French Prime Minister Jean Castex ruled out a proposal to outlaw religious veils for children as his government seeks to strike a balance between upholding a secular tradition and respecting cultural differences.
The idea of legally stopping minors from wearing a facial covering seen on Muslim women was from a member of Emmanuel Macron’s own centrist party. It comes as the president is up for re-election next year and trying to put through parliament a controversial law to fight combat Islamic extremism.
Castex said targeting minors was not the goal.
An amendment — which would have banned minors from wearing head scarves in public — was rejected on Monday despite the backing of some senior figures in Macron’s party and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
The symbol of the veil, and what it represents in modern French society, runs the risk of damaging Macron at a sensitive time when he’s fighting a pandemic and the lingering outrage from the beheading of a teacher by a terrorist.
Macron Plows Ahead in Fight Against Extremism With Key Law
His response, which included empowering the police and closing mosques suspected of receiving illicit money, opened him up to criticism from countries such as Turkey that France was now targeting Muslims and stirred a debate on tolerance, rule of law and methods to combat extremism.
France banned visible religious signs in schools in 2004 and clothing that covers faces, including burqas and niqabs, in 2010.
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