Muslim Scarf Protest Slated for Paris

PARIS (AP)–Police expect 10,000-20,000 protesters Saturday at a march through Paris against the outlawing of Muslim head scarves in schools. Other protests are expected in the United States, Canada and Britain.

The demonstrations would be the biggest coordinated protest against a proposed law, which forbids Muslim head scarves, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses in French public schools.

The government, worried about the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, aims to have the law enacted by the start of the 2004-2005 school year in September. It says Muslim scarves and other obvious religious symbols must be forced out of schools to keep them secular.

Islamic leaders say the law will stigmatize France’s estimated 5 million Muslims, who make up 8 percent of the population.

Saturday’s march through northeastern Paris to the Place de la Nation begins at 1 p.m.

Shouting “The veil, my choice,” about 3,000 people took part in a similar protest in Paris on Dec. 21. More than half were women, girls and even young children wearing the “hijab,” or head scarf.

Protests also are planned Saturday, mostly outside French consulates and embassies in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., and in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto in Canada, organizers said.

A few thousand people are expected in all, said Shaheen Kazi, national office manager at the Muslim Students Association of the U.S. and Canada.

“The hijab is so central to the Muslim woman’s identity,” Kazi said. “If we don’t stand up for this issue when it happens in a European country or anywhere else, then it could be like a wave that could carry on throughout Europe and then we don’t know how far it would spread.”

In Britain, protests are planned outside the French Embassy in London and a French consulate in Edinburgh, Scotland. They were called by the Muslim Association of Britain and the Muslim Women Society.

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