The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today opposed French President Jacques Chirac’s call for legislation that would ban Islamic head scarves, or hijab, Jewish yarmulkes and large Christian crosses in public schools.

The Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group said the proposed ban would restrict the ability of French Muslims, Jews and Christians to freely exercise their religious beliefs. CAIR said the move would also contravene the French constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

“A nation cannot claim to uphold principles of liberty and equality while denying the religious rights of its citizens,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. “The proposed ban on Muslim, Jewish and Christian religious symbols has very little to do with defending the secular nature of France. A Muslim woman or Jewish man wearing religious attire is not an endorsement of a state religion and I hope that Jewish and Christian leaders worldwide will join our call in opposing this upcoming legislation.”

Awad noted that Christian and Jewish religious leaders in France have also opposed any ban on religious symbols in public schools and hospitals.

CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has 25 regional offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada.


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