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Laïcité and the banning of the ‘hijab’ in France

  • Mohammad Mazher Idriss (a1)

In Spring 2004 the French Parliament agreed to the passing of a Bill named ‘Application of the Principle of Secularity’. The new law was brought into effect on 2 September 2004, banning all ‘ostentatious’ religious symbols in state schools and the enactment denies Muslim schoolgirls the right to wear the ‘hijab’ (or the traditional Muslim headscarf) in French public schools. The new enactment has stirred controversy within the Islamic world where many have considered the law to be an example of ‘Islamophobia’ and the West's intolerance towards the religion of Islam. This article aims to understand the historical background and the rationale of the ban on religious symbols in French state schools and seeks to examine some of the main criticisms of the new law.

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1. The words ‘foulard’ (scarf/headscarf) and ‘voile’ (veil) are commonly used in France to describe the types of covering worn by Muslim women. See P Siblot ‘Ah! Qu'en Termes Voilés ces Choses-la Sont Mises’ (1992) 30 Mots: Les Langages du Politique (March) 5 for a discussion of the different meanings attached to these words. In this article, I have used the Arabic word ‘hijab’ because it is a term widely used in English and recognises the particular scarf in question, namely the scarf that covers the hair and neck.

2. See F Bodi ‘Islamophobia is the Main Weapon of Europe's Resurgent Far Right’ (2002) Guardian, 14 May, p 16; V Dodd ‘Muslims Face More Suspicion’ (2002) Guardian, 5 November, p 8; F Ali ‘A Nasty Outbreak of Islamophobia’ (2003) Sunday Telegraph, 21 December, p 18; B Lewis Cultures in Conflict: Christians, Muslims and Jews in the Age of Discovery (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995); J L Esposito The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); W W Montgomery Muslim-Christian Encounters: Perceptions and Misperceptions (London: Routledge, 1991);C Peach and G Glebe ‘Muslim Minorities in Western Europe’ (1995) 18(1) Ethnic and Racial Studies 26.

3. For in-depth discussion on the principle of laïcité, see J Boussinescq La Laïcité Françise (Paris: Le Seuil, 1994); M Barbier La Laïcité (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1995); A G Hargreaves Immigration, ‘Race’ and Ethnicity in Contemporary France (London: Routledge, 1995); A G Hargreaves and M McKinney (eds) Post-Colonial Cultures in France (London: Routledge, 1997); J Baubérot (ed) La Luäcité, Évolution Et Enjeux (Paris: La Documentation Française, 1996); J Costa-Lascoux Les Trois Âges De La Laïcité (Paris: Hachette Livre, 1996); C Durand-Prinborgne La Laïcité (Paris: Dalloz, 1996); G Haarscher La Laïcité (Paris: PUF, 1996); J Baubérot Histoire De La Laïcité Française (Paris: PUF, .2000).

4. K Chadwick ‘Education in Secular France: (Re)defining Laïcité’ (1997) 5(1) Modem and Contemporary France 47 at 48.

5. S Poulter ‘Muslim Headscarves in School: Contrasting Legal Approaches in England and France’ (1997) 17(1) OJLS 43 at 50.

6. Poulter, above n 5, at 50.

7. Conseil d'Ètat Un Siècle De Laïicité-Jurisprudence Et Avis Du 2003, Rapport Public 2004.

8. See the Conseil d'Ëtat case of Julie Marteaux, Dlls Marteaux, CE, No 217–017, 3 May 2000, below n 72.

9. The preamble to the Fourth Republic Constitution of 27 October 1946 proclaimed that: ‘… every human being, without distinction of race, religion or creed, possesses inalienable and sacred rights.’ However, one might argue that this principle is not directly laïcité, but merely neutrality in relation to the religion held by the citizen (as opposed to the creation of a positive liberty).

10. The Fifth Republic Constitution of 4 October 1958. Article 1 explains that: ‘France is an indivisible Republic, secular and socially democratic. It ensures the equality of the law of all citizens without any distinction towards national origin, race or religion. It respects all beliefs.’ Article 2 states that: ‘The language of the Republic shall be French. The national emblem shall be the blue, white and red tricolour flag. The national anthem shall be La Marseillaise. The motto of the Republic shall be “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”. Its principle shall be: government of the people, by the people and for the people.’.

