ACMCU event: “Berets are OK, Headscarves are Not: How French Cultural Norms Distort Religious Freedom” with Rim-Sarah Alouane.
Dec 3rd, 2015 by sfs
December 2, 2015. Relations between the French state and public visibility of religion, particularly Islam, became openly confrontational in the late 1980s with the infamous “headscarf affair” in public schools, where Muslim students were expelled from school for wearing a hijab (Islamic headscarf). With respect to public displays of religion, the initial response of public authorities was a lenient application of laïcité towards the general public but a rigid one towards civil servants. In the 2000s, there were escalating public struggles between public manifestations of religious affiliation and politicians increasingly fighting for a restrictive application of laïcité that regards religious displays as a violation of public order. This increasing politicization of laïcité, where religious freedom was seen as an assault on cultural and republican values, has resulted in a toughening of the legislative speech on religious signs, particularly against Muslims who were seen as more openly violating French cultural norms. While restrictions of expression of religious affiliation of students began in public schools, we are now observing an extension of this control to people in public spaces. This expansion of repressive policies will end badly not only for Muslim minorities in Europe, but also the overall legitimacy and integrity of modern European liberal values.