Episode one examines the legality of France’s 2004 law which forbids, in primary and secondary public schools, the wearing of religious signs or symbols that conspicuously exhibit a religious affiliation. France is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). According to the ICCPR, everyone shall have the right to freedom of religion and the right to manifest one’s religion in public. However, under the ICCPR, freedom of religion is not absolute. A nation may restrict the right to freedom of religion to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
+ In the News
Steven Erlanger, France Enforces Ban on Full-Face Veils in Public, N.Y. Times, April 11, 2012
Alex Felton, Too many immigrants in France says former president Sarkozy, CNN, March 8, 2012
Ekaterina Yahyaoui Krivenko, Public International Law eJournal article looks at the Islamic Veil and its Discontents, University of Montreal - Faculty of Law, January 9, 2012
+ Jury Footage
What the jury is deliberating:
European Court of Human Rights
Dogru v. France, App. No. 27058/05, Eur. Ct. H.R., 2008. In the case of Dogru v. France, French national Ms. Belgin Dogru, lodged a complaint against the French Republic alleging a violation of her right to religious freedom because she was expelled from school for refusing to take off her headscarf for physical education class. Although the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was at issue rather than the ICCPR, the contested article (Article 9 of the ECHR) is identical in substance to Article 18 of the ICCPR. In its decision, the European Court of Human Rights provides an analysis of why it held there had been no violation of Ms. Dogru's right to religious freedom.
Kervanci v. France, App. No. 31645/04 (Eur. Ct. H.R. 2008). Like the claimant in Dogru v. France, Kervanci was expelled from school for refusing to remove her headscarf for physical education class. The European Court of Human Rights found that “the wearing of a veil, such as the Islamic headscarf, was incompatible with sports classes for reasons of health or safety was not unreasonable.” A summary of Kervanci and Dogru is available here.
Melanie Adrian, Laïcité Unveiled: A Case Study in Human Rights, Religion, and Culture in France, 8 HUM. RTS. REV. 102 (2006). Adrian exams laïcité and the history of the debate over the hijab in France. Adrian argues “the exclusion of Muslim norms of religious manifestation are not tolerated because they are perceived to run contrary to the cultural values some French hold dear.”
Murat Akan, Laïcité and Multiculturalism: the Stasi Report in Context, 60 BRITISH J. OF SOC’Y 237 (2009). Akan evaluates the Stasi Report in the context of laïcité and how, in this author’s opinion, the Stasi report promotes division in France (i.e., from “inclusionary laïcité” to “exclusionary laïcité”).
Facing History and Ourselves, Secularity and Religious Identity: The French Headscarf Dilemma, a video of John R. Bowen, Patrick Weil, Jacqueline Bhabha, Sir Keith Ajegbo, and Maleiha Malik explaining the history of laïcite in France.
Mark L. Movsesian, Foreword to Laïcité in Comparative Perspective, 49 J. Cath. Legal Studies (2010)
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life 100th Anniversary of Secularism in France
Muslims in Europe
BBC News, Muslims in Europe: Country Guide. Estimated total population of Muslims living in each country in Europe.
Karima Bennoune, The Law of the Republic Versus the “Law of the Brothers”: A Story of France's Law Banning Religious Symbols in Public Schools (2009), in HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCACY STORIES, Deena Hurwitz et al. eds., 2009. Bennoune contends that the debate around headscarves in schools falls short because it does not address both Muslim fundamentalist pressure on women to cover and gender inequality.
Nusrat Choudhury, From the Stasi Commission to the European Court of Human Rights: l'affaire du foulard and the Challenge of Protecting the Rights of Muslim Girls, 16 COLUM. J. GENDER & L. 199 (2007). Choudhury argues that putting forth an interpretation of the wearing of the headscarf that neatly “maps secularism onto gender equality and religious expression onto gender inequality” creates a dangerous isomorphism and limits the promotion of women’s full equality.
