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France to fight religion in schools

Paris, May 4 (Reuters): French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, faced with a rise in radical Islam in schools, has said his government could give teachers formal legal power to expel students who flaunt their religion.

The wearing of the traditional Muslim headscarf, in particular, triggers heated debate in France, a secular state with a Roman Catholic majority. A survey last week suggested that over a third of people think Muslims should be barred from wearing headscarves, not only in state institutions but any public place.

In comments likely to fuel the debate, Raffarin said teachers would take a hard line with pupils who display religious allegiance in school in defiance of France’s secular tradition. “It must be stated clearly that secular values must be respected,” Raffarin told Europe 1 radio.

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