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In secular France, MPs wear kippot to National Assembly

In wake of brutal anti-Semitic attack in Marseilles, MP Habib proclaims if Jews stop wearing kippot it will be a 'surrender to terror.'

Cynthia Blank,

French MPs wear kippot to parliament
French MPs wear kippot to parliament

A call earlier this week from the leader of the Jewish community in Marseilles for Jews to stop wearing kippot in public caused a fierce uproar in France, with scores of Frenchman putting on the ritual head covering in a demonstration of solidarity with Jews

French parliamentarians Meir Habib and Claude Goasguen joined the demonstration on Wednesday, proudly adorning kippot at the National Assembly as a show of solidarity after a brutal anti-Semitic stabbing attack in Marseilles on Monday. 

The move was very unusual given France's principle of "secularism" and its prohibition against wearing religious articles in official or state locations, such as schools. 

The law is ambiguous about wearing such garments to the National Assembly, but Habib and Goasguen's move did raise eyebrows. "It's not so accepted," asserted sources in the French parliament. 

Explaining his decision to wear a kippah, Habib stressed that "freedom of religion is a central value in France" and that removing kippot would deliver a "dangerous message [we are] surrendering to terrorism."

"We will not accept a situation where people are afraid to express their Jewish identity," he continued. "What will haredi Jews do? Shave their beards? The problem is more general and concerns all of France." 

"Unfortunately, just as Israel is the first goal of jihad, so is it with the Jewish community in France," Habib warned. "It begins with the Jews and then quickly impairs all of France. We must be careful but to stop wearing religious symbols is not an answer to terror."

Goasguen noted that he even though he is not a Jew, he wore the kippaha as a sign of solidarity, "because I cannot understand or accept that a country like France, a state of human rights, people are killing or trying to kill citizens because of their religion. Religion does not create a murder, a person does."

French President Francois Hollande also weighed in Wednesday on the debate over whether or not French Jews should wear the kippah, calling it "intolerable" for them to have to hide away out of fear of attack.

"It is intolerable that in our country citizens should feel so upset and under assault because of their religious choice that they would conclude that they have to hide," Hollande declared.