France’s National Assembly is expected Tuesday to approve a controversial bill, drafted by President Jacques Chiracâ€™s conservative cabinet, that would ban all conspicuous religious dress, and symbols, in public secondary schools.
And while the prohibition would affect large Christian crosses as well as Jewish skullcaps, the target has been the nation’s growing Muslim population.
The bill’s co-author, Professor Gilles Kepel, told NBC News that the choice was critical for the French government: Either French state schools crack down on religious dress and symbols, or those schools will no longer function as the “learning fieldsâ€™â€™ of a free, French and secular society.
If the government does nothing, “then you will have schools like you have in the United States,” Kepel said, “where the kids of the rich white middle class go to private schools and the public school system is left for the poor and the blacks. What the French are keen to defend is a public school system where there is a social mould, and some sort of integration.â€™â€™0