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French PM slammed for advocating hijab ban in universities

29th Apr 2016

Elham Asaad Buaras

France’s Prime Minister has been criticised by students, Muslim advocacy groups and even his own Government for backing a hijab (headscarf) ban in universities.

Manuel Valls called for an “uncompromising” position in the implementation “of rules of secularism in higher education”.

He also told Liberation that Islam is incompatible with life in France. Astonishingly the Prime Minister’s comments come just weeks after his Government launched the #Everyone UnitedAgainstHate, an anti-hate crime campaign with a warning slogan “it begins with words”.

His comments also come weeks after the country’s Minister of Families, Children, and Women’s Rights, Laurence Rossignol, compared hijab wearing women to the “American Negroes who were for slavery”.

France already has laws banning the wearing of religious symbols in public schools (2004) and a law banning the niqab (face veils) in public in 2011.

France’s Minister of Education also opposed a hijab ban in universities insisting that as adults, students are free to do as they please. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem also asked about the implications a ban would have on foreign students, “Are we going to ban them access because in their culture there’s a certain type of clothing?”

Secretary of State for Higher Education, Thierry Mandon, also said any proposed hijab ban would be unnecessary. “What I hear from all the university presidents is that there is no problem [with headscarves] and that it is not useful to create a problem that does not exist,” said Mandon.

He added that hijab wearing students “are adults, who have the right to keep wearing headscarves, the scarf is not prohibited in French society”.

Even the country’s newly created expert agency the National Observatory of Secularism ruled it was “neither useful nor appropriate” to ban the wearing religious symbols in universities.

The Conférence des Présidents d’université also opposed any ban, “The academic community is for freedoms – religious, political, workers – and is opposed to the ban on headscarves at university.”

In the world of social media students quickly took to tweeter, they trended the hashtag #VraisProblemesUniversite to tell the PM of what they call “the real problems of higher education”.

“Waiting anxiously for the grant because you only have 10 euros left to finish the month, that’s a problem,” said one Twitter user.

Valls was also criticized for saying Islam “is fundamentally incompatible with the republic, democracy, our values, and equality between men and women.”

Spokesman France’s anti-Islamophobia group the Collectif contre l’Islamophobie en France (CCIF), Yasser Louati, accused Valls of “trying to become the Donald Trump of France”.

He also slammed the PM for suggesting Islam is incompatible with France, he urged Valls “to read history books about the tens of thousands of Muslims who died defending this country against Nazi Germany.”

Louati accused Valls of trying to distract the public from the “disastrous social and economic results” and failure of his Government’s policies.

“We are a country that has recently been a target of terrorist attacks, we have record high rates of unemployment, we have institutional crises, and the only thing Mr. Valls is talking about is further excluding a significance portion of the French population,” explained Louati.

He added that Valls had disgraced his office by “fulfilling what terrorists abroad want: targeting Muslims and classifying them as the enemy within.”

Louati warned that Valls is leading the country to a civil war by “turning his own people against each other”.

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