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Islamic veil ban in French schools saw Muslim girls get better grades ~Study

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A ban on Islamic veils in French schools saw Muslim girls get better grades and increased the likelihood they would marry someone outside of their religion, a study from the country has found.

A law introduced in 2004 fully outlawed veils from French schools, but they were first asked to ban ‘ostentatious religious signs’ in a 1994 government circular – or advisement.

The ban was met with heavy opposition from religious leaders, who warned that the law would persecute Muslims and lead to fundamentalism, with some arguing it went against France’s constitution.

However, a study in France that compared Muslim women born between 1971-74 (and thus completing school before the 1994 circular) to those born between 1987-90, has found the law may have had some positive impacts.

The findings demonstrated that the 1971-74 group were around 13 per cent likely to graduate from high school than their non-Muslin peers.

For the 1987-90 group of Muslims – who would have attended school with some form of veil ban in place – the gap shrunk to just seven per cent.

Co-author of the study Eric Maurin told The Daily Telegraph: ‘For students who wore the veil, the ban may have had a negative effect on those who were most attached to it, as it may have led them to drop out of school.

“But the ban may also have had a positive effect on students who were forced to wear the veil and on students suffering from stigmatisation and discrimination in school because of it.”

The findings of Maurin, a professor – who works at the Paris School of Economics – and his team were presented at France’s 75th annual policy meeting in early April.

Speaking to the newspaper, he added that the study demonstrated a ‘significant increase in educational attainment amongst the group of Muslim women ‘who attended middle school and reached puberty’ after the 1994 ban.

“This increase clearly coincides with the implementation of the circular: the more years the Muslim group women spent in middle school after the circular the higher their educational attainment,” Maurin told The Telegraph.

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In addition to finding the ban appeared to have a positive impact on Muslim women’s education, the study also found that it improved societal integration.

Evidence, the study says, suggests that ‘the 1994 circular has helped to improve the integration of Muslim group women into French society. In particular, we find that the circular coincided with a very significant increase in the proportion of Muslim group women who marry a person from the non-Muslim group.’

The release of the study’s findings came ahead of the French presidential election, during which the veil has proven yet again to be a point of contention in France’s politics.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, of the National Rally party, has in the past proposed a controversial blanket ban on the wearing of a hijab.

Just last week, she called the veil a “uniform of an ideology, not a religion.”

In addition to schools, it is currently banned in France’s civil service as well, but if elected in April 24, Le Pen’s proposal could see it fully banned in public.

In recent days, however, Le Pen quietly ditched her plan to ban hijabs in an attempt to win over undecided voters ahead of Sunday’s deciding second-round vote.

Her campaign team have removed the policy from Le Pen’s list of ‘priorities’ and her spokesman admitted it is a ‘complex problem’, marking a shift in tone and the latest attempt to convince France that Le Pen has moderated her anti-immigration party into a mainstream force.

The policy, which would see women wearing headscarves handed fines, has faced criticism for its unconstitutionality and also how it would be difficult to police.

“I’m not obstinate,” Le Pen said about playing down the importance of the measure. “I’m very confident, and I think I am going to win.”

Her allies said a planned hijab ban would come ‘little by little’ and be determined by lawmakers, marking a shift in tone less than a week ahead of the final presidential vote.

The far-right core of Le Pen’s programme has come under closer scrutiny as campaigning enters its final days.

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