Headscarf and French Civil Servant

A court has ruled that a French civil servant who wore an Islamic headscarf on the job committed a “particularly serious offense” and may face disciplinary action because she violated the separation of church and state. Nadjet ben Abdallah, a 33-year-old work inspector in the central city of Lyon, had argued that a disciplinary committee’s decision to sanction her for wearing the headscarf at work was unjust. The administrative court in Lyon disagreed and in a decision released Friday, the court said the woman was wrong to go to work “wearing an item of clothing that ostentatiously expresses membership in a particular religion.” France, which has a large Muslim community, has long had an emotionally charged debate about wearing headscarves in public schools. Girls who refuse to remove headscarves if asked have triggered strikes by teachers and an outcry from many others, particularly politicians. French President Jacques Chirac has set up a commission to study how France’s secular ethic should be applied, an attempt to satisfy a changing, increasingly diverse France without compromising secularism.