration National Front (FN) party in order to weaken the UMP.

FN leader Marine Le Pen, meanwhile, said implementing the report’s recommendations would be tantamount to "a declaration of war on the French people".

However, the governing Socialist Party was quick to distance itself from the document’s proposals, with Ayrault telling reporters that there were no plans to drop the headscarf ban – seen by many as the most controversial aspect of the report.

"Just because I receive a report doesn't make it government policy," he said.

President François Hollande weighed in on the debate Friday night, stressing that the report did “not at all represent the government's position”.

Speaking during a visit to French Guyana, Hollande specifically denied that the ban on Islamic veils in schools would be reversed.

Keeping religion out of the classroom

The ban on headscarves in schools was part of a wider law forbidding the wearing of any religious symbols, including crucifixes and Jewish skull caps.

It sparked widespread protests at the time but was backed by the majority of the voting public.

France has a long tradition of strict secularism in public institutions, particularly in schools where an absence of religion has long been considered essential to the country’s ideals of equality and freedom of conscience.

Earlier this year, the government introduced a “secularism charter” for schools - a document displayed in every state-funded school in the country explaining why religion should be kept out of the classroom.

But despite public backing, the country’s secularism laws have been a major source of friction with France’s Muslims and other minority groups, many of whom feel stigmatised by the authorities.

The integration of France’s Muslim population, the largest in Western Europe at an estimated five million, has become an increasingly sensitive issue in the country.

According to a poll published by Le Figaro last year, six out of ten French people believe the influence of Islam in France is “too big” and 43 percent see the religion as a “threat” to national identity.

Date created : 2013-12-14

  • FRANCE

    French veil ban upheld in controversial court case

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    French row over plans to swap Christian holidays

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    France unveils new school 'secularism charter'

    Read more

COMMENT(S)