30 August 2004 -- Paris said today that it will not repeal a ban on the wearing of Muslim head scarves in public schools, despite the demands of hostage takers in Iraq holding two French journalists.
Government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope said the ban on wearing overt religious symbols in French schools "will come into effect." The law, which includes Muslim head coverings and Jewish yarmulkes, is due to be applied nationwide on 1 September, when the new school year begins.
Arabic-language television station Al-Jazeera reported that a group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq kidnapped the two journalists and has given French lawmakers until tonight to overturn the headscarf ban, calling it "an agression on the Islamic religion and personal freedoms."
The group did not specify what it would do if its demands were not met, but it reportedly killed an Italian journalist last week after Rome ignored an ultimatum to withdraw its troops from Iraq.