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Associated Press Apr 3, 2013 The French president, Francois Hollande, says he wants a new law that could extend restrictions on the wearing of prominent religious symbols in state jobs into the private sector. His new tack comes after a top French court ruled in March that a day care operator that gets some state funding unfairly fired a woman in a headscarf, sparking a political backlash. Ms Kaddour was one of thousands of people who attended the Annual Meeting of Muslims of France in Le Bourget, north of Paris, at the weekend. The four-day convention, which last year drew about 160,000 faithful, is billed as the largest annual gathering of its kind in Europe and is now in its 30th year. French law bars state employees from wearing prominent religious symbols such as Muslim headscarves, Jewish skullcaps or large Christian crosses in public schools, welfare offices or other government facilities. Two years ago, France banned Muslim veils that cover faces, such as the niqab, which has a slit for the eyes, or the mesh-screen burqa, from being worn anywhere in public. Meeting leaders say France has made progress in accepting Muslims and noted that, unlike 30 years ago, women wearing headscarves today rarely draw suspicion, scowls or curiosity. Still, many Muslims - and even some Roman Catholics and Jews - fear France's insistence on secular values first enshrined in the French Revolution more than two centuries ago is unfairly crimping their ability to express their religious beliefs freely. They also worry that Mr Hollande's socialist government, like the conservative one before it, wants to score political points. "Islam has become a political instrument," said Ms Kaddour, 26, a community activist from the English Channel port city of Le Havre and one of 10 children of Algerian-born parents who moved to France for plentiful jobs during its economic boom times decades ago. "Islam is always brandished whenever there is internal political discord." Most mainstream politicians insist Islam is not being targeted. But a backlash erupted after the Court of Cassation ruled in March that Baby Loup, a private-sector day care operator that gets some state funding, unfairly fired a woman who wore a headscarf to work. The far-right railed at the decision, and even the interior minister, Manuel Valls, expressed regret over it. Wading into the debate in a prime-time TV interview last week, Mr Hollande suggested new limits were needed on Muslim headscarves, saying that "when there is contact with children, in what we call public service of early childhood ... there should be a certain similarity to what exists in [public] school." "I think the law should get involved," he added. Many Muslims fear an encroaching Islamophobia, while proponents of such measures insist they counter extremism and act as a rampart to protect France's identity against inequality. Polls show that most French people support at least some restrictions on religious symbols. France, with an estimated 5 million to 6 million Muslims whose families mostly have origins in former French colonies in north Africa, is at the forefront of addressing the challenges that many European countries are facing about how to integrate their sizeable ethnic and religious minorities on a continent where white Christians have dominated the political landscape for centuries. Bristling against stereotypes in many corners of the West that Muslims are closet radicals or even terrorists, leaders of the convention in Le Bourget preached peace and justice. Ms Kaddour said many Muslims regret that their faith is in the political crosscurrents again in France. But she said she was not discouraged enough yet to want to leave. "Many others feel that way too: we are French and we have our place to claim and our future to establish in France," she said. "I'm not a foreigner. I'm French. I want to live in France, I love this country. Even if it has trouble liking us, we are going to do what's necessary to live serenely in France." Ms Kaddour says she plans to go back to school to get a higher degree, but has all but given up hopes for a state job. And in France, that matters: the European Union says more than half of France's gross domestic product comes from government spending. "A state job, unfortunately ..." she said, her voice trailing off. "When I go into job interviews, I wear my headscarf. No results." She admits that she does not always know why - it could just be her skill set is not sufficient - but suspects her religion plays a role, too. Ms Kaddour says her future career seems increasingly limited to independent, private practice work. She currently works for a small community group devoted to improving understanding of Islam, called Le Havre de Savoir, or The Haven of Knowledge. At a time of double-digit unemployment rates in France, a nation of 65 million, such restrictions to job access hit headscarf-wearing women especially hard: Muslim men in France do not usually wear visible religious garb. Ahmed Jaballah, the head of the Union of Islamic Organisations of France, a major Muslim group that helped organise the weekend conference, said the "rather morose ambiance" over France's sluggish economic growth recently has not helped Muslims' aspirations, suggesting that a search for scapegoats is politically appealing. He said he was concerned about the government's plans. "Unfortunately, Muslims have the impression today that secularism is being shaped based on Muslim practices, and that's worrisome," he said. "Everybody always talks about secularism, how it's not just about Muslims. But in fact, Muslims are targeted. Nobody is fooled." "Muslims wonder: can we trust secularism?" he said. "Remember the French slogan: Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite. Today, we want this fraternity to be real." Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/europe/extended-french-headscarf-ban-worries-muslims#ixzz2PP02WYba
Saracen21stC posted a topic in News RoomMother is turned away from parents’ evening because she refused to remove full-face veil Maroon Rafique missed an important talk concerning her son's university education because she would not remove the niqab By Jaya Narain PUBLISHED: 16:27 GMT, 24 June 2012 | UPDATED: 01:10 GMT, 25 June 2012 A mother was turned away from a parents’ evening because she was wearing a full-face veil. Maroon Rafique, 40, was told that for the security and safety of children and teachers at the college there was a ban on any type of face coverings. She was warned that unless she removed her full-face covering, known as the niqab, she would not be allowed into the college to attend. Embarrassed: Maroon Rafique was turned away from a college parents' evening because she was wearing a veil In the end, a stunned Mrs Rafique was forced to call her husband, who took her place and went with their son Awais, 18. Mrs Rafique, who has worn the niqab for seven years, said: ‘I’m born in this country and British. Why should what I wear offend anyone? I didn’t want to make any fuss. All I wanted was to find out the information to help my son go to university. ‘I offered to sit at the back or at the front, anywhere where I wouldn’t be seen, if they thought I was going to offend anyone. ‘I was really upset because whenever I’ve visited the college before there’s never been a problem, in fact the tutors have been welcoming and friendly.’ Mrs Rafique, of Whalley Range, Manchester, had been invited to attend the parents’ evening and talk about her son’s education at The Manchester College. But when the mother of two arrived she was apprehended by security staff in the lobby of the college’s Northenden campus. Mrs Rafique, who is married to double-glazing firm boss Abdul, 40, and has a younger son, Ibrahim, 12, said she felt humiliated. Apprehended: Mrs Rafique was refused entry to The Manchester College by senior staff who told her there was a ban on face coverings She added: ‘I do get abuse every now and again in the street, which I just have to deal with. However, I was very surprised when I was treated this way by the college.’ Business student Awais, 18, who hopes to take an accountancy course at Manchester University, said: ‘It was really embarrassing when they told her she couldn’t come in. We’ve never, ever been told about any rule about what parents can wear.’ A spokesman for The Manchester College said Mrs Rafique’s concerns were being taken ‘very seriously’ following the incident. She added: ‘The Manchester College provides a safe and inclusive environment that fosters development and achievement. We apply a single dress code to all college users, including learners and visitors. ‘At all times we need to be able to identify all individuals easily in order to maintain safety and security, and therefore we ask that faces are clearly visible while indoors. Our dress code is reviewed through our quality improvement group and we will take this situation into account at the next review.’ In March, a Muslim woman was barred from serving on a jury because she refused to remove her niqab. The judge said she could not sit on an attempted murder trial because the niqab concealed her facial expressions. And last year, France imposed a total ban on the full-face veil, introducing fines for anyone who breaks the law. Read more: http://www.dailymail...l#ixzz1yoxNTaNg