Zawahri Condemns France Veil Ban in Tape-Al Arabiya

Osama bin Laden's right-hand man Ayman al-Zawahri condemned French moves to ban the Muslim veil in government schools in a new tape aired by an Arabic television channel Tuesday.

"This is a new sign of the Crusader hatred which Westerners harbour against Muslims while they boast of freedom, democracy and human rights," the voice, which sounded like previous audio tapes attributed to Zawahri, said on the Dubai-based Al Arabiya.

The French parliament this month voted to ban religious emblems in state schools, a measure Paris says will keep tensions between Muslim and Jewish minorities out of public classrooms, but which Muslims around the world have said targets Islam.

"France is the country of freedom which defends freedom to show the body, and to be immoral and depraved. In France you're free to show yourself but not to dress modestly," said Zawahri, who is thought to be hiding, along with bin Laden, somewhere in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"This is a campaign planned by the Crusader Zionists (Israel supporters) with their agents in Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia and other Islamic countries," Zawahri said, in an attack on Muslim countries which have made moves to secularize their societies along Western lines.

Al Qaeda is blamed for the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities which killed around 3,000 people.