11. R Rémond L'Anticléricalisme en France-De 1815 à Nos Jours (Bruxelles, Collection Complexes: Seuil, 1985) p 114.

12. F Ponteil Histoire de L 'Enseignment en France, 1789–1965 (Paris: Sirey, 1966) pp 230–231, 235.

13. C L Glenn ‘Historical Background to Conflicts over Religion in Public Schools’ (2004) 33 Pro Rege (September) 1 at 4. For response papers, see L Den Boer ‘Historical Background to Conflicts over Religion in Public Schools: A Response’ (2004) 33 Pro Rege (September) 20; P Fessler ‘A Response to Dr. Charles Glenn’ (2004) 33 Pro Rege (September) 23.

14. S A Curtis Educating the Faithful: Religion. Schooling and Society in Nineteenth Century France (Delkalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2000) p 142.

15. T Zeldin Politics and Anger (London: Oxford University Press, 1979) p 262.

16. J Lalouette LA Libre Pensée en France ––– 1848–1940 (Paris: Albin Michel, 1997) p 292.

17. See also C L Glenn and J De Groof Finding the Right Balance: Freedom, Autonomy and Accountability in Education, I and II (Utrecht: Lemma, 2002) pp 252–266.

18. See C Durand-Prinborgne Le Droit de L 'Éducation (Paris: Hachette, 2nd edn, 1998) p 67.

19. Glenn, above n 13, at 5–6.

20. A generic term used for former French colonies in North Africa, like Algeria, is the ‘Maghreb’.

21. See Peach and Glebe, above n 2, at 26; and M D Brown ‘Multiple Meanings of the Hijab in Contemporary France’ in W J F Keenan (ed) Dressed to Impress: Looking the Part (Oxford: Berg, 2001) p 109.

22. S Maier ‘Multicultural Jurisprudence: Muslim Immigrants, Culture and the Law in France and Germany’, paper prepared for the Council of European Scholars Conference, Chicago, IL, 11–13 March 2004, p 2.

23. See A Favell Philosophies of Integration ––– Immigration and the Idea of Citizenship in France and Britain (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2nd edn, 2001); P Higonnet Goodness by Virtue ––– Jacobins During the French Revolution (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1998).

24. S Hazareesingh Political Traditions of Modern France (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994) chs 3 and 4.

25. O Roy ‘Islam in France: Religion, Ethnic Community or Social Ghetto?’ in B Lewis and D Schnapper (eds) Muslims in Europe (London: Pinter Publishers, 1994) p 56.

26. H Entzinger A Future For the Dutch ‘Ethnic Minorities’ Model? in Lewis and Schapper (eds), above n 25, p 20.

27. R Brubaker Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1992) pp 8 and 47.

28. R Koopmans and P Statham ‘Challenging the Liberal Nation-State? Postnationalism, Multiculturalism and the Collective Claims Making of Migrants and Ethnic Minorities in Britain and Germany’ (1999) 105(3) Am J Sociology 652 at 661.

29. D Macey ‘The Hijab and the Republic ––– Headscarves in France’ (2004) 125 Radical Philosophy (May-June) 2 at 4; C L Glenn ‘Hijab and the Limits of Tolerance’ in J De Groof and J Fiers (eds) The Legal Status of Minorities in Education (Belgium: Acco Leuven, 1996).

30. See Articles 1 and 6 of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen 1789; A V Dicey Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (London: MacMillan, 10thedn, 1959) ch 4.

31. J Hollifield and G Ross (eds) Searching for the New France (London: Routledge, 1991) p 114.

32. W Safran ‘State, Nation, National Identity and Citizenship: France as a Test Case’ (1991) 12(3) Int Pol Sc Rev 219 at 221.

33. M D Brown ‘Orientalism and Resistance to Orientalism: Muslim Identities in Contemporary Western Europe’ in S Roseneil and J Seymour (eds) Practising Identities: Power and Resistance (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999) p 188.

34. Brown, above n 21, pp 109–110.

35. See Hargreaves, above n 3, ch 3.

36. See WAR Shadid and P S Koningsveld (eds) The Integration of Islam and Hinduism in Western Europe (Kampen: Kok Pharos Publishing House, 1991) pp 174–187; W A R Shadid and P S Koningsveld Islam in Dutch Society: Current Developments and Future Prospects (Kampen: Kok Pharos Publishing House, 1992) ch 5.

