01/17/2004, 00.00
islam - france
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Veil crisis divides mainstream and fundamentalist Islam

Paris (AsiaNews)- Today was supposed to be the World "Hijab" (Islamic Veil) Day. In many French cities, however, people rallied in protest of President Chirac's prohibition of the veil and other "overly ostentatious" religious symbols in schools.

France's Islamic Organizations Union encouraged people to demonstrate "passively" in defense of their "basic freedoms". The issue divided the Islamic world between moderates and extremists.    

Dalil BuBaker, President of the French Council of Muslim Worship (FCMW) holds that "to protest in the name of religion is a dangerous action." In an interview with the Arab weekly, Al-Wasat, he stated he believes any outside inference of the Islamic world is inadmissible in French religious affairs.

"The veil is a religious obligation, but it is up to each person's free will to wear it or not. Judgment will be passed afterward by the Creator," he said. "But if the State decrees a law forbidding the veil, I say, then that this law will be applied. We are French citizens and we apply the French law," he concluded. 

However, the Mufti of Marseilles, Soheib Bencheikh, told the daily Le Parisien that today's protest reflects "the influence of pseudo-religious persons heading the secular status debate is a Trojan horse to give support to such political, obscurantist Islam in France, which does great harm in Arab countries." In speaking about the veil, the Mufti said: "The veil is the wrong road for young girls. Nothing in the Koran makes them show their faith in this way. The veil often leads to disturbing behavior as in the rejection of co-ed schools, gender equality, biology course and physical education."       

Another Imam of Marseilles, Murad Zerfawi, criticized the Mufti of Marseilles's positions and says that that the veil issue was raised "to humiliate Muslims and subdue a minority group."

The veil law, which will be put into effect during the next school year, has become, for Islamic fundamentalists throughout the world, an excuse to wage an anti-West campaign.

In Morocco the new French law was harshly criticized by the fundamentalist daily, Attajdid (The Renewal) which defined Chirac as the "former friend of Islam ( 'friend' for his positions against the war in Iraq), yet who has become its new adversary." The newspaper urged –in the name of 6 Islamic organizations – Moroccan faithful to lead an anti-French protest today, at the "World Veil Day" held in Rabat. Rabat's prefecture, however, forbid such protests "without first giving a specific reason."   

Protests against the veil vote occurred in Indonesia, organized by the Hizb at-Tahrir Organization (Liberation Party) and in Lebanon. Criticisms of France also came from Iran and the Muslim Brothers Movement in Jordan. (PB)
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