French Support Veil Ban But French Muslims Don't

A majority of French voters supports a government plan to ban religious symbols from state schools, but the Muslim minority remains opposed to the measure it sees as discriminatory, according to latest opinion polls.

The center-right government was due to approve the law in cabinet Wednesday before presenting it for debate in the National Assembly on Feb. 3. Its parliamentary leaders said they expected a solid majority for the law.

A BVA poll issued Tuesday showed 58 percent of those polled thought the controversial ban, which critics say is not clear enough to be effective, could work in practice.

That came after a CSA poll published Monday showed 69 percent favoring barring Muslim headscarves, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses from public schoolrooms.

The same CSA poll said Muslims, who make up eight percent of France's 60 million population, opposed the law by 53 percent.

But a considerable skepticism remained. The BVA poll showed that 43 percent of all French surveyed thought the government had focused on the veil issue to divert attention from more pressing economic and social problems.

Some 71 percent of Muslims thought the French paid too much attention to the issue of veiled schoolgirls, the CSA poll said. Asked if they would approve of their daughters wearing headscarves, 59 percent said yes.

Sixty-four percent of the Muslim men surveyed said they would also approve of the veil for their wives.

At the same time, 95 percent of all Muslims surveyed said equality of the sexes was important and 93 percent supported France's democratic system.