The Muslim Headscarf and French Schools Author(s): Harry Judge Source: American Journal of Education, Vol.
111, No. 1 (Nov., 2004), pp. 1-24 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3566880 Accessed: 20/02/2010 06:30
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The MuslimHeadscarf and FrenchSchools
HARRYJUDGE of University Oxford
The particular circumstancesof French history explain why that nation has adopted an unusually severe policy in attempting to suppressthe wearing in schools of the Muslim headscarf.The long struggle to create French identity and then to resolve the bitter conflicts between traditionalsupportersof the Catholic Church and those of the secular Republic resulted in a distinctive connotation being acquired by a number of commonly used words, of which most Englishtranslationsare misleadinglyinadequate.The events leading from the exclusion of three Muslim girls from a school in 1998 to the passing of the new law of 2004 are analyzed.
The Identity of France In 1996 a much-traveledpope embarkedupon an official visit to France to
celebrate the fifteen-hundredth anniversary of the baptism of Clovis, who in popular and pious ideology is honored as the true founder of that remarkable nation. President Chirac, a center-right president then governing uncomfortably alongside a Socialist prime minister, proposed to honor the event with his presence. But even so astute a politician had not realized just what a storm this apparently harmless gesture would raise (Berge 1996). In the eyes of the outraged critics of the president, his official presence would be worse than an act of apostasy: the head of the Republic-one and indivisible and above all laique(a word for the moment left untranslated)-was presuming to endorse a deeply contested definition of French identity, one which the Revolution and two centuries of bitter wrangling had successfully challenged.1 Earnest anticlericals, resentful of being statistically counted as Catholics simply because they had been baptized in early infancy, lined up in provincial cities to sign certificates of debaptism. It was a scene that Voltaire would have appreciated. The president discreetly withdrew: politics, religion, and French identity reAmerican Journal of Education111 (November 2004) ? 2004 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0195-6744/2004/11101-0001$05.00
by expanding aggressively ened). as they always had been. Why. 2004. inseparableand entangled (Braudel1986. it is asked. the National Assembly approved. He has been a visiting professor at several universities in the United States. France was createdby conflict.the first reading of a brief law that prohibited (after September2004) the wearingby pupilsin any publicschool of any conspicuous sign of religiousaffiliation(AssembleeNationale 2004). by expelling the intrusiveEnglish. the United States. where most of his work and publications have been concerned with teacher education policy. from their heartlandaround Paris.2 Americans.who are well enough aware of the conflictsand contradictions that led to the creation of their own nation. even more curiously. Tallett and Atkin 1991).
HARRYJUDGE was from 1973 to 1988 the directorof the Department of EducationalStudiesat the Universityof Oxfordin the United Kingdom.by war and the suppressionof alternative identities (think only of Brittany or the Lanweakguedoc.where he remains a Fellow of Brasenose College.and language. On February 10. liberal opinion abroad-and especially in what the French themselvesquaintlydescribeas the Anglo-Saxon countries. Catholic orthodoxy and state centralization. are neverthelesspredisposed(as are many British)to regard "France"as a given. Eventuallyit became plausible to assert that the naturalfrontiersof "France"were the Rhine. there would be no great commotion today about whether Muslim schoolgirlsmay or may not cover their hair. This draconianmeasure often puzzles.Muslim Headscarfand FrenchSchools mained. This is why it is necessaryto begin with Clovis. and sometimes offends. and to do so in terms that representan effortby an Englishmanto explain to Americanswhy the French are as the French are. and thereforeto conclude that the hexagonal nation simply emerged from medieval mists without pain and without fuss. and the Pyrenees.in however rudimentarya form.
American Journal of Education
. His more recent writingshave been comparativestudies of the public funding of religiously affiliatedschools in France. the Alps. where regionallanguagesand cultureshad been systematically The successors of Clovis created France.ethnicity. In that prolonged expansion the Catholic Church became an indispensable ally:the extinctionof the Catharsin southwestFrance was only the most notable of many examplesof the allianceof the two powers.by imposing formal suzeraintyand eliminatingfeudal rivals.why has the measure received so much support across so wide a spectrum of public and political opinion? This article proposes to addressthose two puzzles.by 494 votes to 36 with 31 abstentions. and England. Nothing of course could be furtherfrom the truth:if historyhad followedthat imaginedpath. as a natural and inevitable product of geography. should a nation that ranks so high among the champions of individualliberty and human rights think it necessaryor even wise to be so proscriptive? And.
) The creation of France therefore representsan act of will. All the Catholic clergywere to be paid salariesby the state and their churches Cathof maintainedby it. over the next hundred years. that peaceful coexistence (of the kind a pragmatic Napoleon might have favored)was impossible because it NOVEMBER 2004 3
. the prefects-and the management of the commanding heights of the educational system through that equally remarkable institution. not a fact of nature. was entirelyconsistentwith the rule of Paristhroughoutthe provincesthrough its powerful agents.but its institutions proved both durable and resilient. Louis XIV-who systematized the government of his extended dominions.and championed the arts and literature-remains the dominantsymbolof Franceas a greatpolitical (French) and culturalpower.celebratingthat same specNapoleon reaffirmeda strong"Gallican" ificity and autonomy of the French church that FrancisI (the very king who had made the Frenchlanguagesupreme)had endorsedthree centuriesbefore.Evenwhen that domesticated church was temporarilyabolished.Judge were mutuallyreinforcingaspects of the same unifying development. leaving some modest space within the law for Protestantsand Jews. sometimes ruthless. as the administrativeheir of the revolutionarybut centralizing Jacobins.They survivedas. no longer as "the religionof France"). Yet what united the two Frances was more important than what divided them: they agreed that one ideology had to dominate. could be only fleetingly and uncomfortably accommodated. So was the imposition.The officialchurchwas certainlyCatholic without being excessivelyRoman (thatis to say. unefoi. The nationaladministration the nineteenth-century olic Church. wished to reimpose unity and uniformity. When Napoleon.the Universityof France (Basdevant-Gaudemert 1988). Une loi. tradition. in which Protestants. In that process the indivisibilityof France becomes a dogma. banished the Protestants.he signed in 1801 a concordat with Rome ensuring that the French church remained distinctively French as well as traditionallyorthodox in doctrine and definingCatholicism as the religionof "themajorityof Frenchmen"(although. That revolutionmay have nationalizedthe church.foreignor ultramontane). The Napoleonic empire itselfmay have been short-lived.a modestconcession.for example. the pendulum of power rocked back and forth between monarchies and republics. of one law and one language: in 1539 FrancisI by edict made French and not Latin the officiallegal language. but it was stillthe churchof the nation (Ravitch1990).un roiwas the founding axiom of a unified francophoneFrance. Poulat 1987). Catholics and anticlericals. the state promptlysubstitutedthe worship of the supreme being and a new national calendar (Vovelle 1976).between what came to be well characterizedas "the two Frances"(Mauduit 1984. even if its practical implications are changed profoundlyby such upheavals as the Revolution of 1789. (No modern state has devoted so much money and effort to promoting its own language and projectingits own prestigiousimage.
