Headscarves in French Schools
Posted: 17 Zul Qa'dah 1424, 10 January 2004
France has proposed to ban conspicuous religious symbols in public schools. The
law, which is expected to be passed before the next school year, will ban
students from wearing headscarves, yarmulkes, and large crosses to school. While
it seems to cause equal misery to all three religions, the real victims are only
Muslims as yarmulkes and crosses are not a religious obligation in the same way
as hijab (headscarf) is and very few people actually wear them to school,
The issue of the headscarf in public schools in France is nearly 15 years old.
Every year, at the beginning of a new school year, girls get expelled for
wearing a headscarf to school. This year, French President Jacques Chirac set up
a commission to research the issue, which came up with the conclusion to ban
headscarves and other religious symbols. The commission was biased and it did
not provide any solid grounds for its recommendation; however, it did provide a
suitable cover for the Islamophobic actions of the government.
Why does France feel so threatened by the headscarf? To President Chirac, the
wearing of a headscarf is an act of aggression. Imagine, a president dictating
what you can wear or not wear (and what part of your religion you can follow and
not follow) and then declaring that he is doing that to fight aggression!
Why are they scared of a yard of cloth covering the head? France seems to be in
a grip of Islamophobia. This is proved by Chirac’s desire to ban patients from
refusing to be cared for by a doctor of the opposite sex. What does it hurt him
if people prefer being treated by a doctor of the same gender?
In the first article of the Constitution of France, it states that, “… It
[France] shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without
distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs.”
Banning the headscarf and thus not allowing Muslim girls to practice their
religion now makes it official that that part of the Constitution does not apply
to Muslims. It “shall respect all beliefs” but as far as the Muslims are
concerned, it will force its own beliefs on them. And what kind of beliefs they
are? Well, France will allow students wearing revealing clothes to attend school
but it will not allow students who are covered up!
Some people argue that the headscarf is a sign of submission of women to men and
has no place in a secular society. Covering up has actually been ordained upon
women as a protection against abuse and temptation. A Muslim woman feels secure
with the hijab. By banning the headscarf, they are depriving the Muslim women of
Others have been arguing that many girls who wear the headscarf have been forced
to do so, and such a ban would end such forcing. Wait a minute. They are against
anyone forcing the girls regarding the wearing of headscarves. So they will
force them not to wear it?
Quite simply they are stealing rights from women. The right to cover, the right
to seek an education comfortably, the right to practice religion. Yet they
consider themselves the champions of tolerance and rights. They go and lecture
people about tolerance yet they have no tolerance.
They are snatching off the hijab from girls in the name of freedom. They are
banning girls from attending school in the name of equality. Is this freedom? Is
This issue is not limited to French public schools. If France is successful in
banning scarves in schools, bans could take place in other places and countries.
Already, two German states have passed laws banning the headscarf. Religious
intolerance is spreading across Europe and the rest of the world and it needs to