Title: Free to wear whatever they want? The Muslim veil and school symbolism in the law and politics of the USA
Authors: Herman Tutehau Salton
Addresses: Department of International Politics, University of Wales, Room 3.25, Penglais Campus, Aberystwyth, SY23 3FE, UK
Abstract: The 9/11 terrorist attacks were followed by a resurgence of Islamophobia around the world, especially in the USA. Partly as a result of this, religious insignia in general - and the Muslim headscarf in particular - have attracted considerable controversy, especially in relation to school education. But what exactly is their place in US law? Does the US Constitution, and particularly the First Amendment, protect such signs and can it be used as an effective legal tool to defend those students who turn up to class in religious clothing? The issue strikes at the heart of the US attachment to religious freedom but it also touches a raw nerve in post-9/11 America and raises another intriguing question: are all school symbols equal or are some more acceptable than others? This article considers these important issues by reviewing some of the most topical US judicial decisions on school dress codes and religious insignia. It concludes that the right of students to express a religious message is treated differently than the right to express a non-religious one. Furthermore, the article highlights the fact that it is mainly politicians, rather than judges or lawyers, who are the most strenuous defenders of the right to wear religious symbols in school.
Keywords: First Amendment; free speech; school symbolism; school dress codes; 9/11; Muslim veil; Islamophobia; USA; United States; US law; US politics; religious insignia; Muslim headscarf; religious freedom; judicial decisions.
International Journal of Public Law and Policy, 2013 Vol.3 No.3, pp.227 - 262
Received: 08 May 2021
Accepted: 12 May 2021
Published online: 27 May 2013 *