Guizot had more in common with Montesquieuthan withJoan of Arc.France.His able minister. and enlightened diluted the influence of the Catholic establishmenton education by laying solid foundations for a system of elementary schooling and of teacher training that would furnisha viable alternativeto a clericalmonopoly (Nique 1990).trained in state normal schools. with all its teachers lay (and not imbued with auclerical).was to be ruled according to the principlesof secularity(a provisionaland inadequate English version of laicisme) of neutrality. This moderate bourgeois regime was terminated by a tentative lurch toward the Catholic right after the restorationof a Bonaparte as emperor.Jules Ferry. with a king who is rememberedfor his umbrellarather than his sceptre. regardless public elementary schooling became compulsory and free.ending the payment of the clergy by the state and
4 American Journal of Education
.by an emphatic return to the authentic. Remond 1985). and as a consequence the Napoleonic settlementwas legally terminated.Within a decade it was followedby the Revolutionof 1830 and an Orleanistmonarchy.Guizot-Protestant. after a short period of uncertainty. The collapse of the Second Empire in 1870 was followed. and Citizenshipwas to be open to all loyal Frenchmen. Anglophile.The restoration the Bourbonmonarchyin 1815 led within a few yearsto a sharp of tilt toward an exaggeratedform of Clovisism:the coronationof CharlesX in the cathedral at Reims was a spectaculardemonstrationof the resuscitation of a France that was more medieval than the Middle Ages themselves.Muslim Headscarfand FrenchSchools implied partition and segmentation-and France must remain one and indivisible.Specifically. was famously declared to be the enemy (Gaillard 1989. while remaininga deeply Catholic and religiouslyobservantsociety.If either ultramontanesor Freemasonshad known the words "pluralism"and "multiculturalism" would have hated them.Republican tradition. The conflictbetween a traditionalist monarchicalright (rootedin the Catholic Church and the army) and a bourgeois Republican left (linkedto Freereached a climax in one of the most dramasonry and liberal Protestantism) matic seriesof events in Frenchhistory:the Dreyfuscase (Brodin1994. A 1905 law decisively separatedthe churches from the state (or that at least was its intention).Secondary education was reopened to the Catholics and the monopoly of the secular University of France successfullychallenged: the Falloux Law (1850) was to reappear at the center of educational argument in the last decade of the twentieth century (Judge 2002).the authorof many of these reforms. Cahm 1994). they The Napoleonicequilibrium provedunstableas powerfuland opposingforces in the society continuedto battle for the control of the national identity. All the most naked prejudicesand conflictingprinciplesboiled to the surface. of religiouspreferenceor affiliation. and systematically thenticRepublicanprinciples. not but religion. Anticlericalism. became and remains a hero of the laique movement. if still uncertain.
two and forms of Protestantism. was after nearly fifty resentedyears of German occupation. When the Ferry laws had been introduced in the 1880s. important as village timekeepers and emergencysignals(Corbin 1998). to be provided out of school by a minister of the appropriatedenomination:this concession survivestoday in some truncated form. one day a week was set aside for religious education. The French State and Religion Nothing is ever quite so clear in French practice as it in theory appears to be: like the language itself. Merle 1991). On the surface. Unfortunately.Judge handing over churches and other religious buildings-since the Revolution.althoughnot far beneath it.in accommodatingand integratingthe new arrival.the associations cultuelles (Larkin1974.one of them to the ultra-Catholicfeast of the Assumptionon August 15. six are related to Christianfestivals. principlesmay be clear (cequin'est clairn'estpas pas but franfais).the "settlement"of 1905 was by no means as final or as geometricallyclear as the textbooksmisleadinglypretend.When Alsace-Lorraine recoveredby Francein 1918. the French have an admirableand necessarytalent for adapting such precision to the untidinessof everyday life.insistingthat canonical authoritymust rest with the bishops and the hierarchy. and none should receive support from public funds.Recalcitrant Catholics refusedto hand over their propertyand their duties to newfangled associations.the 1905 law was not. such a settlement closely resembled the prohibition of an establishment of religion enshrined in the First Amendment to the U. Constitution. and the terms of the concordat of 1801 are NOVEMBER 2004 5
. effectivelystate property-to legally constitutedreligiousassociations. A naive reading of history might therefore suggest that when a "new" religion was later introduced on a major scale into France (alongside Catholicism. Judaism) there would be no major difficulties. The 1905 law could not in truth be immediately and ruthlesslyapplied: confrontedwith physical resistance by Catholics.the hardheadedClemenceauresolvedthat countingchandeliers (for the law required the prefects to draw up detailed inventoriesof all churchproperty) was not worth the life of a singleFrenchman.S. The governmentwaited until 1924 to arriveat some settlement and then acceptedthat subsidieswould stillbe providedto repairand maintain Catholic churchesbuilt before 1905. even when some of those territorieswere classifiedas an integralpart of an undividedRepublic. Ingenious compromiseswere arrivedat to regulate the use of church bells. applied. The central principlewas that no religion should receive official state recognition. and never has been. Of the presentfifteenofficialpublic holidays in the self-styledsecular Republic.at least in law and financing. The lawswere never appliedfullyin dependentoverseasterritories.
