France prohibits all children from wearing religious symbols such as Muslim headscarves in schools. A government agency has now recommended extending the ban to universities, citing “growing tensions”.
A French government agency responsible for maintaining the country’s secular values has recommended banning university students from wearing religious symbols such as crucifixes, Jewish skullcaps and Muslim headscarves.
In a report, the High Council for Integration (HCI) said it was alarmed by “growing tensions in all sectors of university life” that were undermining the country’s secular values.
In 2004, France passed a law banning school children from wearing religious symbols in all educational establishments, except for universities. The move, the report noted, has been successful in reducing problems arising from religious differences in schools.
The HCI now wants to see the same rules applied to universities.
Tensions, it reported, came from “demands to be excused from attendance for religious reasons, demands for separation of sexes in lectures and seminars, instances of proselytising, disagreements over the curriculum, and the wearing of religious clothes and symbols.”
‘Law needs updating’
The report makes 12 recommendations, chiefly that the 2004 law should be updated to prohibit university students from wearing religious symbols, in particular the Muslim headscarf.
The full report, Le Monde said, is due to be published in the autumn.
Official secularity has a long history in France, dating back to the 1905 Separation of Churches and State law.
While this legislation was intended to reduce the influence of Christianity on French public life, Islam is increasingly influential in France, which has Europe’s biggest Muslim population (estimated at five million).
Following the 2004 law banning religious symbols in schools, former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s government in 2011 banned the wearing of the full face-covering Islamic veil in all public places.