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Rt Hon Jack Straw MP
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH,
Fax: +44 20 7839 2417
Dear Mr. Straw,
Re: French government’s decision to ban religious symbols in schools
I am writing with regard to the ongoing ban on ‘ostentatious religious symbols’ in public schools in France.
This ban is a clear violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as other international documents and standards. It has violated the rights of many religious people from a variety of faith backgrounds.
In particular, this ban constitutes a discriminatory blow to Muslim women forcing them to either violate their religious principles or quite simply stay at home. In point of fact the proposed requirement for Muslim women to remove clothing is a violent abuse of their rights and cannot be sanctioned by any government respecting human rights. In essence, Muslim girls have been given the choice between their right to religious expression and their right to education, employment and livelihood. Since the ban came into force last year, many Muslim schoolgirls have left public schools in France to be educated abroad or at home.
The ban has also lead to increased resentment and hatred of Muslim women who wear the hijab. Examples include public officials refusing to deal with women in hijab, local officials refusing to conduct marriage ceremonies of women in hijab, doctors refusing to treat women in hijab, universities not allowing students in hijab to sit exams, women in hijab being refused the right to vote, and mothers in hijab being prohibited from participating in school excursions. Women in hijab have also become the victims of both anti-Muslim verbal and physical abuse.
This ban is having a disastrous effect on inter-community relations in France and leading to increased alienation and marginalisation of the Muslim community in France.
I urge you to do all that is in your power to work to overturn this ban.
I look forward to hearing from you shortly regarding the immediate action you have taken in this matter.