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France Will Not Repeal Head Scarf Law

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  Quote Jalisco Lancer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: France Will Not Repeal Head Scarf Law
    Posted: 30-Aug-2004 at 10:51

 

 

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France Will Not Repeal Head Scarf Law

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By JOCELYN GECKER, Associated Press Writer

PARIS - France vowed Monday to press ahead with a controversial law banning Islamic head scarves in schools, despite demands by militants holding two French journalists hostage in Iraq (news - web sites) that Paris revoke the legislation.

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Government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope told Canal Plus television France would not compromise its values to win the release of the journalists, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot. Militants claiming to hold them demanded the law be overturned within 48 hours a deadline that expires late Monday.

"The law will be applied," Cope said, rejecting the militants' warning.

The head scarf law goes into effect when school resumes on Wednesday. It forbids public school students from wearing "conspicuous" religious apparel. Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses will also be banned, but the true target of the law are head scarves seen by authorities as a sign of rising Muslim fundamentalism in France.

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier arrived in Cairo on a mission to help win the journalists' release. He said his country respects all religions and human rights and noted that Muslim leaders in France also had called for the journalists' release.

"I call for their release ... for all these reasons, and especially because the respect for human life is sacred," Barnier told reporters at the French Embassy in Cairo. Barnier said French officials were going to Baghdad to help the embassy there handle the situation. Asked whether he would go, he said: "Nothing is excluded."

Chesnot and Malbrunot were last heard from on Aug. 19, just before heading from Baghdad to the southern city of Najaf. Chesnot works for Radio France-Internationale and Radio France and Malbrunot for RTL radio and the dailies Le Figaro and Ouest-France.

The abduction shook the notion that France's opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq gave some safety to French citizens amid the rash of kidnappings in Iraq. Some Iraqi militants have previously spared French passport holders even freeing one man in April after he was able to prove his citizenship by showing his knowledge of French geography.

The demand to end the head scarf ban was the first time hostage-takers sought to reverse a nation's domestic law. Insurgents in Iraq have kidnapped dozens of people, but until know their demands have focused on pushing nations' troop or companies out of Iraq.

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said the hostage crisis showed France cannot escape terrorists.

"France will not be spared no more than Italy, Spain, or Egypt," Allawi said in an interview published Monday in Le Monde newspaper. "Governments that decide to remain on the defensive will be the next targets of terrorist ... Avoiding confrontation is not a response."

In a video aired on Arab TV station Al-Jazeera on Saturday, militants calling themselves the Islamic Army of Iraq demanded France revoke the headscarf law, calling it "an aggression on the Islamic religion and personal freedoms."

They gave no ultimatum, Al-Jazeera said. The station showed a brief tape of the journalists saying they were in captivity the first word on their fate since they disappeared.

A militant group with a similar name to the one holding the French journalists is believed to be responsible for the death last week of Italian freelance journalist Enzo Baldoni. Before his murder, the group had said it could not guarantee his safety unless Italy announced within 48 hours that it would withdraw its troops from Iraq.

French President Jacques Chirac vowed Sunday to spare no effort to secure the reporters' freedom and dispatched Barnier to the Middle East.

The foreign minister arrived in the Egyptian capital for meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and with Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League. In July, Egyptian diplomacy secured the release of one of Cairo's diplomats in Baghdad, Mohammed Mamdouh Helmi Qutb, held by militants for three days.

Speaking at the French Embassy in Cairo, Barnier did not directly address the militants' demand but said: "This ultimatum is incomprehensible, given the reality of French society." Barnier also planned to visit Qatar. The Foreign Ministry in Paris said that a diplomatic envoy, Hubert Colin de Verdiere, was heading to Baghdad.

 

Chirac appealed on Sunday to the kidnappers, implicitly reminding them that France opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"France ensures equality, the respect and protection of the free practicing of all religions," a solemn-looking Chirac said in a televised address. "These values of respect and tolerance inspire our actions everywhere in the world ... They also inspired France's policy in Iraq."

