Anti-religious or anti-Islam? The 'obscure clarity' of the French law on religious signs at school
by Herman T. Salton
International Journal of Arab Culture, Management and Sustainable Development (IJACMSD), Vol. 3, No. 1, 2017

Abstract: In March 2004, the French Parliament prohibited 'the wearing of clothes or symbols through which students conspicuously manifest a religious allegiance'. While much has been written about this law, this article focuses on a neglected question: what, exactly, does it prohibit? By relying on the hitherto untranslated parliamentary debates of 2004, this article shows that the target of the law was not religious symbols in general but Islam and the Muslim veil in particular. The article also questions the apparent simplicity of the statute's vocabulary and suggests that while there can be no doubt that the overwhelming majority of French MPs wanted to ban the Muslim veil, they were also keen on authorising what they saw as more 'acceptable' religious signs (such as Christian crosses). Their aim was to pass a law that was narrow enough to target Islam and the Muslim veil, yet broad enough to appear generally applicable.

Online publication date: Thu, 17-Aug-2017

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