French Report: Ban "Conspicious" Religious Symbols from Public Life, Respect "All Spiritual Options"

December 11, 2003

Source: Reuters

On December 11, 2003 Reuters reported, "France should ban Muslim veils, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses from its public schools, but also create new holidays to respect holy days of its minority religions, an official report said on Thursday. The long-awaited report on church-state relations, the center-piece of a national debate over integrating Muslims into French society, advised Paris to stand firm against militant Islamists trying to undermine official secularism. At the same time, it urged traditionally Catholic France to respect 'all spiritual options' in a society becoming ever more diverse through immigration. President Jacques Chirac said he would announce next Wednesday whether he would seek a law banning the veil, now a major issue in France amid concern of failed Muslim integration and growing Islamist influence. He has hinted he backs a ban. 'Secularism essentially means respect for differences,' commission chairman Bernard Stasi told a news conference. But he added: 'We must be lucid -- there are in France some behaviors which cannot be tolerated. There are without any doubt forces in France which are seeking to destabilize the republic and it is time for the republic to react.'"