PARIS - The majority of French support imposing tougher laws on the wearing of hijab in the southern European country, a new survey has revealed, putting the Muslim headscarf in the heart of a new controversy, France 24 reported.
The poll by the French marketing and opinion center BVA found that 86 percent of French support introducing legislation that would ban all signs of religious and political affiliation in private schools and nurseries.Eighty-three percent of respondents said they would back enacting a law making the wearing of hijab illegal in all privately-owned businesses.
The results of the survey are expected to trigger a new debate on the Muslim headscarf in France.
The French obsession with the Muslim veil in all its forms is partly rooted in the country's attachment to secularism.
Over the past decade, France has passed a number of controversial laws restricting the wearing of religious symbols in public areas.
In 2004, France banned Muslims from wearing hijab, an obligatory code of dress, in public places. Several European countries followed the French example.
France also outlawed the wearing of face-veil in public in 2011.
France is home to a Muslim minority of six millions, Europe's largest.
In October, a poll by Ifop's opinion department found that almost half of French see Muslims as a threat to their national identity.
The poll also found that most French see Islam is playing too influential role in their society.
In January, another poll by Ipsos and the Jean-Jaures Foundation found that French are growing concerned with immigrants, politicians, globalization and media, with 74 percent believe Islam is not compatible with French society.
The poll comes after France's top court ruled that the dismissal of a Muslim woman from a private nursery school for refusing to remove her hijab amounted to religious discrimination.
Restrictions on religious freedom must be justified by and proportionate to the nature of the work, as well as respond to an essential professional need, the court's ruling read.
The woman, Fatima Afif, was fired from her job at the Baby Loup nursery school more than five years ago on claims of serious misconduct for refusing to remove her hijab.
If these requirements are not met, an employee's dismissal for serious misconduct on the basis that he violated the provisions of this clause constitutes religious discrimination, and therefore must be declared void, the court said.
In a summary of its ruling, the court explained that because Baby Loup was a private institution whose staff did not provide a public service, the French value of secularism did not apply.
It also ordered the nursery school to pay a fine of 2,500 euros to the Muslim woman.
In an unusual move, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls criticized the ruling against the nursery school.
I want to take a break from my function for a few seconds to tell you how much I regret the court's decision on the Baby Loup case today, which has called secularism into question, Valls said during question time at the country's National Assembly in Paris.
Muslims and their customs and traditions have been under the spotlight in recent years in France.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy had adopted a series of measures to restrict Muslim freedoms in an effort to win support of far-right voters.
Under Sarkozy, the French government had held a national debate on the role of Islam in French society.
The French government has also outlawed Muslim street prayers, a sight far-right leader Marine Le Pen likened to the Nazi occupation.Muslims have also complained of restrictions on building mosques to perform their daily prayers.