Muslim girls defy French headscarf ban

Sept. 9, 2004 at 4:18 AM

PARIS, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- Dozens of Muslim girls have been disobeying the French government's recent ban on wearing headscarves in public schools since the school year began last week.

Education Minister Francois Fillon said Wednesday that up to 120 Muslim girls were still wearing headscarves, but added he was confident of convincing the girls to stop, the Independent reported Thursday.

The law forbids conspicuous religious symbols, including Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses, in public schools. It allows for a period of dialogue for those who do not comply, the minister said, but students who persist in their disobedience could be expelled.

The law has angered many among France's five million Muslims, as well as the 5,000 to 7,000 Sikhs. Forbidden to wear their turbans at school, the Sikhs have been barred from classes, the paper reported.

The French government justifies the law as an effort to keep public schools secular.

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