We have previously noted with concern the introduction of bans on the wearing of headscarves and other religious dress by Muslim women in France. These bans include on the wearing of the full face-masking dress (the burqa) in all public places in France and a ban on wearing a simple headscarf in all state-run institutions, including schools.
We believe that these bans already challenge the basis of an integrated liberal society where each individual is free to pursue their culture, beliefs and faith free from interference by the state (as long as this does not interfere with the rights of others to do the same). They are dangerous measures as they not only seriously impede the right of women to dress as they choose, but legitimise the state in limiting personal freedom, the potential dangers of which are self-evident.
Our concerns on where this may lead were reinforced by the recent case in a school in Villier-sur-Marne, where a young Muslim girl was segregated from other pupils and made to take her lessons in a separate room because her skirt was deemed ‘too long’ and therefore religious.
Given these concerns, we were pleased by the outcome of the legal case taken in relation to the privately-owned Baby-Loup nursery, which ruled that the ban on wearing headscarves did not apply to commercial premises.
We are saddened by the decision of a range of organisations and political forces in France of the right and the left to appeal this decision and seek a change in the law to extend the ban on wearing headscarves to private businesses.
We support the campaign of Collectif Contre L’Islamophobie (Collective Against Islamophobia) and the many signatories to its letter opposing any extension of the headscarf ban and supporting the court ruling on ‘Baby-Loup’.
If you would like to support this statement please email your name and position (if relevant) to:
Diane Abbott MP
George Galloway MP
Claude Moraes MEP
Ken Livingstone, Former Mayor of London
Billy Hayes, CWU General Secretary
Zita Holborne TUC Race Relations Committee
Azad Ali, Islamic Forum Europe
Mohammed Kozbar, British Muslim Initiative
Varinder Singh, Director, Turban Campaign CIC
Rabbi Lee Wax, London
Myriam Francois-Cerrah, Writer and Journalist
Ava Vidal, Comedian
Jody McIntyre, Journalist and political activist
Aaron Kiely, NUS Black Students Officer
Paul Richards, Creative and Educational Director, Uprise Festival
Sabby Dhalu One Society Many Cultures / Unite Against Fascism
Weyman Bennett, Unite Against Fascism / Love Music Hate Racism
Kevin Ovenden, One Society Many Cultures