have always been preservedwith state funding in prisons. were given the opportunityof entering into unprecedented contracts. especially. subsidieswere providedfor Catholic schools. submitted to inspection.were abolished.In return they received copious infusionsof public funds.General de Gaulle had other and more immediate preoccupations. for the most part Catholic. the great majority of which were of course Catholic. This short and painful period. His determination. encourageda resurgenceof reactionary and intermittentlyCatholic sentimentand legislation:normal schools. but Catholic power remained a reality. Although this Republic was formally as as lai4ue its predecessor. chaplaincies. Handourtzel 1997). 43.Muslim Headscarfand FrenchSchools thereforestill in force there (Schlick 1975). This short-livedRepublic(theFourth)came to an abruptend with the Algerian war.and so advertiseditself in the preambleto the new constitution. with the state (Judge 2002. hospitals. Such fears of Catholic power were nourished. Swerry 1995).public schools (Bourdoncleand or Moitel 1978. ThroughoutFrance. Guillaume 1989). The 1905 law may have changed much. Halls 1981. until recently regardedas an aberrationfrom rather than an integralpart of the historyof France. Voluntaryreligious schools.perceived as an ever-presentthreat to the purity of Republican belief (Poulat 1987).This crisisled directlyto the formationof the FifthRepublic (Gildea 1996. It was as a postwar reaction against such measuresthat the new constitution adopted in 1945 explicitly and for the first time a definition of the in without sayingpreciselywhat that meant.Massivepetitionsand protestswere mounted against what were denounced as a fundamentalviolation of the letter and the spirit
6 American Journal of Education
. many of them now in seriousfinancialdifficulty(Atkin1991. as well as of displacedFrenchcitizensfearfulof the effects of independence. his prime ministerwho was acting also as the minister of nationaleducation. the army.Jews were excluded from teaching.rammedthroughlegislationthat achievedprecisely that goal. as seminaries of atheist and radical republicanism. Against ferocious oppositionMichel Debre. p.which led to a large-scaleimmigrationinto mainlandFranceof Muslims from North Africa. 149).and to some extentjustified. p. and agreed to follow all the national educationalprograms. and.All these adjustments anomalieswere preserved even in the heated anticlerical atmosphere of 1905 and were significantly reinforcedin the second half of the century when copious state funding was extended to faith-based(and overwhelmingly Catholic)schools. Such schools were allowed to preserve their distinctivecharacter(the much debated caractere propre) provided that they opened their doors to students of all religious affiliationsor of none. by the bitter experience of the Vichy years (Paxton 1970). on a school-by-schoolbasis.in the cause of restoringFrench greatnessand prosperity. Republicas being laique character.to preside over a massive expansion of educationalprovision obliged him to find some way of mobilizing in the service of such an expansion the resourcesof the financiallyembarrassedCatholic schools.
readily matched in the United States and especially in Britain. and only one in its overseas territories. (Bernard 2004. especiallyin the early waves. typicallyin tower blocksthat the police are sometimes forced to treat as no-go areas.but the most carefuland recent analysisyields a nevertheless remarkabletotal of 3. Such disputes were reignited in both 1984 and 1994 when attempts were made to revise the terms of the Debre law-in the first case to make it less generous to the Catholics and in the second to make it more with the treatment so-and illuminate contemporaryMuslim dissatisfaction of their own faith by the French state. As a result of successivewaves of immigration. and bitterly resentful of the ambivalentwelcome they received in the France they had served. Bouamana 1994). fearful of staying at home.Judge of the law of 1905 and as a frontalattackon the secularsanctityof the school of Jules Ferry. Equallystriking is the heavy concentrationof Muslimsin sociallydisadvantaged areas:in some banlieues which "suburbs"is a dangerously misleading translation)the (for concentrationof poor immigrantsrises as high as 80 percent. Many of these new immigrants. Berque 1985).very differentmigrants from North Africa. the controversial the National Front.Islam is now in numericalterms the second religion of France.over one million of whom returned to France-were unlikelyto be welcomingin their attitudetowardother. The French-bornsettlers-the so called pieds noirs. No Muslim school in metropolitan France.The culturaldistancebetween them and the classical. the numbers of other immigrantsmultipliedas prosperityattracted(as in many European countries) impoverishedimmigrantsfrom the Maghreb and other African regions. neutral public school of Ferry-the "School of the Republic"-proved hard to bridge (Benbessa 2004. Muslims constitute 50 percent of the prison de April 2004)." Some estimates of the number of Muslims in France today approach the five million mark. where both the cycle of disadvantageand a widespreadsense of grievNOVEMBER 2004 7
.65 million (Keppel 1991. Over the years. Zarka 2004). was later ruthlesslyto exploit. and (if the regularpractice of religion is regardedas even more relevantthan census estimates)probably "the first. and they fortified a prejudice that being French meant leader of being French in the sense thatJean-Marie le Pen. were harkis-North Africansloyal to the French power. underline the crude and cruel sociological fact that immigrant communities are concentrated in deprived areas. not intended to settle permanently but did. The Gaullist coup of 1958 led not only to this fundamentalmutation in the relationshipbetween public fundingand religiousschools but also marked the end of the bitterlyfought war in Algeria.has yet received comparable financial or legal treatment. A comparable imbalance is population (LeMonde l'Education. Such figures. Of these many had. Many of them live in unappealingcites. reflected in the statisticsof unemployment. again as in several other European examples.
Muslim Headscarfand FrenchSchools ance and frustrationare reinforced. The principal-who later became a member of parliamentfor the party to which Chirac belonged-alleged that they had persistentlyattempted to come to or school. and to attend classes. The Headscarf In 1989 three girls were excluded from the local college lower secondary (the or junior high school in the French system)in Creil. a town of some thirty thousand inhabitants.related only in part to the diverseand nonhierarchical characterof Islam.