37. Brown, above n 21, p 110.

38. Chadwick, above n 4, at 47; S Pierré-Caps ‘Les “Nouveaux Cultes” et Le Droit Public’ (1990) RDP 1073; G Koubi ‘Droit et Religions: Derives Ou Inconséquences de la Logique de Conciliation’ (1992) RDP 725; B Basdevant-Gaudemet ‘Le Statut Juridique de I'Islam en France’ (1996) RDP 355; J House ‘Muslim Communities in France’ in G Nonneman, T Niblock and B Szajkowski (eds) Muslim Communities in the New Europe (Berkshire: Garnet Publishing, 1996)ch 11;M Feldblum ‘Paradoxes of Ethnic Politics: The Case of Franco-Maghrebis in France’ (1993) 16 Ethnic and Racial Studies 1.

39. E Rude-Antoine ‘Muslim Maghrebian Marriage in France: A Problem for Legal Pluralism’ (1991) 5 Int J Law and the Family 93 at 99–102. For example, the Holy Quran forbids a man from marrying his wet-nurse or any of her daughters, called foster-sisters: Holy Quran. 4:23.

40. Maier, above n 22, p 8.

41. Hargreaves, above n 3, p 209.

42. X Ternisien ‘Seize Representants de L'Islam Ratifient les Principes de M. Chevènement’ (2000) Le Monde, 31 January.

43. This belief is further emphasised by the Law of 25 July 1959, which marked a new phase for freedom of education for schoolchildren. Under the terms of its Decision No 77–87 of 23 November 1977, the Conseil d'Ètat also stipulated that freedom of education was amongst one of the most fundamental principles recognised by the laws of the French Republic.

44. See J Jennings ‘Citizenship, Republicanism and Multiculturalism in Contemporary France’ (2000) 30(4) Br J Political Sc 575.

45. Chadwick, above n 4, at 50.

46. M Evans ‘The Left, Laicité and Islam’ (1991) 45 Modem and Contemporary France 8.

47. See J Windle ‘Schooling, Symbolism and Social Power: The Hijab in Republican France’ (2004) 31 (1) The Australian Educational Researcher 95 at 97.

48. A Corbett ‘Secular, Free and Compulsory’ in A Corbett and B Moon (eds) Education in France ––– Continuity and Change in the Mitterand Years, 1981–1995 (London: Routledge, 1996) p 7.

49. See Windle, above n 41, at 95.

50. Maier, above n 22, p 23.

51. Windle, above n 47, at 97.

52. F Mernissi The Forgotten Queens of Islam (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1997).

53. The Holy Quran, 33:53–59. See also F Mernissi Women and Islam: An Historical and Theological Enquiry (trans Mary Jo Lakeland) (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991). It is to be found in the Sunnah that whenever a Muslim mentions the name of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and salutations are conferred upon him, hence why I have used the words ‘peace be upon him’.

54. The Holy Quran, 24:31.

55. See M Franks ‘Crossing the Borders of Whiteness? White Muslim Women who Wear the Hijab in Britain Today’ (2000) 23(5) Ethnic and Racial Studies 917 at 919.

56. See M Halstead ‘Educating Muslim Minorities: Some Western European Approaches’ in W Tulasiewicz and Ch To (eds) World Religions and Educational Practices (London: Cassell, 1993) ch 10; L Limage ‘Education and Muslim Identity: The Case of France’ (2000) 36(1) Comparative Education 73; M Silverman Deconstructing the Nation: Immigration, Racism, and Citizenship in Modern France (London: Routledge, 1992).

57. See N C Moruzzi ‘A Problem With Headscarves ––– Contemporary Complexities of Political and Social Identity’ (1994) 22 Political Theory (November) 653 at 658 for discussion on the hijab and its connection with personal identity; M Humphreys and A D Brown ‘Dress and Identity: A Turkish Case Study’ (2002) 39(7) J Management Studies 927.

58. M Feldblum Reconstructing Citizenship ––– The Politics of Nationality, Reform and Immigration in Contemporary France (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1999) p 129.

