ANGER IS growing over the French government's plans to ban the Muslim headscarf, known as the hijab, from schools.
The plan is to ban all "overt religious symbols" from schools. But the debate has shown that it is clearly directed at Muslims. In December last year France's right wing president whipped up anti-Muslim sentiment by claiming that there was "something aggressive" about the headscarf.
The proposed ban has sparked anger beyond France. Around 75 people, most of them young school students, attended a noisy protest outside the French embassy in London on Sunday of last week (see page 6 for picture).
The protest was called by the Islamic Human Rights Commission. Their chairperson, Massoud Shadjareh, told Socialist Worker:
"We are outraged that anyone could support these policies. This kind of demonisation of a section of the population is unacceptable in this day and age. Already women wearing the headscarf have been denied passports and civil marriages in France. In Britain some schools don't allow Muslims to wear headscarves. The so called war on terrorism has been used by Islamophobes who want a war against civil liberties."
A coach came down to the protest from Luton. Nazia, a school student from the town, explained how the headscarf had become a big issue in her area:
"Icknield High School in Luton have stopped girls from wearing hijab. This could bring conflict between people. And it will affect other religious groups too. Today it is the Muslims but it will be someone else next. Most people think that the hijab oppresses women, but it doesn't-no one forces us to wear it."
According to Nihaal, a student from London, there had been a lot of discussion about the issue of the hijab at her school:
"Most of the people there, including those who are not Muslims, think that we should have a free choice. We are not forced to wear hijab-our parents don't force us to wear it."
Another protest was set to take place on Saturday of this week, called by the Muslim Association of Britain and the Muslim Women's Association as part of an international day of protest.
Lynne Hubbard from Birmingham told Socialist Worker, "A motion was passed at Birmingham Trades Council on Thursday of last week. The motion supported the demonstration, opposed the attacks on Muslims and defended the right of women to wear the hijab. Five coaches from Birmingham have already been booked to attend the protest at the French embassy."
Join the protest on Saturday 17 January, 12 noon, French embassy, 58 Knightsbridge, London SW1 (Knightsbridge tube). The Stop the War Coalition is supporting the demonstration.