8 American Journal of Education
.Ninety percent of imams in France are trained abroad (if at all). and Protestantsas well as by other smaller and more recently significantgroups.wearing a Muslim headscarf(thefoulard hiab). 1991). Currentlypresidedover as recteur by the moderate and influential Dalil Boubakeur. including educational ones.forty miles to the east of Paris (Altschull 1995).Sympatheticobservershave commented on the poor quality of the leadershipavailableto Muslims. The impressive building in the capital (La Grande Mosquee de Paris) is itself an exception that in many ways provesthe rule. This deficiency. Serious official attempts have been made to provide some forum in which Muslim opinion could be shaped and articulated:the 1990 Conseil de Reflexion sur l'Islam en France (CRIF) proved to be no more than a talking shop.to be divisive rather than unifying: the Union des Organisations Islamiques en France (UOIF) is associatedwith the Muslim Brotherhoodwhile the FederationNationale des Musulmansde France (FNMF)has stronglinksto Morocco.While it is obviouslytoo earlyto form a view of CFCM's effectiveness.Nor do Muslimssharethe real advantages (freelyenjoyed by Catholics. and much of the money for the support of Muslim communities and their more expensive and visible mosquescomes from Saudi Arabia. in some cases deliberately.But its authorityis regularlychallengedby other mosques and their local leaders. the new law of 2004.it was establishedin the 1920s with government support and funding and in part as a recognitionof the contributionmade in WorldWar I by loyal troopsfrom North Africa.includingBuddhists)of adequateforms of organizationand representation(Etienne 1989. it did prove to be uneasy and divided in its reaction to the problem with which this article is centrallyconcerned. More recently the active (many critics would prefer hyperactive)Minister of the InteriorNicolas Sarkozyestablishedthe Conseil Francaisdu Culte Musulman (CFCM) to serve as an official intermediarybetween Islam and the state:its to early electionsgave most representation groupsregardedas tendingtoward an extremistposition. magnifies the problems of establishingeffective contact with and support from government agencies of many kinds.Jews. namely. Other groups have proved.
activist Islamic groups had. For the defendersof L'Ecole la Republique hastened into print to reinforce de who many such arguments. The Koran (e.All studentsmust have free access on terms of absoluteequalityto all the resourcesof the school and take part in all its educational programs. students(or their parentsand others acting in their name) refusedto take part in physical education.The religiousbeliefs of school students.and supportedby well-orchesvisibly "different. More than symbolic habits of dresswere involved.But it was unlikely to prove so simple to extend implicitand superficially modest concessionsto a communitythat was large in number (and in that sense threateningto a French sense of identity).It is clear that.while enjoyingthe full protectionof the law.it could now be claimed) of church and state. remained a purely privatematter. and such injunctionshad been interpretedin significantlydiffering ways in various Islamic cultures. the other hand.of no concern to the school or to any public authority. the state and the law had never conceded any general right of members of the Jewish community to absent themselves from school on Saturdaymornings.Judge This he regardedas a violation of the principlethat the Frenchpublic school was an uncompromisingly secular(or laique) institution.any substantialconcession in such a matter would call into question all that had been achieved by the historic defeat of a clerical monopoly. found the teaching of music unacceptable. In many of the cases that now arose. as with the smaller number of Jews who chose to adopt distinctivebut discreetforms of On dress. by the separation(in the interestof both institutions. and objected to many specific elements in the general curriculum. when many lycees (seniorhigh schools) are regularlyin session. from whatever the motives. as in many similarcases that arose over the next decade. 24:30-31 or 33:59) requiredonly that women and girls should be modestlydressedand covered. of the Unsurprisingly. by the Ferry laws and all that had flowed from them.This is what egalite meant. notably the skullcapor kippa.The teaching of human NOVEMBER 2004 9
.g. demanded separate provision for the two sexes for swimming lessons. media were now fully alert to the confrontationin Creil and all that followed it (Debray 2004). resentfuland discontented.. For many such critics the Debre law itself had of course been a dangerous aberration(as they had recently demonstratedin 1984 by an attempt to limit its effects). The headscarfnow in France became for the firsttime an issue relatedto identity." tratedgroupsof activistspresentingthemselvesat the school gates. The duty of regularattendance at a public institutiontakes precedence over any private rights derived from a religious or cultural affiliation.and (in the eyes of its critics)toleration of its wearingin schoolsrepresentedan unacceptablesubordination women. An easy and informal accommodationhad long since been reached with Catholic students who chose to wear an unobtrusive crucifix. to some extent engineeredor magnifiedthis confrontation: issue had not previouslysurfacedin the public domain.
pp. that no such expression of belief may disturb the orderly conduct of a school or any other public institution. But that term of course itself implies a deliberate but arguable intent. as agents of a laiqueRepublic. Moliere. Some. LionelJospin. and it proved administratively and legally treacherous to distinguish between what was ostentatious and that which was merely conspicuous. of course. (History echoes throughout this debate: a public school student may not be taught by a cleric wearing a cassock or by a Catholic sister in her habit. the highest administrative court. affect the duty of each student to be assiduous in attendance and participate fully in all the normal work of the school. 338-42). deeply valued elements in a distinctive French national culture and the hard-won values of the Republic-all seemed to be directly challenged. Montaigne. The exclusion of the offending students now raised more problems than it had attempted to solve (Gaspard and Khosrokhvar 1995). bred in those pervasive traditions and values and who themselves were formally committed to observing an absolute neutrality in their own professional conduct. what then? Swimming may 10 American Journal of Education
. Many teachers. which public law must never invade. Students must be free to hold and to express their own opinions. Administrative decisions could be. culminating in that promulgated in 1994 by the center-right Francois Bayrou. Two of the founding principles of the Republic-liberte and egalit--had always to be carefully balanced. Voltaire. (LeMondede l'Education. and this guaranteed freedom must embrace the right to such expression not only of speech but also in dress or symbols. but by no means all. temporized by referring the matter to the Conseil d'Etat. Wearing a headscarf was clearly not in itself a disruption of the serenity of the school: but if it led to noisy demonstrations. although conspicuous it undoubtedly was. That freedom is not. or ostentatious (Conseil d'Etat 2004. were especially incensed January 2004).) A second principle required. The unions took up the cudgels.Muslim Headscarfand FrenchSchools
reproductive biology was found objectionable. or constitute an act of pressure or proselytization. and loyalties. feminists injected further controversy into an already seething dispute by identifying the headscarf issue with an exploitation and domination of vulnerable Muslim girls and young women by aggressive males. they must be and be seen to be scrupulously neutral. however. emphasized the importance of resolving each conflict on a case-by-case basis and endorsed disapproval of the wearing of any dress or symbol that might be ostentatoire. and many other heroes of French culture were denounced as dangerous heretics. minister of education during the presidency of Francois Mitterrand. and were. preferences. The daily discipline of the school. Successive official circulars of the Ministry of Education. enjoyed by teachers and other public servants for. challenged at every point. The first guaranteed the freedom of conscience of the student. In November 1989 it produced a closely argued opinion that carefully balanced two principles. Even the nose of Cyrano de Bergerac could not properly be described as ostentatious.