Legislative History of the 2004 French Law on Religious Symbols
Commission de Réflexion sur l'Application du Principe de Laïcité dans la République: Rapport au Président de la République(2003)(French). Former French President Jacques Chirac charged the Stasi Commission with studying the principle of laïcité and its application in France. The 2004 French law on religious symbols was based on this report, commonly known as “The Stasi Report,” compiled by the Stasi Commission.
Robert O’Brien, The Stasi Report: The Report of the Committee of Reflection on the Application of the Principle of Secularity in the Republic (2005). O’Brien provides a complete text of the Stasi Report in French and English. The article provides basis for some of recommendations found in the Stasi Report.
Religious Freedom and International law
Peter Danchin, Suspect Symbols: Value Pluralism as a Theory of Religious Freedom in International Law, 33 YALE J. OF INT’L L. 1 (2008),. Danchin argues there are different ways of thinking about religious freedom, thus, religious freedom under international law and the often times resulting incompatibilities should be viewed from a value pluralism perspective.
The Headscarf Debate
Facing History and Ourselves What Do We Do with a Difference? France and the Debate over Headscarves in Schools (2008). A publication replete with interviews, scholastic articles and personal stories that provides a historical context and a framework for the debate over headscarves in schools.
Mohammad Mazher Idriss, La'icite and the banning of the 'hijab' in France, 25 Legal Stud. 260 (2005),. Idriss provides a historical background and rationale for the French law, as well as, examines some of the criticisms of the law.
French Legal System
Library of Congress Legal Research Guide: France. This Research Guide provides an overview on France’s legal system and sources of law.
JANUARY 13, 2012 COMMENTS (64)
The key word in the phrase "Freedom of Religion" is not Religion but Freedom. And it is not possible at all times for everyone to do what they want without it interfering with someone else's freedom or other societal interests. Therefore, the goal of a society should be to allow as much freedom of thought and expression as possible but without any one person or group of people trampling over everyone else's right to enjoy their similar freedom and rights. Therefore, a society has a right to make reasonable restrictions on a religion or on an expression of that religion as long as it is for a reasonable purpose and limited in time and place or scope. Children go to school to learn. They do not go to school to practice their religion or what their parents or culture have indoctrinated into them. Those that think that these girls are really trying to express their own beliefs by wearing veils and headscarfs are naive. In school, children should be able to study french, english, literature, science, math, and history, including the history of various religions, especially all the major religions and their impact on human history. However, children are not in school to display their religion and schools should not make accomodations for each religion which is where things would end up if you allow headscarves. This would be followed by veils covering the student's face, then it would be that we have to allow prayer rugs and the child to read the bible during class and to pray every ten minutes, etc., etc.. Again, school is for learning and children should be allowed to be children, not the tools for religions to undermine their school environment. The parents of children can make their children wear what they want at home and in church, etc. and if these girls choose to wear the headscarves or veils as adults, then that is their choice, but France's law is correct and should be upheld. It is a reasonable restriction with a proper purpose. These same children can still believe whatever they want about their religion and can wear what they want when they are not at school. What one wears has nothing to do with what one believes. Freedom of religion is not absolute and this is a reasonable restriction as long as it applies equally to all religions. Therefore, no other religion should be allowed to wear similar head wear. This law is a separation of church and state law as it says school is for learning and children should be free to learn without the interference of religion. These same children and their families are not being restricted from their freedom to believe what they want regarding a deity or other spiritual thoughts. Belief is a mental state not dictated by what one is wearing. They are free to go to whatever church, temple or place of worship they choose when they are not in school and to read whatever book or other material they want regarding their faith or any other faith they may want to learn about. However, this is not done at school. Religions are in fact using the "Freedom of Religion" argument as a pretext to insert themselves into schools precisely because they do not want their children to have the freedom to learn as they are afraid that their children will learn secular values and philosophies and thereafter reject their parent's religion. It is about control and fundamentalist religions do not want to ever allow their children to be out of their thought control regime. Not really what we should want children in our public schools or any schools for that matter to have to be subjected to while they are learning to read and write. The French have correctly limited the intrusion of religion into their public schools. It is not about limiting freedom, rather it is about enhancing learning in an environment that is about learning and freedom of thought and where children are able to be children and not pawns for the religion which has been indoctrinated into them. Anyone who thinks that they freely chose their religion is naive or an apologist for religious indoctrination of children. The International Cevenant of Civil and Political Rights should not be so broadly construed as to say that religious expression and the right to express it at all times trumps all other interests and is greater than the right to learn in an environment free from and separate from religion.