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (news - web sites) joined Middle Eastern religious and political leaders in condemning the kidnappings. Arafat called for the journalists' "immediate release," saying France was a friend of the Palestinian cause, according to a statement issued by the Palestinian news agency WAFA. Other critics of the kidnappings included Egypt's largest opposition group, the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

The European Union (news - web sites) also appealed for the reporters' liberty. Their kidnapping means "not only freedom of expression is again at stake, but also the values of tolerance and respect for others to which all Europeans are profoundly attached," said Javier Solana, the EU's top foreign policy official.

Chirac postponed a Monday visit to Russia, where he was scheduled to hold two days of talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin (news - web sites) and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Chirac planned to join the meeting on Tuesday, his office said.

Even French Muslim leaders who opposed the law on head scarves urged the government Sunday not to capitulate and condemned the kidnapping.

"We must not negotiate. It is blackmail which the Muslims of France reject," said Lhaj Thami Breze, president of the powerful Union of Islamic Organizations of France. France's Muslim community of 5 million is western Europe's biggest.

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  Quote fastspawn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Aug-2004 at 11:01
i agree that the French should not repeal the head scarf law to appease the terrorist kidnappers. However i feel that this law is contrary to the French Ideals.

Making a country secular is the opposite of imposing a strict religion on them:The religion of secularism. Banning all religious artifacts, is imposing on a person's right to worship.
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  Quote Cywr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Aug-2004 at 11:25
France is not so much secular as it is 'Laique', religion is a private at home thing, and you don't bring it into the public lives of others. So  this law realy isn't that out of line with what became a de facto French ideal that goes back to the whole anti-clerical thing back in the 1800s, just that in the past it was all informal somewhat, and now they feel the need to enforce it in law.

Meh, still, good that their not giving in, and the terroists kind of look dumb as even people opposed to the ban have sided with the French government.
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  Quote Styrbiorn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Aug-2004 at 11:51

I'm quite impressed how stupid these terrorist kidnappers are, I didn't believe it was possible to reach such a low level. I mean, how can one even think they could make a whole nation change laws because of a single kidnapping? Nice hearing fundamentalists speaking about "personal freedom" too... *we need a roll eyes smiley*

As said, the French school is totally secular, bringing religion into it is something that completely goes against their values, and I think it's good they institute laws when necessary to defend that.



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  Quote ihsan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Aug-2004 at 15:10

Originally posted by Cywr

France is not so much secular as it is 'Laique', religion is a private at home thing, and you don't bring it into the public lives of others.

Uhm, what difference(s) is/are between Secularism and "Laique"ism? Because in Turkey, Laik = Secular

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  Quote Cywr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Aug-2004 at 15:38
Hmm, UK has secular state schools = no religious preference, any religion, symbols (crosses, kirpans, headscarfs) are no problem, and a little bit about all major religions will be taught in many schools without focusing on any particular one. (there are of course, religious state schools as well, but they are obliged to respect the beliefs and needs of any minority religions who may wish to attend those schools, ie, muslim schools cannot say no to catholics, protestant schools can not say no to sikhs, etc.).

French state schools = no religion peroid.

At least, that is what i understood, so you could say the, at least from the UK example, the secular schools neither promote a single religion, or hinder another (at least in theory, not saying things are 100% perfect), where as in France, they avoid religion alltogether.

And 'Laique' is the French word, i figure that was their word for it and that it was a little different, as they also have a word for 'secular', which is sculier

Edited by Cywr
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  Quote Jalisco Lancer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Aug-2004 at 16:40

 

Kidnappers Extend Deadline for French Hostages


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DUBAI (Reuters) - Militants holding two French journalists hostage in Iraq (news - web sites) gave France another 24 hours on Monday to agree to their demands and scrap a ban on Muslim headscarves in schools, Al Jazeera reported.

