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‘[Bauberot, Balibar, gaspard, et al] argue that the notion of laicite used to jusify the law not only misrepresents France’s own history of secularization but also exacerbates the social problems faced by current immigrant populations’ (Wallach Scott 2007:182) Critically Discuss.

‘[Bauberot, Balibar, gaspard, et al] argue that the notion of laicite used to jusify the law not only misrepresents France’s own history of secularization but also exacerbates the social problems faced by current immigrant populations’ (Wallach Scott 2007:182) Critically Discuss.

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Ciara Gilvarry. Originally submitted for CK302 Law and French at University College Cork, with lecturer Dr. Patrick Crowley in the category of Modern Cultural Studies
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Ciara Gilvarry. Originally submitted for CK302 Law and French at University College Cork, with lecturer Dr. Patrick Crowley in the category of Modern Cultural Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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1The 2004 law
“prohibiting pupils from wearing or displaying ‘ostensible’ religious signs in public schools”
(Joppke, 2009:33) has and continues to stir much political and public debate both in France and globally.This controversial ban polarised the French public at the time of its inception but
has been asubject which has divided French society for over 200 years. In 2004, this debate centred on secularismand its role as a founding principle of the French republic on the outside, but, in reality, was centred onthe extent to which French society was prepared to adapt to accommodate immigrant communities inFrance. Geddes (2007:4) considers that many European countries have taken a cautious approach tomigration because of the threat these migrant communities pose to
“their conceptual boundaries *and+ totheir ways of thinking about themselves.”
However, it is interesting to note that many Muslims do notoppose the law. Nevertheless, the effect of such a limit on religious liberty, targeted on one group, hasobviously had enduring and far-reaching consequences, the true nature of which will be unknown forsome time to come.The 2004 law was enacted on the premise that it would ensure that the concept of 
was maintainedin French society. It is clear to see from the debates leading up to the inception of this ban that, theconcept of 
was aggressively manipulated so as to create a valid legal justification for what can onlybe described as an unjustified attack against an immigrant community in minority. One must accept thatwith almost four million Muslims living in France, Islam is the second biggest religion in France (Cesari,2002). Nevertheless, it is apparent, from a retrospective angle, that the debates on the 2004 ban werebased on a distorted form of 
rather than that which had developed since before the Frenchrevolution.The debate began as an angry outrage from immigrant communities reacting to comments made byNicholas Sarkozy and did not abate until a law was passed 11 months later. President Chirac set up theStasi commission in July 2003 and in doing so he declared that
had developed into a foundation of 
“national cohesion”.
Wallach Scott (2007: 115) claims that this was transformed by the Stasi commission
so as to eventually lead to the type of unity which “involved the denying of differences altogether.”
Theconclusions of the Stasi commission lack a certain reality as they seem to rely on a conveniently alteredand adapted version of 
as was conceptualised by Jules Ferry. While Ferry saw the school as a placewhere children learned to be free thinking French citizens, Stasi saw it as a place where students weredevoid of differences so as to create a pseudo mould out of which all citizens would be cast. As WallachScott (2007) comments, critics of the conclusions of the Stasi commission argued that it was preferable toteach children the values of tolerance and diversity instead of instilling in them a goal of assimilation.
TheStasi commission attempted to apply the origins of 
which came from the threat posed by the
2Catholic Church to the situation which was at hand. The minority status of Islam hardly warrantedmeasures more drastic than those used to combat the Catholic Church.There is evidence of 
during the revolution of 1789 and during Napoleon’s rule which
sought toovercome the influence of the Catholic Church. However, Gökariksel and Mitchell (2005) suggest that thenotion of 
only really crystallised during the Third Republic. Because of the immense power enjoyedby the Catholic Church during the
 Ancien Regime
, a move was made towards church-state separation. The1682 Déclaration du Clergé en France is viewed by many as the first step, made by France towards theconcept of 
The combative nature of 
emerged here as the balance of power shifted from astate influenced by the church to a state which had political power over the Catholic Church. Therevolution in 1789 saw a strengthening of the concept of 
La Dé
claration des Droits de l’Homme et 
du Citoyen
conferred a freedom of conscience to society which would not have been previously possiblebecause of the power and standing of the Catholic Church. Wallach-Scott (2007:91) suggests that this
