France's prime minister says he'd favor a ban on Muslim headscarves in universities, prompting criticism from within his own government.

In an interview with the daily Liberation, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said France should "protect" French Muslims from extremist ideology. He said the headscarf, when worn for political reasons, oppresses women and is not "an object of fashion or consumption like any other."

Citing secular traditions, France banned the face-covering Muslim veil and forbids headscarves and other religious symbols in schools and public buildings. Asked whether to outlaw headscarves in universities, Valls is quoted as saying "it should be done, but there are constitutional rules that make this ban difficult."

Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem and the junior minister for higher education, Thierry Mandon, say they are opposed to a ban.