Rabbi asked to remove kippa at French polling station

A rabbi in the city of Toulouse has filed a complaint for discrimination after a polling clerk told him he would have to remove his kippa, or Jewish skullcap, before voting in local elections.

The incident, indicative of the sometimes complex interpretation of France’s strict secular rules, took place on Sunday during the first round of nationwide polls to elect new local councils.

A polling clerk representing the left-wing Front de Gauche coalition told Toulouse rabbi Avraham Weill to remove his kippa inside the polling station, claiming this was required by French rules on secularism.

French law says it is illegal to wear “ostentatious” religious symbols, including Jewish kippas and Muslim headscarves, inside state schools.

Weill said Sunday’s incident had left him with a “bitter taste”, coming three days after Toulouse hosted commemorations for the victims of Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah, who killed three French soldiers and four members of a Jewish family during a 10-day shooting spree in March 2012.

In a sign of growing tensions, a pregnant Muslim woman was taken to a Toulouse hospital on Tuesday after she was attacked and beaten by an unknown man who insulted her for wearing a veil.

Last month, the Observatory against Islamophobia said more anti-Muslim acts were reported in January than in the whole of 2014.