“was intended to secure the allegiance of individuals to the republic”.
The constitution of 1791 asserted that all religions would have equal standing while maintaining theprivileged position of the Catholic Church. The state, in maintaining some control in decision making andpaying the slaries of priests, kept some power over the church. This perceived need for continued controlillustrates the nature of the threat posed by the Catholic Church at the time of the revolution. Because of this, Barbier (1995) argues
that at the time of the revolution, the French state failed to become a “
un état veritable moderne
is not complete without absolute church-state separation.
La Terreur 
” whichfollowed from this period, which Barbier (1995: 31) describes as “
un politique viollement anti-
was designed to target the destruction of the Catholic Church by withdrawing its funding and recognition.However, Barbier clarifies that these were motivated more by a lack of funding than a wish to fulfil thedesire of church-state separation. What resulted was a semi separation between the church and the state
which Barbier (1995:33) describes as “
l’état révolutionnaire [qui] continue la traditionne
fter what Barbier (1995:35) describes as a “
court period de separation.
”, the charter of 1830 reduced the
status once more referring to Catholicism as merely the religion professed by the majority of Frenchcitizens. Barbier (1995) comments that this legislative move was important as it appeared to move theissue of religion from the public to the private sphere.. However, one must note here that despite thisseparation between the French state on the one hand, and the very powerful Catholic Church, on theother, where a long continuing conflict existed, French society did not deem it necessary to impose anysuch laws which resembled that of 2004 banning religious symbols. Granted, Catholicism was the mainreligion practised at the time but, it is clear that the separation of religion into public and private sphereswas not the only factor at play during the inception of the 2004 ban on religious signs.
3Barbier (1995) comments that although the 1901 law was applied liberally, it left the French state in apowerful position in regards to religions. It was viewed, at the time that control over the threat thatreligion posed far outweighed the importance of 
the notion of 
. Thus Barbier (1995:43) describes
this as “
une phase préparatoire qui curure la voie vers la laïcité
The 1905 law is perceived as that whichtruly enacted church-state separation. French society began to become more cohesive and moreconcerned with individual autonomy within an equal society (Gökariksel and Mitchell: 2005). However,
this was still an example of “
laïcité du combat 
” as the Catholic Chu
rch strongly opposed this law. This ledto exceptions being made once again for the Catholic Church which displays the enduring power of thechurch and the influence it had on decisions which should have been far outside of their control. Yetagain, the Catholic Church had succeeded in obstructing an attempt at complete church-state separation.After the Second World War the concept of religion was approached in a completely different manner;the 1958 constitution provided for the equality of all citizens despite their differences and confirmed thatFrance was a
Joppke (2009) speaks of the differentiation often made between ‘combative’ and ‘pluralist’
. He
continues that once the power of the Catholic Church had been overcome by ‘comba
’, society
turned to a more liberal approach which centred on defending the right to religion rather than eradicatingit from society completely. In fact, Joppke (2009) describes the fact that many presidents from the 1950sonwards presented their religion as part of their individual identity publically and that this did not presentany problems. Because of the lack of state influence, religion was given the opportunity to develop moreliberally in the years subsequent to 1958. It seems a shame that, once again, this religious liberty wascurtailed because of the supposed threat presented by one religion which was theoretically placed on anequal footing with other religions. On this theoretical equality of religions it is interesting to consider thepoint which Killian (2003) puts forward: the French school system has accommodated Catholics in servingfish for lunch on Fridays and has accommodated members of the Jewish community in not holdingexaminations on Saturdays. Why then was it impossible to accommodate the wearing of religioussymbols, which is so important to some members of the Islamic religion? The answer to this can only be aresult of the extremism which has come to be associated with Islam.It was in the years subsequent to the Foulard affair that the debate around
focused on therelationship between Islam and the concept of secularism. It is at this point that
laïcité du combat 
 seemed to re-emerge (Joppke, 2009:37. Prior to this debate,
no longer implied “
uniformity of 
thinking and of doctrine but a consensus on pluralism.” (Mesner et al. 2003:142 quoted in Joppke
2009:35). Now with a new challenge to contend with,
was being adapted to tackle the problem of immigrant integration and problems of assimilation. The
Conseil d’Etat 
ruled in the Foulard case that each

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