59. Maier, above n 22, p 25.

60. L Jospin ‘Now or Never’ in Corbett and Moon (eds), above n 48, p 76.

61. See also L Brown and J Bell French Administrative Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 4th edn, 1993) p 63; S V Wayland ‘Religious Expression in Public Schools: Kirpans in Canada, Hijab in France (1997) 20(3) Ethnic and Racial Studies 545; J-P William Le Conseil d'État Et La Laïcité: Propos Sur L'Avis Du 27 Novembre 1989’ (1991)41(1) Revue Française de Science Politique 28.

62. CE, No 346–893. 27 November 1989.

63. CE, No 130–394. 2 November 1992. See also P Sabourin ‘Note de Jurisprudence: L'Affaire du Foulard Islamique (CE, 2 Novembre 1992, Kherouaa et Autres)’ (1993) 1(1)RDP 220.

64. CE, No 145–656, 14 March 1994. See also A de Lajartre ‘Note de Jurisprudence: Le Port de Signes Religieux dans les Éstablissments Scolaires (CE, 14 March 1994, Yilmaz)’ (1995) 1(1)RDP 221.

65. Reprinted in Le Monde, 21 September 1994.

66. See S Barbier ‘Affaire du Foulard: La Tension Monte’ (1994) Le Monde, 5 October.

67. Poulter, above n 5, at 61–62.

68. Decided 3 May 1995. See also ‘Conclusions des Commissaires du Gouvernement. Conclusions de M. Martinez (re: Mlle. Aysel Aksirin c. Recteur de l'Académie de Strasbourg)’ (1995) 3(5) RDP 1348.

69. M et Mme Aoukili, CE, No 159–981, 10 March 1995. See also E Steiner ‘The Muslim Scarf and the French Republic’ (1995) 6 KCLJ 147. In Ligue Islamique du Nord et Autres; M et Mme Wissaadane et Autres; M et Mme Jeouit, CE, No 170–207, No 170–208 and No 170–209, 27 November 1996, the Conseil ruled that demonstrations in favour of the hijab by school pupils disturb the normal operation of schools and could therefore justify disciplinary measures. However, the Conseil was of the view that while demonstrations organised by schoolteachers against the headscarf constitute disorder, it could not be charged against the pupils in question. Furthermore, the Conseil viewed that the expression of religious beliefs should not affect teaching activities, the contents of programmes or the obligation to attend lessons and any unjustified absence (eg Muslim schoolgirls being absent from PE or swimming without a doctor's note) would justify a student being excluded from school. In Ministre de lÉducation Nationale, c/M et Mme Has Maskour, CE, No 172–937, 15 January 1997, two Muslim schoolgirls refused to attend PE but the school doctor declared the pupils were capable of undertaking physical education, except for swimming and high-endurance sports. Not having any justifiable reasons for their absences, the pupils were legally excluded.

70. CE, NO 173–103, 2 April 1997.

71. Ministre de lÉducation Nationale, de la Recherche et de la Technologie c M et Mme Aït Ahmad, CE, No 181–486, 20 October 1999. See also Saas, C Muslim Headscarf and Secularism in France’ (2001) 3 European Journal of Migration and Law 453 .

72. Dlls Marteaux, CE, No 217–017, 3 May 2000. See also ‘Education: Une Surveillante de Éstablissement Scolaire ne Doit Pas Porter le Foulard Durant l'Éxercise de Ses Fonctions' (2000) Le Monde, 9 May.

73. The notion behind young Muslim schoolgirls wearing the hijab is the Muslim ‘bearded man’, an image spread through a series of political cartoons under the title ‘Histories of the Veil’ that ran in Le Monde during the first week of 2004. See also L M Liederman ‘Religious Diversity in Schools: The Muslim Headscarf Controversy and Beyond’ (2000) 47(3) Social Compass 367 at 370–371; L M Liederman ‘Pluralism in Education: The Display of Islamic Affiliation in French and British Schools’ (2000) 1l(1) Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 105; C El Hamel ‘Muslim Diaspora in Western Europe: The Islamic Headscarf (Hijab), the Media and Muslim Integration in France’ (2002) 6(3) Citizenship Studies 293.

