France expels three more Muslim schoolgirls

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The Independent Online

Three more Muslim schoolgirls in France have been expelled for disregarding a law banning religious insignia from the country's schools.

Three more Muslim schoolgirls in France have been expelled for disregarding a law banning religious insignia from the country's schools.

Five students have beenexpelled under theSecularity Law, which Muslim groups have called a form of discrimination against Islam. Rodolphe Echard, the headmaster of Louis-Armand school in the eastern city of Mulhouse, announced yesterday that a 17-year-old female student, identified as Manele, would be removed from school.

The girl had returned after the summer holidays wearing a headscarf, which she later replaced with a bandanna. In another case in the same city, Tuba, 16, was expelled from the Lavoisier school. A third girl was barred from the Jean Guehenno school in the northern town of Caen on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Dounia and Khouloude, 12-year-olds of Algerian origin, became the first to suffer disciplinary action in accordance with the law. They were told to leave the Jean Mace junior secondary school at Mulhouse after refusing to remove their headcovering. They, too, had replaced their headscarves with bandannas, but their headteachers deemed it an insufficient compromise.

The controversial act, which went into effect at the beginning of the academic year on 2 September, states that schools must attempt to persuade recalcitrant students to remove the items. It is only in cases when the students persist in refusing to comply that they can be expelled. Students can appeal against such a decision.

French education ministry figures put the number of students breaking the law at 72, implying that teachers were able to convince a majority of the more than 600 girls who appeared at school with headscarves to remove them. François Fillon, the Education Minister, called the measure a success.

Education authorities have had an additional reason to be gentle in the way in which they enforce the legislation. The Islamic Army of Iraq, a group that claims to have kidnapped the French journalists Christian Chesnot and Christian Malbrunot and their Syrian driver, who are in their third month of captivity, has demanded the law be abolished. The government refused.

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