• France's news in English
France urged to ditch ban on Muslim veil in schools
France's decision to ban religious symbols in schools in 2004 sparked protests around the world, including this one in Lebanon. Will the ban soon be overturned? Photo: Joseph Barrak/AFP

France urged to ditch ban on Muslim veil in schools

Ben McPartland · 13 Dec 2013, 12:22

Published: 13 Dec 2013 12:22 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

France's controversial ban on the wearing of  the Muslim veil in schools was once again making headlines on Friday, almost ten years after it was introduced.

On Friday France’s Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault  was handed a report that he had commissioned in the summer, that will form the basis of future reforms aimed at better "integrating" France's immigrant communities. The reforms will eventually be put to parliament in 2014.

He will sit down with ministers from his goverment to discuss the report's findings in January next year.

One proposal in particular has grabbed the most attention in France on Friday and it forms part of an overall plan to abolish various discriminatory measures, that the authors claim hinder integration.

("A shock report" was the headline in Le Figaro newspaper on Friday)

In order “to recognise the richness of multiple identities”, the report urges France to authorize the wearing of the veil in schools, something that was outlawed in 2004.

The controversial 2004 law prohibits the wearing or open display of religious symbols in all French schools and colleges, including crucifixes, Jewish skull caps and the Muslim headscarf  - the Hijab.

The law was inspired by France’s principles of secularism and equality and the belief that schools and public buildings should be a neutral environment where people are not identified by their religion.

Former French PM François Fillon was one of the first to speak out against the report's findings.

"I must warn the prime minister about the dangers of applying these proposals. They will work to divide the French and would feed extremism," Fillon said in a statement.

However the chances of the proposal being taken on appear slim, as things stand as it would require a major shift in public opinion.

An opinion poll in October 2012 revealed 89 percent of French people said they were against the Islamic veil being worn in public schools.

Nevertheless the new report has opened up the old debate and the French public and politicians are once agin being asked to express their views on an issue that will seemingly never be put to rest. 

("Your opinion: Should we look again at the law banning the veil in schools", asks French radio RTL.)

For their part politicians have already poured cold water on the chances of the ban being overturned.

“I don’t envisage that we will return to the law on the veil,” said Thierry Mandon the spokesman for the Socialist group in the National Assembly, who compared the government to over eager students, who can go to far and end up with "risky" formulas.

The question of integration has long been a spikey issue in France and one of the perhaps more obscure recommendations the report makes is that France should drop the term "integration" altogether as a symbolic measure.

Instead all talk should be of “making France" (Faire France) or "living together equally" (vivre ensemble egalitaire).

Story continues below…

"We want to change the approach to integration," said a spokesman for the PM's office. "We are moving towards a policy strongly anchored on equal rights and the fight against discrimination." 

In his letter to the authors of the report Ayrault made it clear that integration will only succeed "if we accept that the rich legacy of migrants over the ages is part of the French identity."

One of the other notable recommendations France is urged to undertake is to recognise the "North African dimension of its identity". This can be done by "enhancing the teaching of Arabic in schools as well as proposing other African languages."

Other proposals include the creation of a new crime of "racial harassment" and a new court of  auditors (cour des comptes) on equality.

SEE ALSO: Ten famous foreigners who helped make France

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
How speaking French can really mess up your English
Photo: CollegeDegree360/Flickr

So you've mastered French, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

French claims that Jungle camp is empty are rubbished
Photo: AFP

Reports from the scene say scores of migrants are still in the area of the Jungle despite French authorities claiming "mission fulfilled."

Kidnapped Riviera millionaire left tied up in car boot in Nice
Photo: AFP

Head of luxury Cannes hotel has been found alive after being kidnapped in Nice on Monday.

Paris landlords still charging illegally high rents
Photo: Panoramas/Flickr

... and it's tenants in the smaller apartments that get hit the hardest. Could you be paying too much?

France takes baby steps to make life simpler
Photo: AFP

... including extending the ridiculously short time limit for registering a new baby.

IN PICTURES: Calais Jungle camp goes up in flames
All Photos: AFP

Migrants leave behind a scorched camp as they are moved to locations across France.

French expats in UK suffer Brexit abuse
French ambassador to the UK Sylvie Bermann with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP

French nationals no longer feel at home in the UK, ambassador says. But Brits in France have been greeted with sympathy since the referendum.

Six to go on trial in France over topless Kate photos
Photo: AFP

The topless pics sparked fury among the royals.

France sees biggest drop in jobless rate for 20 years
Photo: AFP

Good news at last. But it's unlikely to keep President François Hollande in his job.

Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Photo: AFP

Some in France have shown solidarity with their new guests, while others have made it clear they are not welcome.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available