74. See J Bell ‘Religious Observance in Secular Schools: A French Solution’ (1990) 2 Education and the Law 121; F Gaspard and F Khosrokhavar Le Foulard et La République (Paris: De la Découverte, 1995) chs 4, 5 and 6.

75. Brown, above n 21, p 107.

76. In Windle's article, above n 47, at 106, the author conveniently provides Table 1 establishing the binary oppositions between French Republicanism and Islam. The characteristics and values each promotes can be summarised as follows, demonstrating the Western view of Islam. French Republicanism is (and promotes): Secular; Rational; Citizenship; Freedom; Enlightened; Civilised; Equality; Specific to French nation; Inclusive; Universally Tolerant; Open; Host nation to Islam. Islam, on the other hand, is viewed as (and promotes): Religious; Irrational; Group Membership; Submission; Medieval; Barbaric; Inequality; Alien to French nation; Exclusive; Partial; Intolerant; Closed; Guest of France.

77. Stasi Commission Commission de Reflexion Sur L ‘Application du Principe de Laïcite Dans Ln Republique, available at (last visited 28 February 2005).

78. Assemblée Nationale Sur La Question Du Port Les Signes Religieux L ‘École Rapport No 1275-Tome I lère Partie, available at (last visited 28 February 2005).

79. J Henley ‘French MPs Vote for Veil Ban in State Schools’ (2004) Guardian, 11 February, p 17.

80. Article 10 states that: ‘No one may be disturbed on account of his opinions, even religious ones, as long as the manifestation of such opinions does not interfere with the established Law and Order’.

81. ‘The War of the Headscarves’ (2004) The Economist, 7 February, p 25.

82. Macey, above n 29, at 2.

83. Macey, above n 29, at 3.

84. D Zeidan ‘The Resurgence of Religion’, Doctoral Thesis, University of London, September 2000, p 45. See also D Zeidan The Resurgence of Religion-A Comparative Study of Selected Themes in Christian and Islamic Fundamentalist Discourses (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2003); and D Zeidan ‘The Islamic Fundamentalist View of Life as a Perennial Battle’ (2001) S(4) Middle East Review of International Affairs 26.

85. L Geering Fundamentalism ––– The Challenge to the Secular World (Wellington, NZ: St Andrew's Trust, 2003) ch 1.

86. A similar commandment can be found in the Bible, 1 Corinthians, 11:3–10: ‘But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered, disgraces his head. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered disgraces her head, for it is the same as if she were shaven. For if a woman is not covered, let her be shaven. But if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, ler her cover her head. A man indeed ought not to cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God. But woman is the glory of man. For man was not created for woman, but woman for man. This is why the woman ought to have a sign of authority over her head, because of the angels.’.

87. L Fekete ‘Anti-Muslim Racism and the European Security State’ (2004) 46(1) Race and Class 3. See also M Michèle, A Morning and M Mooney ‘Particular Universalisms: North-African Immigrants Respond to French Racism’ (2002) 25(3) Ethnic and Racial Studies 390.

88. Evans, above n 46. at 8.

89. For example, local campaigns are often against the building of new mosques and a number of local authorities require the design of mosques to be less Islamic, less ‘ostentatious’ and more integrated into European architectural practices. It is estimated that there are 1,500 Muslim meeting places and mosques in France but only a small number have domes or minarets because planning permission is denied on the grounds that such identifying details are unnecessarily ostentatious and inflammatory. See Fekete, above n 87, at 25. See also J Freedman ‘Secularism as a Barrier to Integration’? The French Dilemma (2004) 42(3) International Migration 5.

90. E Todd ‘Les Maghrébins S'Intègrent Trop Vite!’ (1995) La Vie, 19 January, cited in Brown, above n 21, p 112.

91. B Defrance ‘L’ Apprentissage de la Citoyennetéà l'école (1995)8(46–47) Migrations Société 59 at 78. cited in Brown, above n 21, p 115.

92. Glenn, above n 13, at 4.

93. For example, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, have both openly criticised the French ban on headscarves. See also R Gledhill ‘Terror Curbs Alienating Muslims, Says Williams’ (2003) The Times, 22 December, p 4.

94. Windle, above n 47, at 100.

95. See G Felouzis ‘La Ségrégation Ethnique au Collège et Ses Conséquences’ (2003) 44(3) Revue Françise de Sociologie 413.

