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Schools in Belgian region ban Muslim headscarves
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - About one fifth of all schools in Belgium's Dutch-speaking Flanders region will ban pupils from wearing Muslim headscarves, the schools said on Friday.
"This decision promotes the feeling of equality and prevents group formation or segregation on the basis of external symbols of life philosophy," said a statement from the schools, which number about 700.
Most schools in Flanders are Catholic.
Two schools in the northern city of Antwerp and nearby Hoboken introduced such a ban at the start of the school year last week, arguing that Muslim girls were being pressured to wear headscarves by their families and peers.
Angry pupils have protested outside the two schools, and one girl filed a complaint in court to contest the ban.
The protests, with banners reading "No headscarves, no pupils" and "Everybody free except us", have been front-page news in Belgium.
One of the schools was vandalised, had slogans sprayed on its walls and its director received a death threat.
France passed a law in 2004 banning pupils from wearing conspicuous signs of their religion at school after a decade of bitter debate about Muslim girls wearing headscarves in class.
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