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France ‘apartheid’

Paris, Oct. 11 (Reuters): The Jewish father of two teenage girls expelled from their high school for wearing traditional Muslim headscarves accused the authorities of “academic apartheid” today and vowed to fight the ban.

School authorities issued the exclusion order early today, after the students refused to comply with a dress code banning “ostentatious” religious symbols in schools. The ruling comes amid an intense debate in France on the place of religious symbols in French schools, largely linked to the growing popularity of headscarves among Muslim girls in the poor suburbs of big cities.

“It’s unfair,” Alma and Lila, still defiantly sporting their headscarves, told LCI television after losing their case despite a stormy six-hour debate with the authorities at Henri-Wallon Lycee in Aubervilliers suburb outside Paris.

Their father Laurent Levy, who describes himself as an “atheist Jew, a man with no religion”, said he was outraged. Levy is separated from the girls’ mother, a non-practising Muslim. The girls converted after meeting their mother’s family, who are practising Muslims.

“If offences have been committed, and I think they have, I will raise these offences with the penal authorities,” Levy, who is a lawyer with the anti-racist MRAP movement, said on LCI. The school had “managed to impose incredible violence on these two young girls and hound them out of the system,” he said in a statement issued later today. “They have chosen academic apartheid,” Levy said, adding that he reserved the right to challenge “this scandalous affair” in the country’s courts.

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