96. See A Frickey and J-L Primon ‘Jeunes Issus de l’ Immigration: Les Diplômes de l'Enseignement Supérieur ne Garantissent pas un Égal Accès au Marché du Travail (2002) 79 Formation Emploi 31.

97. Macey, above n 29, at 3.

98. See also P Bréchon and S K Mitra ‘The Emergence of an Extreme Right Protest Movement’ (1992) 25(1) Comparative Politics 63; J Lorien, K Citron and S Dumont Le Système Le Pen (Antwerp: EPO, 1986); E Plenel and A Rollat L Effet Le Pen (Paris: La Découverte-Le Monde, 1984): D Bell ‘Parliamentary Democracy in France’ (2004) 57(3) Parliamentary Affairs 533.

99. Henley, above n 79.

100. Bell, above n 98, at 546.

101. M Collins ‘Headscarf Ban’ (2004) Independent, 11 February, p 38.

102. S Abedin and Z Sardar (eds) Muslim Minorities in the West (London: Grey Seal Publications, 1995) p 5.

103. A West et al The French Legal System (London: Butterworths, 2nd edn, 1998) p 43. Note that the Conseil Constitutionnel can be seized only before a bill has been promulgated, and only then by the President, the Prime Minister, and the Presidents of either Houses or by a group of 60 members of the French Senate or the National Assembly. An individual or a group of individuals cannot approach the Conseil Constitutionnel. The significance of this is that Muslim individuals were therefore unable to lodge an application against the new law on the grounds of unconstitutionality to the Conseil Constitutionnel based upon possible human rights infringements.

104. (App No 44774/98) [2004] ELR 520,29 June 2004. See also [2004] 5 EHRLR 590 and (2004) 133(3) EOR 27.

105. [2004] ELR 520 at [107]-[110].

106. (App 16278/90) 74 DR 93. See also, Bulut v Turkey (App 18783/91) unreported.

107. (App 42393/98) unreported.

108. [2004] ELR 520 at [98].

109. D C Decker and M Lloyd ‘Case Comment ––– Leyla Sahin v Turkey [2004] 6 EHRLR 672 at 617.

110. Decker and Lloyd, above n 109, at 677.

111. Brown, above n 21, at 106.

112. Unless such schools, of course, are under contract with the state. See also deWinter, R and Heringa, A W Private Schools and State Intervention’ (1994) 1(3) Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law 316 .

113. Port de Signes ou de Tenues Manifestant une Appartenance Religieuse dans les Écoles, Collèges et Lycées Publics Circulaire No 2004–084 Du 18–5-2004 JO du 22–5-2004, (last visited 28 February 2005). See also J Lichfield ‘Teachers Say Headscarf Ban Will be Unworkable’ (2004) Independent, 23 April, p 24.

114. See C Bremner ‘First Girls Expelled Over Headscarf Ban’ (2004) The Times, 21 October, p 45.

115. (22 October 2004, unreported). See the BBC's report on its website (last visited 28 February 2005).

116. Macey, above n 29, at 6.

117. See A Wadud-Muhsin Qur'an and Woman: Re-Reading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective (Kuala Lumpur: Penerbit Fajar Bakti Sdn Bhd, 1992) p 10; M A Karam Women, Islamisms and the State: Contemporary Feminism in Egypt (Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd, 1998) p 134, although the vast majority of Islamic scholars believe that evidence in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah show that the veil is an integral part of Islamic law.

118. B F Stowasser Women in the Qur'an, Traditions and Interpretations (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994) p 32; F Mernissi ‘Arab Women's Rights and the Muslim State in the Twenty-first Century: Reflections on Islam as Religion and State’ in M Afkhami (ed) Faith and Freedom: Women's Human Rights in the Muslim World (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1995) p 42.

119. See C Wihtol de Wenden ‘Young Women in France: Cultural and Psychological Adjustments’ (1998) 19(1) Political Psychology 133 at 135; Institut National de Statistiques et d'Etudes Economiques (INSEE) Recensement de la Population de 1990: nationaliés, résultats No 197 (Institut National de Statistiques et d'Etudes Economiques, 1990) Table 10.