Everyone is allowed the freedom NOT to practice or participate in religious acts and expressions at ALL TIMES. Saying that a school system needs to afford people the option of freedom from religious influence is ridiculous. In order to separate education completely from the influence of religion would mean removing all classes and study documents pertaining to the topic of religious guidelines and practice. In case you haven't figured it out that's a good chunk of world-wide history and thus necessary in the curriculum of education facilities which are not specifically bound to a particular religion (i.e. catholic, or any other, religious college) or do not require adherence to its principles. EVERYONE, regardless of creed, must CHOOSE the path they want to follow and (if they so chose) the religion they should practice. To believe one particular article of clothing should/does hold more sway on the viewers formation of moral (or otherwise) opinion than any other is a very biased view. You don't feel extremely pressured when you see someone wearing Moccasins (a native american form of leather soled, decorative footwear), a cross around their neck, a priest's collar, earrings with doves on them, prayer beads, a star necklace, or a symbol of duality like the Yin Yang (all examples of subtle, harmless expression of religious beliefs)do you? To not allow expression of one symbol and do so justly you must not allow any expression of personal beliefs at all. This would be nearly impossible. Even schools which require a uniform are in doing so expressing their own belief systems rules on behavior and presentation of moral standards. No expression allowed = promotion of the exact opposite of religion and cultural/moral beliefs which are in fact ingrained in everyone who has ever been part of a community/group with social standards of any kind. I think that just about everyone alive has been or is now in some kind of societal configuration of this nature. Therefore, to say you are protecting those who wish not to wear the head scarves by not allowing others to wear them if they choose to is not protection at all. To protect someone you strive to prevent anyone harming their person or subjecting them to mental suffering, in essence you protect their right to choose what they want/want not to do, wear, say or feel. If one is removed from a position of being able to chose how to dress (no matter the connotation within the minds of those who choose, based upon their own beliefs, not to dress the same way) one is by definition removed from protection.
The law is clearly discriminatory against girls who want to wear the headscraf; yet it does very little to protect girls who don't want to wear it. They are only protected about 30 hours a week. The rest of the time, the Code of the Brothers is ruling their lives. It's causing public controversy with very little gain in actual human rights. France is incurring a cost, but there is almost no benefit.
I agree there is a discriminatory tone to the law. I also believe that the law is a slippery slope that may cause harm and oppression to other groups with cultural and religious outward representations that set them visually apart from the majority in a society. But the span of hours where a young girl may let her hair blow freely in the wind or swing loosely as she thinks in a classroom, I believe will only make stronger her convictions to conform and return to what she believes is required by her religion or make stronger her will to do whatever is she decides she wants to do. And this slippery slope which may turn butterflies into lions or lions into butterflies, I believe is worth the weight of this law that regrettably or ironically could have a domino effect.
Do sovereign European countries have to always bend when it comes to Muslim religious rights? I don't see any Islamic countries being any more tolerant to Christians. No... they just get their heads chopped off. Political correctness is corrosive, and a successful espionage program to infiltrate the entire Western World. FUK - EM!
