Letter: Headscarves worn in secular schools

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Sir: The analogy of Jewish people forced to wear the Star of David, used by Conor Cruise O'Brien in his article on Muslim girls wanting to wear headscarves in France ('A French lesson for Muslims,' 10 December), is inappropriate. It would have been more honest for him to have compared the refusal of the French government to allow Muslims to wear distinctive clothing with the Nazis forcing Hassidic Jews to cut their ringlets; both the Islamic headscarf and the Judaic ringlets are considered to be essential parts of the faith, worn by devout believers by choice.

However, whether it is a German Nazi or a French secularist forcing secular values, beliefs and practices on religious people, the result is the same - a denial of the basic human right to practise one's religion unhindered. Contrary to what Mr O'Brien and others would have us believe, secularism is not a neutral stance; it is as much a statement of belief as any religion. Indeed, it is the religion of many people in the world today.

Wearing religious clothes or symbols is not a 'rejection of the secular state'; sincere belief in God alone does that.

Yours faithfully,


London, N13