4 Mar 2004

France to be flexible in Wallis and Futuna over religious symbol law

3:31 pm on 4 March 2004

The French education minister, Luc Ferry, has given his assurance that the new law on restricting religious head dress will be applied with what he calls flexibility and intelligence.

The new law aims at maintaining a secular role for schools but has caused some disquiet in French overseas possessions.

Mr Ferry's comment comes after the Wallis and Futuna member of the French senate, Robert Laufoaulu, said he wished to avoid creating tension where none existed.

The minister says in Wallis and Futuna, which are the most Catholic islands in the Pacific, the law will be applied with the same flexibility as in Mayotte, which is an almost exclusively Muslim French island off southern Africa.