and then to apply any appropriate sanctions.litigation.as the 1990s advanced. It was the responsibilityof the school.most disputeswere in fact amicablyresolved.and appeals.But neither hallowed principle.It soon became plain that any generalregulation simply banning the wearing of the hyabwould be reversedby the competent courts. often as a resultof the effectiveinterventionof the officialmediator (in effect.There was ample space for argument.confrontation. NOVEMBER 2004 11
.on what basis could such concessionsthen be denied to French citizens who were Muslims (Vianes 2004)? It is therefore hardly surprisingif the jurisprudencethat across the next decade emerged from the lower administrativecourts and even from the Conseil d'Etat itself proved to be complex. of its principal and its duly withinthe general appointedcouncil.Justas any generalconcession to Jewish students excusing them from attending school on Saturdaycould never be allowed (although individual concessions in appropriatecircumstances might be).but did that render inadmissible a request for separate times for swimming for the two sexes? If a headscarf (never very precisely defined)was unacceptable.Nevertheless.The precedentswere thoughtto be clear.the Republic. Those directlyresponsiblefor the daily managementof secondaryschools.why was it wrong for twenty or one hundred to do so? If other students could wear a crucifix or a kippa. "Liberty"in the French sense protected individualrights.Uncertainties were prolonged by the requirementthat.and abstentionfromany form of proselytization be upheld on appeal to the courts. one and indivisible. in the authentic French tradition. before formal sanctions could be applied. "Equality"ensured that all studentsbe treated in the same manner and have access to the same resourcesand opportunities.while school regulationsrequiringorderlyconduct.anomalies. as articulatedin the classical French provision as it has evolved since 1789. so too would any general prohibition of the wearing of religioussymbolsbe illegal. frameworkof the laws of the Republic.includingexclusion. Many arguedagainst the doctrinethat rulesshouldbe interpretedin the light of local circumstances. allows any space for the rights or privilegesof groups. in and the principalsin the colleges. would not find it the proviseurs the lycees general guidance from the center simple to follow such uncharacteristically and naturallyresentedthe burdennow thrustupon them. tentative. every effort had to be made at reconciliationand compromise. be both clear and universal:in this case they were clearly neither. In France there can be as many differingindividualsas there are citizens-but only one community.to make and applyclearlocal regulations.what about a bandanna?If it was wrong to teach the catechism in public schools.Judge indeed be part of the national curriculum. and sometimescontradictory. would assiduityin attendance. why was it right to "teach"Voltaireor contested doctrines of evolution?If it was acceptablefor one student to wear the hgab. insisting that rules should.
outsideFrance as well as within. namely. the problem had certainly not gone away. These were of course made tragicallymore complex and bitter by the attackon the Twin Towers in New Yorkin September 2001.Chirac and his allies of course needed to recapturevotes from their far-rightcritics.and the levels of media attention.Indeed. with varying degrees of enthusiasm. It is from this political background. All the mainstreamparties.a mere five miles
12 American Journal of Education
.the vocal defenseof the school ofJules Ferry. Teachers. after a long and highly visible dispute.injecting a freshand aggressiveurgencyinto Muslimclaimsfor fairand equal treatment. two sisters were excluded from the lyceein Aubervilliers.In spite of the strenuousand enlightened efforts of mediators. demonstrate yet again that they had no wish to be integratedin Frenchsociety.now united temporarilyto secure the defeat of the extreme right in the second round of the elections:Chirac won the Elysee by default. Reaction to and misinterpretation of that disastermagnifiedthe fears and doubts of many Europeans.Paradoxically.but his position was relativelyisolated. only le Pen and his party were unambiguously against any law: let the Muslimspersistin their defiance. The partiesof the extremerightgrasped every opportunity to inflame islamophobic sentiment and to attract voters from the mainstreampartiesof the center and left. in spite of the apparentprogressrecentlymade.Although France is far from being the only European country to grapple with such problems. its distinctivehistoryand deep-rootedcommitmentto a particularunderstanding of the nature of citizenshipexacerbatessuch universaldifficulties. But at the same time opportunitiesfor exploitation and manipulation.national and international. Underlying the specific issue of dress was the more fundamental problemof the integrationof the Muslimcommunity." Jospin's successorsas leaders of a demoralized Socialist party were unlikely to weaken their position any furtherby appearingto be halfheartedin their advocacyof an emotive left-wingcause. In October 2003. continued to increase.that there emergedthe proposalto deal once and for all by a definitiveand unambiguous law with the persistentproblem of the headscarf. The resultwas a shattering defeat ofJospin (the Socialist presidentialcandidate)and the unanticipated elevation to second place ofJean-Marie le Pen in the polls of the firstround. Superimposedon this tragic developmentwas the shock of the French presidentialelectionsin the springof 2002. and it showed no sign of doing so or of losing its media appeal.Hanifa Cherifi. were weary of being landed with imprecise responsibilitiesand powers: many of the more openly laiqueamong them bitterly resented the continuing challenge to the "School of the Republic.The astute and ambitious Nicolas Sarkozy doubted the wisdom of introducinga new law that might prove to be unenforceable. many thoughtful citizens and commentators are unwilling to accept that there could be in France any recognitionof such distinct communities.Muslim Headscarfand FrenchSchools an ombudsman).and therefore be "sent home" more quickly.
