U.S. Muslims meet French ambassador on Hijab ban
Representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) met yesterday with French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte to deliver a letter for French President Jacques Chirac opposing his call to ban Islamic head scarves, or hijab, in public schools.
CAIR's letter read in part:
"Unlike a cross, which is not an obligation for Christians to wear, hijabs, yarmulkes and turbans are not "symbols" that can be removed without abandoning religious responsibilities. Rather, hijab is a religious obligation and for many French women, any ban on a woman's right to freely exercise her faith by wearing hijab may be seen as an indirect prohibition on Islam in France...
The European Convention on Human Rights, a hallmark treaty for the protection of human rights in Europe, states that '...Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion....' The convention continues to say that, 'this right includes, [whether] alone or in a community with others and in public or private...freedom to...manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.' Unfortunately, it seems as though the proposed legislation would be in violation of the Convention as well...
We hope that you will reconsider the proposed legislation, in light of the concerns enumerated above and with a continued goal of strengthening the ideals of democracy, religious freedom, and interfaith harmony in France and around the world."
"Our meeting with the Ambassador was frank and constructive," said Nihad Awad, CAIR executive director. "It marked the beginning of what we hope to be an on-going dialogue with France."
The 90-minute meeting took place at the French embassy in Washington, D.C. Attendees included CAIR officials and a representative from the Muslim Student Association of the United States and Canada (MSA).
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.