Saudi Arabia's top religious
authority slams French ban on headscarves
(AFP, January 27,
Saudi Arabia's highest religious authority
called France's plan to pass a law banning the Islamic headscarf in
schools an "infringement on human rights" and said the country was more
concerned with the rights of nudists than Muslims.
"Interfering in the
affairs of Muslims regarding the headscarf is an infringement on the human
rights that they (French) say they are defending," grand mufti Sheikh
Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh said Monday night during a meeting with Saudi academics
in Mecca, west of Saudi Arabia.
The mufti attacked what he saw as
France's double standards, saying the country is more willing to defend
the rights of "nudists" than those individuals wanting to wear the
He also said efforts to relax strict Islamic norms in Saudi
Arabia to allow women to mix more freely with men were "satanic and
The outspoken mufti poured scorn one week ago on women who
appeared unveiled at a recent economic conference in the western port city of
Jeddah, warning of the "dire consequences" of such behaviour.
have long been marginalised in the conservative kingdom and are still
expected to cover from head to toe and many wear in public the so-called
niqab, a stricter version of the headscarf or hijab, which only permits a
slim slit at the eye-level.
French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin
reaffirmed on Sunday his government's determination to pass a law which
bans "signs and clothing which conspicuously display a pupil's religious
affiliation" in public schools.
He said the law would be submitted to
the National Assembly on February 3 after it was backed by President
Jacques Chirac last month with the aim of enforcing France's strict
secularism in the classroom.
The proposed law has provoked an angry
backlash from many Muslims -- both within France's five million- strong
Muslim community and abroad -- who believe they are being singled out for
discrimination, although it would also outlaw the Jewish skullcap and
large Christian crosses.