The significance of this trial could be seen as the world's right to allow freedom of religion, but to also allow educational and other government run institutions the right to exercise freedom from religion. Nothing in this law stops any citizen from exercising his right to believe in any religion they choose. It does create a guideline that is only in conflict with religion when a particular religious practice may be in conflict with those rules because of an adornment. No law is perfect and this is a perfect example of why this is so. For the greater good of the students who attend public schools, fewer distractions are better than more. Because of the power of the family over the desires of a publicly schooled student to not be stigmatized into wearing religious adornments, it should remain a right in all countries to have a place free from religious adornments or free from the headwear and trappings of any religion as an integral part of all public educational systems. For students of any public school, freedom from religion should hold sway over freedom of religion as the former should never be punished for non-compliance while the latter can always assume their religious identity of choice after they leave the school grounds. As an example, one could say that it is perfectly all right to be religiously unadorned in one's own bathroom or personal place and also not be in conflict with the religion one chooses to follow. The public school is another place where unadornment is proper, as the goal of a school is not to promote one religion over another based on the number of students that may be in the majority. This should not be seen as anti-religion. This should be viewed as justice being blind to one religion over another by endorsing no expressions of any. A public school that is designed for all students to learn a curriculum cannot be unbiased by conforming to any religion over another. For those of you who might say that non-religion is a religion, then you shall never be satisfied as long as anyone is of a different faith than you are. And this will always be an unresolved problem for you. For those whose aim is enlightenment of personal conviction, the freedom to have a public place where religion is not contested and the freedom to experience a place free from religion should be part of a student's life lesson. The freedom to choose what religion one accepts on the way home should always be any citizen's personal choice and the family will always be one's heritage.
The law needs revision to allow those muslim gils who want to wear the head scarf freedom to do so in public school and those who do not want to wear the scarf in school have the right to do so. The law will protect them from any discrimination with education, understanding and tolerance. This new law will empower the girls to make their own decision. This would apply to any other religious expression as well.
I did not know myself that this was a recent addition to the muslim culture until this program. However, I don't think it is acceptable to dismiss someone else's religious expression simply because we deem it as 'too new' to qualify. Some women in the religion/culture embrace that as necessary and some do not. Who are we to tell them it's not really part of their religion if they believe it is?
If France needs to protect the rights of the young women who do not wish to wear veils, (and they should) they should enact an anti-harassment law to address that. This law is absolutely discriminatory. Why shouldn't a person be allowed to wear a symbol of their beliefs simply because they walk into a public school building? The argument is that it is legal under the Int'l covenant because it is necessary to protect public safety and order but fellow students are not in danger because another student wears a headscarf, cross, yarmulke, or anything else. Address the real issue with a relevant law. Don't try to change the Muslim culture with a repressive blanket law.
As a minority (female, gay, and of eastern- based religious beliefs) in the US which currently is experiencing an increase of religiously-based oppressive and discriminating laws upon all by a few fundamentalist Christians I can tell you I support and appreciate this ruling. Unless kept absolutely separate religion -whether it be Judaism Islam Christianity et cetera-plays into politics, and politics plays into our individual freedoms. The argument that this does not address religious and other pressures for more than a few hours at school is true. It does however afford the children who choose not to wear a headscarf yarmulke crucifix and all other forms of religious identification the opportunity to receive an education with one less worry of ostrasization, pressure to conform and bullying to later as adults make their own individual decisions for themselves. This is a crucial human right that must be afforded to everyone, and when given the proper tools such as education those young people are then able to join the ranks of society that as individuals, parents, and policy makers begin to shape and bring about social change as they see fit. This law empowers the youth at public educational institutions to perform their task at hand- learn- without religious influence and pressure. As this law applies to every religious symbol and allows for parents to opt for privatised education it does not discriminate.
It is not a religious question, it is a educational process, outside the school each family do what they want, but in the school, not, is not a religious education. France is a Republic, not a primitive community where rituals, magic and religion decide social and moral issues. The law is not under the ten commandments, or the Genesis, or Atlas Holding earth, or Huitzilopostly controling the Anahuac. The Constitution, chemistry, anathomy, maths, cience, poetry and literature, not heaven and sinners. Not tipping skirts, or David stars, or Christianns in the circus. It is neithe abouth the women body, it is education.
