• France's news in English
Paris university sorry for Muslim veil 'gaffe'
File photo of Muslim women protesting against France's controversial veil laws. Photo: AFP

Paris university sorry for Muslim veil 'gaffe'

Ben McPartland · 26 Sep 2014, 15:26

Published: 26 Sep 2014 15:26 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The head of France’s Sorbonne university has personally apologized to a student who was asked to leave a lecture when she refused to take off her Muslim headscarf.

According to a report in Le Monde newspaper the teacher said to the student: “Are you planning on keeping that thing on throughout all my classes?”

The female lecturer continued: "I am here to help you integrate into professional life and that is going to cause you problems".

After the student refused to do take it off, the lecturer then told her to go to a different class.

A controversial 2004 law prohibits the wearing or open display of religious symbols in all French schools, but it does not apply to universities.

A similarly contentious law was introduced in 2010 banning the wearing in public of the full Muslim face veil, the niqab or burqa. It did not however forbid the wearing of the hijab headscarf.

Realizing the lecturer had a made an embarrassing gaffe the university’s president Philippe Boutry called in the student to offer a profound apology.

Defending his lecturer, Boutry said the gaffe was due to a misinterpretation of the 2004 law.

However in her letter to the university the student said the lecturer knew wearing the veil was allowed at university, but said that if it was up to her it wouldn't be.

For her part the student said her priority was to carry on with her course but she also called for the lecturer to be punished so similar incidents do not occur again.

This is not the first time in France a university lecturer has mistakenly taken the veil law into their own hands.

In January last year The Local reported how a Tunisian student lodged a complaint after her lecturer asked her to leave class when she refused to take off her hijab.

Story continues below…

The apparent confusion around the law may soon be cleared up, however.

In August last year a report by France’s High Council of Integration (HCI) urged the French government to extend the contentious 2004 ban on religious symbols to cover universities.

The move was aimed at defusing a “growing number of disputes” stemming from religious differences at higher education institutions.

The French government has so far however declined to act on the report.

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