A French school last week expelled two 7th grade Muslim girls for wearing headscarves. Other expulsions were being threatened late last week.
The middle schoolers were the first to be expelled since a ban on conspicuous religious symbols took effect at the beginning of the school year, and while two French journalists continued to be held hostage by an Islamic militant group in Iraq.
Christian Chesnot of the daily newspaper Le Figaro and Georges Malbrunot of Radio France International were kidnapped Aug. 19, south of Baghdad, on their way to the Iraqi city of Najaf. The kidnappers originally threatened to kill the pair if France did not repeal the new law.
Even though most French Muslim organizations oppose the measure, they called for girls to comply. A delegation of French Muslim leaders went to Iraq to explain that the prohibition should be treated as an internal policy affair.
Minister of Education Francois Fillon reported that only about 100 girls ended up defying the headscarf ban. Nor did enrollment in private schools increase, as had been expected. Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses are also outlawed, but the measure’s primary focus is Muslim headscarves.
Coverage of cultural understanding and international issues in education is supported in part by the Atlantic Philanthropies.