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Muslims protest at headscarf ban

Women wear headbands in the colors of the French flag during Saturday's protest in Paris.
Women wear headbands in the colors of the French flag during Saturday's protest in Paris.

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PARIS, France (CNN) -- Hundreds of Muslims protested in Paris, London and other cities Saturday against the French government's plan to ban religious symbols -- including headscarves -- from state schools.

The proposed ban, which has not been ratified by the French government, would take effect with the new school year in September and includes Sikh turbans, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crucifixes.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Paris' Place de la Republic, chanting and carrying placards calling on French President Jacques Chirac's government to reject the ban.

In London, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of the French Embassy to oppose the ban on the Muslim hijab, or headscarf.

"The hijab is a freedom, our right," said an organizer of the protest. "It is not a symbol."

She rejected the claims of some people that the hijab is a symbol of women's oppression, saying instead that the law itself would oppress Muslim women.

Men and women protested separately in London, carrying signs proclaiming that "secularism has failed the world" and chanting for "female dignity" and an end to "secular vanity."

Protests were also held in other cities in France and around the world, including Nice and Toulouse, France; Amman, Jordan; Istanbul, Turkey; and Beirut, Lebanon.

Media reports indicated that Sikh populations in France were planning protests later this month.

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