This is the real point, why other children have to feel apart from girls under oppression, in the school, is not a girl matter is a childhood question, the "brothers, got education toom they are free also to talk with other girls, not only the ones with religious "uniform" in Mexico public school have "uniforms", preventing social discrimination, every one weare similar clothes. school is equalizing and educational process
I agree as well, but aside from labeling this as Religious/Political issues, isn't there more pressing "negative social engineering" taking place in most of the Muslim world right now? Human Issues! We are holding court on what is honestly important for women in their beliefs,( possibly, forced beliefs by the brother hood) but what of the increase attacks on Christians in Africa, The Middle East, and Asia since 2003? Is a burqa more important than the killings of innocent people,( Christians) by the same Religion that France, and others have bent over back wards in accommodating their freedom? This is not meant as a negative comment. I have never heard of France, The US, or other Countries implement laws which restrict the wearing of Religious identification in public,( other then schools) yet this is exactly what the Middle East demands, if not of their own views. Not only demands, but will kill to enforce it. All France has done is removed forty four girls from school since the 2004 ruling, while still offering them home schooling. A far cry from murder. This is a HUMAN ISSUE. It is truly sad in seeing the narrow human view turning their collective backs on an issue that affects us all. My apologizes in the missing the "central point" of the trail. But has anyone heard any apologizes from Islamic Community for the above mentioned murders?
I apologize for the late acknowledgement to your comment. It is really about doing something as opposed to nothing, never mind corruption!
@Medave- Words have meaning, and words have consequences (Bourdieu 1991). To discuss it as if the French are racist is disengenuous. When words are uttered outside of the discourse of the setting (Hymes 1965) by people who are "doing" the acting (Austin 1974), then they are moot and trivial. I am not against discussion, but what I am against, is the deliberate attempt to disregard the circumstances by which the people of France have come to the decision to ban the burqa. You, along with others, take it entirely out-of-context, summarily disregard the will of the French people, who live in-the-context, and generalize it to apply to your country of origin as if this phenomenon is coming to your country and you sit here and discuss what you would do in hypothetics as if this ban on the burqa is affecting you and your dispositions in your country. To call it racism is wholesale disregarding the French context. If this phenomenon is in your country, then you will deal with it in your own ways. There is a clash between societal mores and religious views. They don't have to be mutually exclusive, they have to merit common sense, and when there is a problem, the rest of the world calls you a racist. Do NOT be so naive.
caesar, is it your view that public discussion anywhere in the world regarding issues that have arisen elsewhere in the world is to be avoided? Please correct me if I am wrong, but that seems to be what you are saying. I reach this conclusion because you seem to be applying the expression "dabbling into the socio-political affairs of another country" as critical commentary. It does not seem to me that public discussion of issues that have arisen in France (and that could arise again elsewhere in the world -- in our own countries for example) amounts to "dabbling into the socio-political affairs of another country."
exactly my point! this has become another political debate. because this is a fairly new idea, as was pointed out in the trial, (about 10/12yrs), it can't possibly be a question of religious freedom. faith has always been part of people's life with or without public displays. I am sorry, but I think that this is more a political statement than religious freedom!! and I think that france is wise enough to realize that and put an end to it.
I love how Dr. Randall Robinson is making this a world argument by framing it as a "World on Trial" - ooh, ahh... how I love linguistics! When in reality, it is simply Dr. Randall Robinson trying (again) to get a whole slew of supposed academics to dabble into the socio-political affairs of yet another country.
Why does French Society feel compelled to adjudicate on behalf of a particular custom which Islamic Law itself (as it appears presently) considers to be ambiguous? Ambiguity = a preference of custom. Is there a unified view of this subject by the Islamic community within France? No. Until there is a consensus among the respected leaders of the greater Islamic community, head scarves is interpretive and preferential, not essential. Let Islam within the boundaries of French Society (coming to abide there voluntarily, it should be noted) decide the issue themselves first.
It seems to me that the goal should be to support and defend the right of girls to make their own decision regarding whether or not to wear a headscarf or veil. The right to wear the veil should be as fervently defended as the right not to wear it. Otherwise, any rhetoric about France's support of religious freedom and freedom of expression is empty words.