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Date
May 14, 2012

Hidden Symbols

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Should religious symbols like Christian crosses, Jewish yarmulkes, Sikh turbans and Muslim headscarves be banned in public schools?

The law has caused an outcry in the Muslim world, although its opponents have roundly denounced the Iraqi kidnappers’ demands as hurting their cause. The law was initiated when several Muslim students were expelled from school for testing a school policy forbidding the scarves. The students were expelled, and French lawmakers stepped in– enforcing the school’s policy by turning it into law. France has said it will not give in to the kidnappers’ demands to stop the law from going into effect this fall.

Critics of the law charge that the law is discriminatory towards France’s large Muslim population, which is poised to become the majority within a few decades. They say that forbidding students to follow the requirements of their religion is not allowing them freedom of religion, but suppressing it.

Supporters of the ban, which make up 70 percent of the French population, say that forbidding the display of all religious symbols ensures a secular society that allows people of different backgrounds and beliefs to exist peacefully. They consider the law a way to better integrate the large groups of immigrants that have moved to France in the last few years.

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