France’s hijab ban triggers domino effect

A French law banning hijab and religious insignia in state schools, which came into effect last September, has triggered a domino effect, with several ministries seeking to expand its application beyond public schools.

The Health Ministry was the latest to jump on the bandwagon, issuing a written directive on February 2 committing all hospitals to take a “neutral” position in dealing with their patients when it comes to religion. The directive, a copy of which was obtained by, provides for concealing any religious symbol in hospitals to protect the secular nature of the staff.

The ministry’s move is a grim reminder of the sacking of a hijab-garbed nurse in 2002 for refusing to take off the headscarf.

Le Figaro Magazine revealed on its Saturday’s edition that the Higher Learning and Labor ministries mull drafting similar laws banning hijab and religious symbols in state-run institutions and universities.

The magazine said that the minister of labor has already entered into talks with relevant French syndicates to ban hijab in public companies and corporations, especially those in direct touch with the lay people. It added that the minister admitted the difficulties of amending the existing labor laws, but said work contracts can include an item obliging female employees to take off their hijab inside the workplace.

The weekly further disclosed that some universities have banned students from wearing religious symbols inside campuses. A binding draft for all universities is being written to ban religious dress codes, according the magazine.

In January, a police station in Paris did not allow a group of veiled women to attend a party thrown for them for being granted French citizenship.

Islam Online, 21 February 2005