Secularism gone mad

“A 13-year-old girl is an exemplary pupil in every way; she listens carefully to her teachers, does her homework and is a cheerful member of the class. But in one respect, according to President Jacques Chirac yesterday, her behaviour threatens nothing less than the social peace and national cohesion of the French nation – she insists on wearing a headscarf. All around her, pupils are wearing the kind of outlandish clothes and hairstyles one would expect of teenagers anywhere in Europe. But there is one garment that, the president has declared, challenges the secularity of republican France: the square metre or so of material that covers this girl’s hair.”

Madeleine Bunting in the Guardian, 18 December 2003