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World leaders call on French president to re-examine religious garb issue.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a letter drafted and coordinated by the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, hundreds of religious leaders, academics, business leaders and other concerned experts have called on President Jacques Chirac of France to reconsider the ban on religious garb in public schools and other public areas.

"We are encouraged to send our concerns to you, Mr. President, out of respect for the unique heritage and traditions of freedom and openness that constituted the pride of France, a country that through history has welcomed diversity and proclaimed tolerance and full respect of the values of human rights," the letter stated. "We agree that fanaticism and obscurantism threaten the delicate fabric of the contemporary world. But in order to counter it, we need not institute more authoritarian and restrictive dispositions of the law. On the contrary, we should rather embrace more broadmindedness and acceptance, more democracy and freedom."

The letter continued: "A policy of secularism should not be promoted in any way as a cover for unintentional intolerance and atheism as a state policy. To avoid such a twist is as necessary as much as it is to prevent the misuse of the concept of freedom that preoccupies you in the address. It is indeed a fine and fragile balance that needs to be maintained. A noble endeavor that would truly make your nation the proud trustee of its rich history of acceptance and noble ideals.

"Mr. President, there is no valid justification for such a law, especially in the circumstances that prompted the present debate over religious extremism and its tragic consequences throughout the world."

Institute on Religion and Public Policy
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Title Annotation:world news
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Mar 1, 2004
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