French Muslims allowed bandannas

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The French government is not ruling out bandannas as discreet forms of headwear for Muslim students, the country’s education minister has said.

Francois Fillon told local Europe1 radio station there was no need to ban bandannas as long as they were “not ostentatious”.

The Hijab

“Hijab is the modern name for the practice of dressing modestly, which all practicing Muslims past the age of puberty are instructed to do in their holy book, the Qur’an. No precise dress code for men or women is set out in the Qur’an, and various Islamic scholars have interpreted the meaning of hijab in different ways.”

France’s ban on headscarves and other overt religious symbols in state schools comes into force this autumn.

A Muslim leader called this week for the law to be applied “flexibly”.

Lhaj Thami Breze, president of the Union of French Islamic Organisations (UOIF), suggested girls learn how to use bandannas as “discreet headwear”.

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Broad definition

In January, former Education Minister Luc Ferry said the definition of a religious symbol was kept broad in the new law so that pupils could not bypass it simply by deviating from a list of proscribed items.

His successor, Mr Fillon, said wearing bandannas would not be against the spirit of the law.

“There were bandannas in school before the question of the headscarf issue came up,” he said in his radio interview.

“It is only necessary that it not be ostentatious, because that’s what the law says.”

The controversial ban was signed into law by President Jacques Chirac last month.

Detailed guidelines are being drawn up ahead of the new academic year in France, when the ban will come into force.

Proponents of the ban on religious insignia in the classroom argue it equally applies to Jewish skullcaps and Christian crucifixes.

But Muslim groups around the world have attacked the ban – many denouncing it as an assault on the human rights of France’s five million Muslims.

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Apr. 16, 2004

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This post was last updated: Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 9:51 PM, Central European Time (CET)