By Marton Dunai
MISKOLC, Hungary (Reuters) - French actress Juliette Binoche on Friday urged Europeans to let go of their fears of immigrants and respect the freedom of Muslim women to wear the veil or not as they choose.
Europe is grappling with a migration crisis that has brought more than a million mostly Muslim people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa and has highlighted problems about the integration of Muslims already in Europe.
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Binoche, who reached global stardom in films such as "Chocolat" and "The English Patient", for which she won an Academy Award, has often promoted women's rights and spoken out in favor of freedom of expression.
Speaking at a Hungarian film festival where she will receive an award, Binoche told Reuters that feminism called for compassion in the migration crisis, where fear sows the seeds of more conflict.
Women should be free to wear a veil if they chose to, she said.
"I remember I went to Bosnia. I had a meeting with a Bosnian director ... she had the veil on and I asked how come you have the veil. Her husband doesn't want her to have it. Her children don't want her to have it. But to her, it's a kind of freedom to have it," Binoche said.
"It's very much for some women a fashion (statement) and of their indication of saying ... 'I want to dress the way I want, you don't judge me and tell me what to do' ... I think it's as bad from the Western point of view to say 'don't do this'. It's for the women to choose."
She said Europeans must "stop fearing these things, and welcome people who are in big trouble ... it's our obligation to show compassion, to show we're here to help and stop the divorce between the South and the North".
Binoche, whose mother was born in Poland, said the positive welcome immigrants received stay with them for a generation, but hatred hurts in the long run.
(Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Alison Williams)