Mayor’s human rights adviser meets opponents of hijab ban in Paris

On the first anniversary of the ban on the wearing of the Muslim headscarf in French schools, Yasmin Qureshi, the Mayor of London’s human rights adviser, is to visit Paris to meet opponents of the ban.

The visit follows a new poll conducted by MORI for the Greater London Authority which found that 53 percent of Londoners disagree with the ban with just 33 per cent supporting it.

In the same poll 63 percent said that children should be allowed to wear clothing or items that are part of their religion, such as the Muslim headscarf, Christian cross, Jewish skullcap and Sikh turban at school. Only 26 per cent disagreed.

Ms Qureshi will be in Paris to meet with faith, community, and human rights organisations as well as French local government representatives campaigning against the ban.  Among the groups she will be visiting are Collectif des Musulmans de France, United Sikhs and Ligue des Droits de l’Homme.

The purpose of the visit is to understand what impact the legislation has had on community relations and human rights of faith and minority ethnic communities. She will assess whether there have been any repercussions for London or other areas in Europe as a result of the ban and advise the Mayor on how this impacts on his work to promote freedom and equality of all religions in London. Last year the Mayor wrote to French Prime Minister Jean Pierre Rafferin to express his opposition to the French Parliament’s vote on banning the Muslim headscarf and prominent religious symbols from schools in France.

Yasmin Qureshi said: “As a city with such a diverse multicultural population, London has an interest in seeing basic human rights such as the right to freedom of religious expression upheld everywhere, including in the rest of Europe.  Since the introduction of the ban in France, at least 47 girls have been dismissed from schools and hundreds have had their lives affected in other ways.  It is a basic issue of human rights that individuals can observe their religion. It is essential that institutions including schools respect the right of people to wear religious and traditional dress.”

Ken Livingstone said: “I believe that the ban in France is a blow to good community relations throughout Europe, and will inflame tensions between communities and encourage attacks on minority communities.”

GLA press release, 16 March 2005