Following months of fierce debate in France, President Jacques Chirac has called for a law to ban Islamic headscarves and other “conspicuous” religious symbols from schools run by public authorities. A French Protestant leader promptly declared that such a prohibition would not only be hard to enforce but could also strengthen the cause of Islamic extremists.
“I believe the wearing of clothing or signs that conspicuously display religious affiliation must be prohibited from public schools and high schools,” said Chirac on December 17 at the Élysée presidential palace in Paris. “Discreet signs,” such as a small cross or star of David, will be allowed, the French president added. “But conspicuous signs, which are obvious, which immediately indicate religious affiliation, cannot be admitted.” Chirac said he hoped a law banning symbols could be adopted during 2004.