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Muslims Worry About Broader France Headscarf Ban

Most mainstream politicians insist Islam is not being targeted. But a backlash erupted after the Court of Cassation ruled in March that Baby Loup, a private-sector day care operator that gets some state funding, unfairly fired a woman who wore a headscarf to work. The far-right railed at the decision, and even Interior Minister Manuel Valls expressed regret over it.

Wading into the debate in a prime-time TV interview on Thursday, Hollande suggested new limits are needed on Muslim headscarves, saying that "when there is contact with children, in what we call public service of early childhood ... there should be a certain similarity to what exists in (public) school."

"I think the law should get involved," he added.

Many Muslims fear an encroaching Islamophobia, while proponents of such measures insist they counter extremism and act as a rampart to protect France's identity against inequality. Polls show that most French people support at least some restrictions on religious symbols.

France, with an estimated 5 million-6 million Muslims whose families mostly have origins in former French colonies in north Africa, is at the forefront of addressing the challenges that many European countries are facing about how to integrate their sizeable ethnic and religious minorities on a continent where white Christians have dominated the political landscape for centuries.

Bristling against stereotypes in many corners of the West that Muslims are closet radicals or even terrorists, leaders of the convention in Le Bourget preached peace and justice. And after prayers and praise of Islam's Prophet Muhammad, convention leaders led a song in Arabic in a vast meeting hall with thousands in the audience â¿¿ and some up on the dais waved French flags.

In another convention hall, vendors offered items such as headscarves, sweet pastries or T-shirts emblazoned with the saying 'Don't Panic, I'm Muslim,' while mothers pushing strollers and others wandered through the crowd. Nearby, men kneeled in rhythmic unison for afternoon prayers. Several other stalls took up political issues such as support for Palestinians or war-weary Syrians.

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