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Junior High School Expels Teens For Wearing Islamic Scarves

November 6, 1993

NANTUA, France (AP) _ A junior high school expelled four girls Friday for wearing Islamic head scarves, underscoring friction between France’s majority population and its Muslim immigrants.

Jean Damestoy, principal of the Xavier Bichat school, said that the girls could return to school next week if they leave the scarves at home.

Two of the girls, who are of Moroccan origin, are the sisters of a student expelled from the school three years ago for wearing the scarf, known as a hidjab. The other two are Turkish.

Their families say the traditional scarves are a form of religious expression.

About one-quarter of the school’s 760 students, who range from 11 to 14 years in age, are of Muslim backgrounds.

Teachers at the school in Nantua, a small town about 300 miles south of Paris, held a 24-hour strike last month to protest the scarves, which they said were an attempt to proselytize other Muslim students.

Such disputes have become an autumn ritual, heightening tensions over whether France can absorb the 3 million Muslims, most from its former colonies in North Africa, who form the nation’s second-largest religious group after Roman Catholics.

Some French blame the newcomers for crime, joblessness and a sense of cultural unease, and the conservative government has clamped down on immigration.

Interior Minister Charles Pasqua said he had no official comment on the expulsions, but personally approved of them.

″France is a secular country, and we don’t have to accept this kind of thing,″ he said in a television interview. ″Fundamentalism is a danger in all religions, and especially the Muslim religion.″

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