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The Arabic TV station showed a tape of the two journalists urging the French people to hold protests to persuade their government to retract the headscarf law or they might be killed.

The kidnappers gave the French government one more day to overturn the ban after a previous 48-hour deadline expired on Monday, Al Jazeera said, quoting a written statement.

France has scrambled to save Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, both of whom spoke on the video tape.

"I call on President (Jacques) Chirac to ... retract the veil ban immediately and I call on French people to protest the veil ban. It is a wrong and unjust law and we may die at any time," Chesnot said, according to Al Jazeera's translation into Arabic.

Thousands of people took to France's streets to demonstrate on Monday and Foreign Minister Michel Barnier visited Egypt as part of a mission to rally support in Iraq and the region.

He made an impassioned plea to the Islamic Army in Iraq to free the journalists.

The militant group, which last week said it had killed Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni, on Saturday gave the French government 48 hours to rescind the headscarf ban, without saying what would happen to the two Frenchmen if it failed to comply.

"We will continue, come what may, to follow all contacts ... with civil and religious personalities to explain the reality of the French republic ... and obtain the release of these people," Barnier said in Cairo.

Iraqi Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim groups and Islamic groups outside Iraq urged the kidnappers to release the two, noting France's opposition to the U.S.-led Iraq war and saying journalists were not combatants.

The crisis stunned France, which campaigned against the 2003 invasion of Iraq and so had considered itself relatively safe from militant attack. France also opposed the 1990-2003 economic sanctions on Iraq.

Chesnot, of Radio France Internationale, and Malbrunot, who writes for the dailies Le Figaro and Ouest France, disappeared on Aug. 20 on their way from Baghdad to Najaf, the day after Baldoni was seized.

PARIS PROTESTS

Protests were held across Paris against the kidnappings while French diplomats explored possible solutions.

"Their kidnapping is incomprehensible to all those who know that France ... is a land of tolerance and of respect for others," Barnier said, before meeting Arab League chief Amr Moussa and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

"I urge everyone who has power, or has the capabilities, to set the journalists free as soon as possible so that the situation does not become more complicated," Moussa said.

Aboul Gheit also called for the hostages to be released.

 

Many Muslim women in headscarves joined French protests for their freedom. Some 200 people took to the streets of eastern Strasbourg and about 3,000 demonstrated in Paris.

"The hostage-taking risks making public opinion in France turn against women and girls who wear headscarves," one of the veiled protesters in Paris said in front of the headquarters of Radio France Internationale, Chesnot's employer.

Barnier said Foreign Ministry Secretary-General Hubert Colin de Verdiere arrived in Baghdad on Monday for crisis talks. Barnier is expected to visit Amman and Qatar, but not Iraq.

Islamic groups in Iraq sympathized with the French.

"France's position toward Iraq is good. But we also are against kidnapping all journalists," said Sheikh Abdel Sattar Abdel Jabbar, a top official in the Muslim Clerics Association. "We call on the kidnappers to release them immediately."

SYMPATHY FOR THE FRENCH

Outside Iraq, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the Arab world's largest Islamist organization, and the Federation of Arab Journalists spoke out against the kidnapping.

Cairo's prestigious Sunni seat of learning, al-Azhar, and Lebanon's top Shi'ite cleric Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah also condemned the action.

Al Jazeera, which has regularly broadcast similar tapes of hostages, said all kidnapped journalists should be released.

"This clearly means a call for the immediate release of the French journalists held hostage," Al Jazeera spokesman Jihad Ballout said.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder offered a word of caution about efforts to free them, saying: "The more it's dealt with in public, the less chance there will be to resolve the crisis."

French critics and defenders of the ban on headscarves in schools united in support of the law on Monday, pledging to stand firm against the kidnappers. France passed the law in March in reaction to the growing influence of Islamist activists and tensions between Muslim and Jewish youths in schools. The law also bans Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses.