Interviewswith them were made the subjectmatter of a book. "does not have in his class Catholics. culturalism. and Muslims. amplifiedthis theme in a speech in April.Muslim apologists. Parliament appointed a committee to reflect on the problems and their possible solutions. while the president himself nominated the members of a prestigiouscommission. Protestants.and the apostlesof laicisme. a high office roughly equivalent to that of an omnicompetent national ombudsman. those concerned with urban planning and the provisionof housing. but none challenged the basis of the doctrine that Raffarin had recently endorsed and that no respectablepolitician wished or dared to challenge."he declaimed. The special status of the three NOVEMBER 2004 13
. a Berber region in Algeria not noted for its commitment to tradide tionally conservativeforms of Islam (LeMonde l'Education. In districtswhere (as in some parts of Brittany)the only school providedwas in fact Catholic. Levy The New Law of 2004 The year 2003 was a decisive one in the campaign to assert the integrityof the school of the Republic and to mobilize resistanceto what was increasingly representedand resented as a pernicious drift toward fragmentation. for example. April 30. an alternative and fully public school should be opened. and offending anomalies removed. Jews. a lawyer and a communist." Jean-PierreRaffarin. February2004.Their father is Jewish by origin. in December 2003 formulated a number of recommendareport published tions. the prime ministerchosen by Chirac.Judge from the center of Paris. He was the mediator of the Republic. He has first and foremostFrenchyoungsters. 2004). It recognized that underlying the tensions between Muslims and the Republic there lurked a legitimate sense of grievance and economic deprivation: this was a problem that needed to be addressedby.The memberswere carefullychosen to represent a variety of views. all of whom are members of the school of the Republic"(LeFigaro.multiand communautarisme. Anything that compromisedthe neutral character of the French state in matters of religion must be detected and condemned.The commissionwas constitutedto addressall the complex issues related to the principles of laicit. "The teacher.But it was the issue of the headscarfthat was pounced on The by the media. politicians. and its conclusions covered a wide range of subjects. Their own backgroundindicates something of the complexitiesof the issues and of the dangers of stereotypingthose who became involved in the successive affairs. This suggestion seems as vague as it is benign. and Levy 2004).Anglo-Saxon "liberalism. Their mother does not wear the headscarfand is a teacher from the Kabylia.with Bernard Stasi as its chairman.
Half of them are currentlyrelatedto Christian. made to present the new law and (effectivefrom September 2004) as neutral and nondiscriminatory. The presidentmade clear that while the inclusion of Dalil Boubakeurdid indeed convey a message of openness and inclusion. somewhat unconvincingly. and is being.The necessary legislationwas speedily adopted by Parliament. Francerejects"(LeFigaro. above all as not being aimed specificallyat Muslims. 2003). a small crucifixshould all be allowed as legitimateexpressionsof belief. the list of public holidays should be revised.should be made voluntary. December 12.it has no force in the state-fundedprivate.The Star of David.it need not be fundamentallymodified.January 2004). For France as a whole. Henri Pena-Ruiz. the Hand of Fatima.Religiousinstruction insteadof being a part of the public curriculum fromwhich specificexemptions had to be requested. But the commissionneverthelessconcluded. The displayby pupils of any conspicuous religious symbols was deemed to be inherently unacceptable. The reactions of those responsiblefor the Catholic system were muted and ambivalent:while this exemptionrepresentedan importantfreedomthat they would obviouslynot wish to lose. These proposed regulations should be applieduniformlyin all public schoolsbut not in the "private" (and of course predominantlyCatholic) schools under contract to the state (Commission de Reflexion 2003. that establishedby Napoleon's concordat)was popularwith inhabitants. departmentsof Alsace-Moselleshouldbe reviewed. that since the current special status (in substance. schools. (while regrettingit) appealed to Muslims to observe the new law and not to demonstrateagainst it.indeed Catholic.The presidentstroveto convey a message of Republican inclusivenessby inviting the rector of the Paris Mosque to join the leaders of the other principal faiths in the traditional exchange of New Year greetings at the Elysee.Muslim Headscarfand FrenchSchools there. Every effort was.and one for aJewish. While the new law applies to all public schools. Although other Muslim leaders predictablydisagreed were by French standardsrelativelysmall with him. Le Monde. PresidentChirac not only welcomed it but announced that a law on the wearing of conspicuoussymbolswould be promptlyintroduced. April 23. 2004).Islam should be added to the list of religions to be taught in the public schools in this special region.festivals.and the Muslim hiab formally banned.theJewish kippa. Boubakeur 7. and mostly Catholic.One should now be set aside for an Islamic festival. but a large crucifix. there was anxiety lest these schoolswere perceived
14 American Journal of Education
. The general sense was of an uneasy truce.To the public dismay of one of its influentialmembers. it must not be misinterpretedas an endorsementof "which communautarisme. At the same time. other proposals of the Stasi Commissionwere-for the moment at least-simply ignored (Liberation. The official responsewas immediate:within days of the publicationof the report. he seized this opportunityto reiteratethe one true doctrine. the early demonstrations and peaceful. except universities.