120. Gaspard and Khosrokhavar, above n 74, ch 3.

121. C Killian ‘The Other Side of the Veil: North African Women in France Respond to the Headscarf Affair’ (2003) 17(4) Gender and Society 567.

122. Killian, above n 121, at 576.

123. Franks, above n 55. pp 925–926.

124. H Afshar Women's Hour, BBC Radio 4, 20 August 1998. The same applies to architectural spaces in buildings. See C Makhlouf Changing Veils: Women and Modernisation in North Yemen (London: Croom Helm, 1979) pp 28–19: A Oakley Subject women (UK: Fontana Paperbacks, 1982) p 332; A L Odeh ‘Post-Colonial Feminism and the Veil: Thinking the Difference’ (1993) 43 Feminist Review 26 (Spring) at 32; Karam, above n 117, p 12.

125. However, Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz would appear to disagree, portraying a number of veiled female characters in his books as ‘oppressed’. His main work is the Cairo Trilogy, finished in 1952, but first published in 1956 and 1957. This trilogy has been compared with Dickens in relation to the way Mahfouz depicts the city where the stories take place, Cairo. See N T Mahfouz The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street (New York: Everyman's Library. 2001).

126. Franks, above n 55, at 921.

127. J L Esposito Islam: The Straight Path (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991) p 156.

128. For an interesting account of the French invasion of Algeria, see F El-Guindi Veil-Modesty, Privacy arid Resistance (Oxford: Berg, 1999). See also Salvatore, A and Amir-Moazami, S Religiöse Diskurstraditionen: Zur Transformation des Islam in Kolonialen, Postkolonialen und Europäischen Öffentlichkeiten’ (2002) 12(3) Berliner Journal Fur Soziologie 309 .

129. D C Gordon Women of Algeria: An Essay on Change (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968) ch 4, in particular pp 3745.

130. J Minces ‘Women in Algeria’ in L Beck and N Keddie (eds) Women in the Muslim World (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978) p 160; F Fanon A Dying Colonialism (trans H Chevalier) (New York: Grove Press, 1967) pp 35–67.

131. El-Guindi, above n 128, p 184.

132. Wihtol de Wenden, above n 119, at 135.

133. See L Ahmed Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992) pp 11–30 and chs 8 and 9; A S Ahmed Discovering Islam: Making Sense of Muslim History and Society (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988); F Mernissi Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society (London: Saqi Books, 2003); N Afza and K Ahmad The Position of Women in Islam (London: Islamic Book Publishers, 1993); H Turabi Women in Islam and Muslim Society (London: Milestone, 1991); F Esack Quran, Liberation and Pluralism: An Islamic Perspective on Interreligious Solidarity Against Oppression (Oxford: One world Publications, 1997) pp 239–251; F Shirazi The Veil Unveiled ––– The Hijab in Modern Culture (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003).

134. However, Franks argues that the headscarf is neither liberating nor oppressive. He concluded that the adoption of Islamic dress was a personal choice for his respondents, and not enforced by family, state or local culture. For him, the situation was far too complex to make a permanent statement about the relative oppression/liberation in the practice of wearing a veil, for the hijab may be experienced as liberating or oppressive by different women, depending on religious belief, class, income and everyday practicalities of ‘living a life’. But for many women living in the West, Franks concluded that they wear the hijab through choice, as an expression of their religious faith, commitment and for the benefits they perceive it to confer. See above n 55, at 918 and 927.

135. A writer on Islamic issues and co-author of a book concerning veiled Muslim women in France and laïcité: D Bouzar and S Kada L'Une Violée, L'Autre Pas (Paris: Albin Michel, 2003).

136. S Bell ‘France Finds its Cover Girl for Veil Battle’ (2004) The Sunday Times, 25 January, p 25.

137. N Walter ‘When the Veil Means Freedom: Respect Women's Choices that are Not Our Own, Even if they Include Wearing the Hijab’ (2004) Guardian, 20 January, p 21.

* I would like to thank Steve Foster for his comments on an earlier draft of this article. I would also like to thank the anonymous referees on the editorial board of Legal Studies for their suggestions on improving this article.

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Legal Studies
  • ISSN: 0261-3875
  • EISSN: 1748-121X
  • URL: /core/journals/legal-studies
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