PARIS – Adding to French Muslim woes, the French minister of education has maintained an earlier ban on hijab for Muslim volunteers in school trips, ignoring a legal advice from France’s Council of State.
"The memo [establishing the ban] remains valid,” Vincent Peillon, the French education minister, was quoted by Reuters on Monday, December 23.
The issue of hijab for French Muslim mothers when accompanying their children on school trips came to light following a 2012 directive by the former minister.
According to the controversial directive, published in March 2012 by then education minister Luc Chatel, a ban on wearing religious symbols in schools was extended to parents on school trips from wearing religious symbols.
Same as 2004 law banning hijab, the directive was seen as targeting Muslim mothers.
Over the past months, the decision was partially enforced, depending on the school.
Therefore, France’s ombudsman, Dominique Baudis, was prompted to ask the Council of State to clarify the situation and whether volunteer in schools were subject to the same rules of religious neutrality as employees.
The council’s answer came as no, allowing Muslim mothers to wear their headscarves when accompanying children on school trips.
Yet, it added that the relevant authority could request that parents not to display overt religious signs, allowing Peillon to maintain hijab ban.
France's council of state has earlier warned that maintaining the hijab ban surpasses the religious neutrality law in the public service.
France is home to a Muslim community of nearly six million, the largest in Europe.
French Muslims have been complaining of restrictions on performing their religious practices.
In 2004, France banned Muslims from wearing hijab, an obligatory code of dress, in public places. Several European countries followed the French example.
France also outlawed the wearing of face-veil in public in 2011.
Earlier in December, a French government report has proposed ending the ban on Muslim headscarves, teaching Arabic and emphasizing the 'Arab-Oriental' dimension of French identity.
The report stressed that France, with Europe's largest Muslim population, should recognize the "Arab-oriental dimension" of its identity.
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