Outcry in France as Principal Steps Down Over Head Scarf Incident

A Paris school principal’s decision to step down after he received online death threats over an incident involving a Muslim student’s head scarf has prompted national outrage this week in France.

Camera crews have descended on the school and the government said it planned to sue the student, accusing her of making false accusations — the latest flashpoint in a debate over French secularism and the treatment of the country’s Muslim minority.

Officials say the incident occurred on Feb. 28 at the Lycée Maurice-Ravel when the school’s principal asked three students to remove their head scarves on school grounds. Two of the students complied, but a third refused, causing an “altercation,” according to the Paris prosecutor’s office.

Since 2004, middle and high school students in France have been barred from wearing “ostentatious” symbols that have a clear religious meaning, like a Catholic cross, a Jewish skullcap or a Muslim head scarf.

The full details of the altercation are unclear. But the incident quickly drew national attention in France, where the perceived encroachment of Islam in the public school system is an extremely sensitive topic.

The country remains deeply scarred by the killing of two schoolteachers by Islamist extremists in recent years.

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