Letter: Headscarves worn in secular schools

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The Independent Online
Sir: Conor Cruise O'Brien in his 'A French lesson for Muslims' (10 December) displays remarkable shallowness.

Mr O'Brien asserts: 'The headscarf is seen as the Muslim equivalent of wearing a visible Catholic symbol, which has always been banned in this particular context. Thus the authorities can claim, not unreasonably, that the headscarf ban involves no specific discrimination against Islam, merely an assertion of the principle that the French state is a secular one, and therefore its schools must be secular.'

Some Muslims, but by no means all, believe that it is an absolute requirement of Islam for girls to wear headscarves. Sikh men are also required by their religion to wear headgear (turban). Christians, on the other hand, do not believe that the wearing of crucifix is essential.

The wearing of headscarves and turbans does not in any way signify the rejection of a secular state - it's just observing a tiny facet of one's religion without causing offence to other religions or to those with no religion.

A secular person cannot reasonably object to others observing their religion unless it causes offence. Unlike wearing short skirts to school, the tradition of wearing headscarves and turbans, I believe, is not considered offensive or obscene by Western secular societies.

Yours sincerely,




10 December