Leaders of France's five-million strong Muslim community have denied any link with the militant Islamic Army in Iraq.

Fouad Alaoui, secretary-general of an Islamic group that had previously urged schoolgirls to defy the ban, recommended on Monday they refrain from flouting the law. The French government said there was no question of the ban being revoked. (Additional reporting by Amil Khan, Joelle Diderich, Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Mariam Karouny)

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  Quote John Doe Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Aug-2004 at 18:38
These terrorists have really painted themselves into a corner here... there is no way france will change it laws to appease an outside force, and now the terrorists have to kill citizens of an almost friendly country or backflip and let them go.
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  Quote Cornellia Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Aug-2004 at 19:45
They will backflip and let them go.
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  Quote ArmenianSurvival Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Aug-2004 at 22:28
Its their country. End of story. At least they let you know straight out. Unlike America where they flaunt that they are the most humanitarian nation while waging a war on a country that hasnt done anything besides pump oil. (Yes i know Saddam was a bastard, but do you think the US government cares solely about the safety of the Iraqis?) I think the French are just being honest and people dont like honesty these days. I think its good if religion gets left out of the school. Religion is a very dangerous tool when presented in the wrong way to the wrong people, keep it to yourself.
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  Quote Alparslan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31-Aug-2004 at 07:26

 

This is the most stupid act of resistant forces opposing to USA invasion since France was an opposing state to US occupation too.

I wonder if this issue could be related with Americans again to influence the public opinion in France? or those kidnappers are really idiots.

 

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  Quote Beylerbeyi Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Sep-2004 at 04:59

There is a difference between laique and secular, I believe.

For instance, Turkey is said to be secular, but in fact it is laique (Turkish word is also 'laik'). Turkish state controls the religion, it keeps it away from the public sphere (no headscarves even in universities!) and dictates what the imams will preach in mosques, whose wages are paid by the state (i.e. taxes).

I'm not sure if France is like that too, but I guess there's a fundamental difference between the French model (laique) and the British model (secular).

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  Quote Gallipoli Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Sep-2004 at 06:57

Our secular model was adapted from France with some changes...

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  Quote Sabzevarian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Sep-2004 at 17:28
Are the Jews, Sikh's etc also complaining about this law?
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  Quote Cywr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Sep-2004 at 17:33
Some have been making noises.
However, as far as Sikhs are concerned, the initial fuss was understandably over Turbans, however, the French government have been smart and declared that the obligation never to cut their hair was the visible religious symbol, and that the Turban technicly hides that, the other symbols (5 'K's) are not as visible, and thus not a big deal.


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  Quote Ptolemy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Sep-2004 at 18:43

Well terrorists do what terrorists have to, I guess. Even though I think it is stupid of them, I'm surprised it hasn't happened earlier.

As to the French law, I can't say I know a lot about the threat of fundamentalism in France. But in Canada, I dont think I would appreciate a similar law (I'm no muslim, BTW) simply because I think freedoms are more important than whether the state wishes to consider itslef 'secular' (though Canada is secular).

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  Quote Sabzevarian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Sep-2004 at 02:11
Hmm, I think a good way for someone who wanted to protest it should be shaving their head (maybe do it as a group). Or are they going to ban shaved heads too?
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  Quote Cywr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Sep-2004 at 07:21
A better way were if everyone were to wear headscarves, and claim it was the latest fashion, then muslims could wear it too, and claim they were just following the fashion, hence rediculing the law.
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  Quote Gallipoli Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Sep-2004 at 12:19
I heard from BBC that a new law has been passed related to this head-scarf thing. Also the French asked for confirmation on the Frenchemen in Iraq,if they are dead or not
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  Quote fastspawn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Sep-2004 at 12:41
cywr, i like your idea.

IS there a way you could give that idea to the people of france, or the grassroots leader? Like make skullcaps, yashmaks and headscarves the new in thing.
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