The law extending financial support to them required that in admitting pupils they should respect the same criteriaas applied to the public schools and that there should thereforebe no discriminationon the grounds of religion.and all the girls wear thefoulard. The school in Lille was opened in order to provide for girls wearing the headscarf and excluded from the public schools in the period 1994-97.Many Muslimparentswere alreadytakingadvantageof this freedom.3Schoolswith an Islamic characterdo confront formidablefinancial and planning obstacles. and directlychallenged in 1984. in any case preferringa school that had some religiousbasis to a public school that had none. The interest of Muslim families in such schools had already contributedto a rise in the number of places available in them: the year 2003 witnessed an unexpected addition of some twelve thousandplaces.likeJews in France. are unlikely to be concerned about the insistence upon nondiscriminationin the admissionof students. Its style is moderate.Judge as being set apart from a loyal and national system of schooling.the proportionfor the populationas a whole at any one time is about 15 percent (Conseild'Etat 2004. and its plans to NOVEMBER 2004 15
. proportionis as high as 90 percent (LeMonde I'Education. p. provided that it presented no physical dangers. are likelyto seek admissionto Muslim schools. and the model is that of the French schools that had flourished during the colonial period in North Africa. it is now anxious to secure state funding.The Catholic authoritiescould thereforehardlyobject to the wearing of the hijabin their own schools. One Catholic educational association estimates that as many as 10 percent of all Muslims of school age now attend Catholic schools.The legal difficultiesare not insurmountable: Muslims. In 2003 it admitted only students in the two youngest age groups. the same town in which yet another dispute over the headscarfwas to erupt two years later. or of none. In one Catholic school in Roubaix.since very few of other faiths. The College Reussite opened in 2001 in Aubervilliers. 334). Establishingfor themselvesany Islamic alternativeto the Catholic schools is unlikely to be easy and even less likely to attract very much government enthusiasm. adding to them religiouseducation and Arabic. It follows all the national programsrequiredin public schools. part of the industrializedconurbationcentered upon Lille. The responseof the ministryhas so far been notably cautious. They also tended to prefer what is generally believed to be the more disciplinedenvironmentof many of the privateschools.Some early examples of such schools do neverthelessexist. With annual fees of fifteen hundredeuros. 80 percent of the studentscome from a Muslim background. They had and fought long enough to preserve the caractlre propre had no wish to upset the delicate balance that had been achieved in 1959. anotherschool in Marseillethat in de December 2003). It is coeducational. and they have to operate successfullyfor five years before being eligible to apply for contractualstatus and state support.
Apparently transparent words like "exception." "school." and of the relationship of both to the "state. But although that is the most striking example." "secular." and "city" are not in fact the unambiguous equivalents of the superficially similar terms in French." "equality. It is connected with the UOIF and therefore represents a very different tradtion from that associated with either the school in Aubervilliers or with the Paris Mosque
de (LeMonde l'Education." At an international meeting in the United States in June 2004 (something of a vintage year for events revealing the ideological distance of Paris from Washington and London)." "state. The reader of previous pages will have noticed. will continue to attend the public schools and to be subject to all the requirements of the 2004 law." "identity. it is far from being an isolated case. and perhaps been irritated by. unbroken spectrum (Conseil d'Etat 2004. Whatever the force of that perhaps oversubtle distinction. it has been argued above. the similarities are deceptive. This was not the French way of conducting diplomacy. In a country that was then about to ban the foulard in schools. It has recently been argued that the French position on many matters represents a singularite and France therefore stands toward one end of an rather than an exception. what may well have seemed a perverse refusal to translate frequently recurring words. can be understood by an overseas observer only in the context of the history of France and with reference to the tonality given to a cluster of words in the common language of that country. 16 American Journal of Education
." "public service. February2003).
A Lexicon That new law. They are what the French themselves callfaux amis:although they may indeed appear to be closely related. however.Muslim Headscarfand FrenchSchools
extend its age range to form a lyceeare already well advanced." "Republic." "community. p." How distinctive in fact is that understanding? How general and real is the The so-called exceptionfranfaise? debate swirling in France around the secularity (not secularism) of the school obviously finds some parallels in the theory and practice of several other European nations (Bauberot 1994). This section of the "effort by an Englishman to explain to Americans why the French are as the French are" will therefore attempt to explore the resonances of a dozen French words or phrases echoing through the preceding pages and seek to illustrate how those same resonances interact with one another and so generate a distinctive understanding of "society" and "nation." "solidarity. 359). the French themselves certainly work hard at proclaiming their "difference. Of these the most obvious are laicite and the terms closely related to it.
The vast majority of Muslim students. President Chirac declined to adopt the casual style of (Texan?) dress assumed by his host and by many of his fellow guests.
attracted in wide public sympathyfor his assaulton a McDonald'srestaurant southwest France (LeMonde.is to be deeply feared (Jelen 1996). a commitment to a specifically French educationalsystem-are all constitutiveelementsof the Frenchidentite. multiculturalismcan only be inherentlydestructiveof the integrityof society. a ritual occasion rather than a event. the antiglobalizationactivist and somewhat atypical advocate of French peasant interestswith a degree in sociology from Berkeley. Similarlyin matters of economic and social policy. the rentree.and typically franco-franfais. These-a distinctiveforeign policy. even right-wingFrench governments are careful to distinguish their defining principlesfrom those of a "brutal"or liberal capitalism. La Republiquethereforeone and indivisible.the is beginning of the school year.which must be only an agglomerationof individual and equal citizens and never degenerate into a patchworkof diverse communities. by whom must communautarisme therefore be rejected. form of fragmentation.The protection of the French language.he will describe it as a Disneyfication. This cultivation of a distinctivestyle and way of life often shades into overt anti-Americanism.repeatedlycontested and modified. Jose Bove. and deep pride in the richnessof French culture (from the established classics to the contemporarycinema). July 11. Similarly. often imposed from Paris on recalcitrantdissidents. by the end of the last centurybroughtto an apparently stable equilibrium.To be Frenchis to be Republicainto be laique to be committed to egalite Lemosse 1997).transmutedfrom a monarchicalto a constiand tutionalframework. This composite identity has been forged (Coq 1994. 2003). Even the any generally benign English word "community"troubles the French. If a critic wishes to denounce a proposed reform of the school curriculum.a determinationto preserve French language and culture at home and abroad. for religion had or proved to be inherently and inevitably divisive. They form a powerfulcluster. Impressive investmentsof effort and money are devoted to the preservationand propagation of the French language.Such a "rhetoric. It follows that eclatement.The maintenanceof that equilibriumis widely believed to depend on the exclusion of religion from the public school. Not only traffic simple administrative jams but educationalcontroversy and political infightingengage public interest. the baccais laureat. Given such perceptions. emphasizingagain that they are simply not like other people.within which the variouscomponentsreinforce is is one another. The school leaving examination. phenomenon. are recurringthemes in the policiesof all governments(Regourd2002).The rentree 2004 markedthe of introductionof the new law on religioussymbols." term not is a NOVEMBER 2004 17
. a national institutionsubjected annually to intense public scrutiny and believed to incarnate basic French or Republican values.Judge what you wear does have symbolicweight. over many centuries. The minister of cultureis a significant. a persistentstrain of anti-Americanism. a distrustof untrammeledcapitalism.
