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Oct 21, 2004 2:42 am

Convivencia comes to an end

The hope that Muslims in Alsace would find some accommodation with school authorities has been dashed. Two girls have been expelled from two lycées in Mulhouse (southern Alsace) for wearing veils and bandanas as a sign of religious devotion, and two more cases are pending in Strasbourg (via Talk Left).

Alsace does not operate under the French secular laws that prohibit religion in public schools. There is a special regime that allows religion to be taught in Alsatian schools for Christian denominations and Judaism. Muslims in Alsace had hoped to use that fact to introduce Islamic education into public schools and to circumvent the headscarf that attains the rest of France. School officials in Strasbourg have been lenient applying the law concerning religious dress because of the special circumstances in the région. The headscarf issue is already contentious. These expulsions will bring into question religious education in Alsace, and probably the legality of regionalism in France as well. I guess it is back to France one and indivisible.

Update: The original law against the veil (loi de 15 mars) specified that religious attire was prohibited. The students attempted to meet the law half way, wearing bandanas as a means of keeping their heads covered in lieu of"Muslim veils". Education officials ruled that the bandanas had taken on religious significance because of their constant use and because they cover the entirety of the scalp. The ministry of education considers the bandanas to be an evolution of religious symbols.
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