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Headscarf hysteria.

The issue of Muslim women and girls wearing the headcovering known as hijab has surfaced recently in isolated cases in the United States, but its causing bigger waves in Europe.

In December French President Jacques Chirac proposed banning the wearing of hijab in public schools in order to "protect the secular nature of the state," Reuters reports. Also included in the ban--which is seen primarily as a move to resist Islamic fundamentalism--would be Jewish yarmulke and large Christian crosses, and possibly bandanas and beards seen as religious symbols.

Lhaj Thami Breze, president of the Union of Islamic Organizations of France, told the French newspaper Metro that in order to keep Muslim girls from having to choose between their education and their religion, some would likely transfer to Catholic schools if the ban becomes law. "I know that our Catholic brothers are very tolerant," he said.

The proposed ban also troubles Sikhs, who are a tiny minority. The chunni worn by Sikh girls and women looks similar to hijab, and Sikh students worry that the ban would force them to move to private schools or even to schools outside of France, "That's how you create fundamentalism," said 17-year-old Ranjit Singh. "We don't want that."

Meanwhile, Germans are watching the French situation closely. Last fall Germany's high court ruled headscarves are allowed unless existing legislation outlaws them and that any new laws must treat religions equally. But the Central Committee of German Catholics said in January that hijab should be viewed as a political, not religious, symbol and that symbols that are part of the country's Christian tradition should not be affected by legislation, the Associated Press reports.
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Title Annotation:signs of the times
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Date:Mar 1, 2004
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