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“Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité,” Laïcité? An Analysis of France’s 2004 “Veil Law” and its Effect on French Muslims

Dos Santos Quaresma, Daniela

This thesis aims to examine how the March 15th, 2004 law prohibiting all “ostentatious” religious signs and symbols in public schools in France, despite targeting all religious outfits in its labeling, might lead to a significant negative impact on French Muslim populations. This thesis reaches mixed conclusions. This research finds that there was initial extensive media and political focus on the headscarf brought a strongly negative image of the veil, which constituted a trigger for the establishment of the law. I also discuss the ambiguity of the concept of laïcité allowed for an application of the law that is equal yet “indirectly” unfair to French Muslim schoolgirls, and even affecting Muslim women wearing the veil outside of schools.

Finally, I find that the subjectivity of the concept of “conspicuousness” on which the 2004 law relies allows for unfairness of application. It does not constitute decisive evidence to draw an answer about whether the law directly made Muslims worse off and more likely to be discriminated, yet this same evidence appears to point in that direction. In my conclusion, I draw out policy recommendations based on the issues related with media coverage and the differences in interpretation of the concept of laïcité.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Snyder, Jack Lewis
Degree
B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 4, 2020

Notes

Keywords : France, Muslims, Muslim veil, French law, Hijab, Religious politics, Laïcité, laicité, French Muslims, Muslim communities in Europe, European laws