And the World Speaks Out - Worldwide Protest of French Ban on Hijab

ICSFP Staff
Worldwide Protests On French Ban on Hijab Muslim protestors from all over the world have raised their pens, voices, and banners to protest France's ban on religious symbols which most pointedly includes hijab.  

Approximately 3,000 protesters, including many young women in Muslim headscarves, demonstrated against the French government's plan to ban overt religious symbols in schools.  

The demonstrators, who were mostly Muslims, upheld their French identity cards or the national flag as they marched through central Paris with banners declaring ''My veil, my voice'' and ''Veil, cross, kippa, leave us the choice''.  

In England the Islamic Human Rights Commission put forth a call for action to protest the ban. Muslim Women Society and Muslim Association of Britain picketed outside the French Embassy earlier this week to voice their objections and in the hope they could influence Chirac in his decision. That hope was deflated when Chirac announced his approval of the proposed ban draft law.  

The draft law, which the government hopes to submit to parliament in February, would ban religious symbols such as headscarves, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses in schools and hospitals, and will likely give power to employers to do the same in workplaces. It is expected to be in place by the start of the new school year in late 2004.  

Devout Muslims believe women should cover wear modest clothing that covers themselves from the view of men not related to them. Some view only a head scarf as necessary; others include a face veil. Devout Jewish men wear skullcaps, or kippas, as a sign of constant reverence to God. Some Jews have been advised to instead wear a baseball cap or something else deemed "acceptable".  

France's Christian churches urged President Jacques Chirac to not ban girls' Islamic headscarves from public schools, saying the country's failure to integrate its Muslim citizens was a far more serious problem. In a letter to Chirac, the Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches said an anti-veil law would not resolve a heated dispute over whether wearing religious symbols violated France's strict separation of church and state. But failing to better integrate France's five million Muslims in the country of 60 million could prompt some to resort to violence or follow Islamic fundamentalists, they wrote.  

In Lebanon dozens of female Lebanese Muslim students gathered outside the French embassy to protest against French President Jacques Chirac's "discriminatory" decision to back a ban on headscarves.  

The girls, responding to a call from the Lebanese Muslim students' league, and most wearing headscarves, carried banners saying in Arabic and English: "Secularism is an attack on the hijab (headscarf)," and: "Prohibition of the Islamic veil - the true face of a naked France".   

A third banner said: "The veil is not a religious symbol but a divine command".   

The demonstrators distributed an open letter to Chirac in which they declared themselves to be "shocked" and wondering how the quintessential French virtues of liberty and equality could be associated with prohibiting women the right to decide what they wear.  

It pointed out that, unlike the Jewish kippa (skullcap) or the Christian cross, the veil is a "ritual act mentioned in the Quran just like prayer and fasting."  

In the US The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today opposed French President Jacques Chirac's call for legislation that would ban Islamic head scarves, or hijab, Jewish yarmulkes and large Christian crosses in public schools.  

"A nation cannot claim to uphold principles of liberty and equality while denying the religious rights of its citizens," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. "The proposed ban on Muslim, Jewish and Christian religious symbols has very little to do with defending the secular nature of France. A Muslim woman or Jewish man wearing religious attire is not an endorsement of a state religion and I hope that Jewish and Christian leaders worldwide will join our call in opposing this upcoming legislation."

The Islamic League of Palestinian Women in Nablus has urged the French president, Jacque Chirac, to reconsider positions regarding the Islamic Hijab or women's headscarf.  

The league message said that such positions would only boost the already prevailing tensions between the Muslim World and the West.  

"We send this message from Palestine where the Palestinian people are suffering from oppression, desecration of holy shrines and infringement on freedom of worship. We appreciate the French positions that stand aloof from other aggressive and repressive western policies," the message read.  

Egypt's Mufti Ali Gomaa said in a press statement on Friday "Islam orders female adherents to wear hijab as an obligatory religious clothing, unlike crucifixes in Christianity and Kippa in Judaism.  

"It is a common mistake to call hijab a religious sign, as it could not strike the mind of hijab-clad women to wear it for declaring their religious beliefs."  

He asserted that unlike the cross and Kippa, the hijab has a religious purpose and requirement.   

Qaradawi expressed concern that the ban would be the start of more restrictions of religious practice. "We fear that similar questions would be raised; why do Muslims have mosques to pray in? Why do they abandon food and drinks in Ramadan? Why don’t they drink or smoke?" Qaradawi said.  

He also warned that the French decision could create enmity between the West and Muslims worldwide. 

Sources:
Deepika Global
American Muslim News Briefs
CAIR
Al-Jazeera
Islam Online 

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