Education Ministry Formulates Guidelines for Implementation of Religious Symbols Ban

April 21, 2004


On April 21, 2004 ran an Associated Press article that reported, "A law banning Islamic headscarves in French public schools could add bandanas, seen by some Muslims as a substitute for a full head covering, to the black list of forbidden dress. Or maybe not. A document on implementing the law, made public Wednesday by the Education Ministry, is so imprecise that one leading French daily, Le Figaro, wrote that bandanas would be forbidden while another, Le Monde, said that bandanas might be acceptable. 'The situation risks becoming worse than before,' Philippe Guittet, a union leader for school principals, told Le Monde. The National Teachers' Union joined the criticism, saying that the document 'adds to the confusion.' The text is a working paper to be circulated to schools around France once it is finalized. It spells out how the law, which is to take effect with the new school year in September, will be applied...The document states that signs and apparel that 'lead to an immediate recognition of religious affiliation' are forbidden...Still, the document leaves a small loophole. It states that signs and apparel with no religious significance 'even if they can be worn in certain cases for religious motives' are not forbidden - unless they are worn 'in conditions that would make them a conspicuous sign of religious affiliation.'"