It In as in ecole normale superieure. practicaleverydaylanguage the term ecole most the elementary school. or state control) often has a vaguely threateningring: in France it is most often understoodin a more desirablypositive sense.must have access to the same pure national curriculum. that electricitymust be available to all French citizens. Agalite and solidarite together imply.of whateverbackground or ability. however. 2003). For that very reason.are emption for precisely the same reasons offensive. The parallel while not requiringany form of social leveling.does extend principleof egalite.The state by law thereforeseeks to ensure that they shall not. however inconvenientlyremote their homes or farms.covering the whole of primary and secondary education and claiminga directfiliationfrom authenticRepublicanvalues. it has a much wider significance. The assassinationof the prefect of Corsica. June 3. as a trahison clercs des (Finkielkraut1982). can also referto some prestigiousinstitutionsof higher education. is. or from the study of the Enlightenment. a respectfor egalite requiresthat all pupils. The employees of the stateowned utilitiesregardthemselves. far beyond the realm of the law and the courts. as distinctfrom the secondaryschool (the collge and lycee). underpins a pervasive sense of solidarite: the best Republicantradition. de Preeminentamong those values is a deep-seateddevotion to the Ecole la In means first and foreRipublique. In British as in American ears the very word "state"(as in state power. deliberatelyundermining the sacrosanctprinciple of equality. Republican rhetoric.In this context. for example.Muslim Headscarfand FrenchSchools in used in any pejorative sense. could it be officiallyproposed that a gap in the fundingof old-age pensionsshouldbe pluggedby the sacrifice of one public holiday to generate extra government income.alongsideteachersand many others. Secularity is perhaps the least misleading of available translationsfor this word. but it remains woefully inadequate. perhaps.as part of the service public-another term that does not chime in English as it does in French. Muslims cannot easily digest and absorb its
American Journal of Education
. "progressives" seeking to reform the structuresof the traditionalcurriculum must always expect to be denounced as enemies of the school of the Republic. Only in France. But none of the values of the Ecole de la Republique of course.Attempts to provide a curriculumadapted to suit particularstudents(or even worse to addressthe alleged needs of membersof a particularclass or community)are denounced as Disneyfication. as guarantorof the values of the Republic. in February 998 was more than an act of brutal terrorism: was a frontal challenge to the state and its values (LeMonde. Exfrom swimminglessons.citizenssupportone another. at a uniform price. as central and reveredas that of laicite. Claude it Erignac.and employersdo not lightly dismissredundantworkers. A change in the status of the employees of the state-owned utility company (embeddedin a proposalto open up its capitalbut never of courseto privatize it) provokedan outraged responsein June 2004.
and the political shock of the elections of 2002 and persistentand growing public anxiety about the visibility and impact of Islam in France probably made the outcome inevitable. in lepersonnel laique de l'cole catholique. implying a rejectionof any influence by organizedreligions upon public education (or indeed on other areas of social life). Costa-Lascaux 1996.Judge meaning and implications. Harscher 1996. for example.4The word laicite was classifiedas a neologism in the 1880s.a powerfulcoalitionof teacher unions and pressure groups. Why should laicite mean differentthings in different courtsgive places and at differenttimes?Why should differentadministrative On what basis were school principalssupapparentlydivergentjudgments? and What provisionwas to posed to distinguishbetween ostentatoire ostensible? be made for studentswho had been excluded?Could they be allowed to work privately within the school but not to attend courses?Were judgments and exclusions to be determined on the basis of the amount of damage done to public order or that done to the serene conduct of the establishment?The pressureon the governmentto settlethe matterby passinga new law mounted. Bauberot et al. the adjectivecame to be commonly used as a noun. It is then hardly surprisingif attempts during the 1990s to deal with the problem of the foulardby discussion and mediation on a case-by-casebasis generated a sense of growing discomfort. Maury 1996. even today in the educational context it can still be used as history: a colorlessequivalentof the English"lay"-as. increasto ingly resentedbeing left alone and unsupported resolveissuesthat politicians found too hot to handle. claiming to be a laique the strongerterm laicsmecame to be more widely deployed. The Conseil de l'ActionLaique. Teachers and heads of schools. The adjectivelaique indeed. as that term would still commonly be understoodin had likewiseenjoyed a long and uncontroversial English. from as early as the 1840s the word steadilyacquired But. ideological overtones.
. imbued with a sense of public service to the citizens of the Republic. 1994. Mayeur 1997). Indeed. and it served as a convenient banner for the contemporarycampaign to expel proselytizingforms of Catholicismfrom the public school of the day. Barbier 1995. is therefore as opposed to the subsidizing of Catholic schools as it is to the wearing of the headscarfin public schoolsand for precisely the same reasons (Bauberot 1990. the noun laichad for centuriesbeen used simply to designate a layman." than which few offerings could be more misleading. carryingfor its adherents and critics alike clear messages about the kind of place a public school must be. On the other hand. so that nowadaysnobody would be in danger of being misunderstood.not least because a common Arabic translationof the slipperyword correspondsroughlyto "scientism.Finally.
right of the same girl to wear the hiab (Times[London]. was the widely accepted.June 16.frequentdifficulties host country. years have been markedby an uneven effort to apply and adapt that deeply encoded concept to the novel challengespresented by the expanding significance of a large Muslim minority. immigrantcommunitiesgenerallysuffer. about the Weavingthroughthem are profoundand principleddisagreements place of women in society:feministtheoristsmay disagreeamong themselves. in no sense peculiar to France:in the early summer of 2004 a great deal of media attention in Britainwas devoted to a high court case in which the right of a Muslim girl to attend a secondaryschool wearing the jilbab (a loose outer garment) was denied. Acceptance of any striking differencesin the dress adopted by school students connects directlyto such issuesas the common curriculum (whetherin the sciencesor in the humanities). but there persists(and especiallyin France)a broad liberal consensusthat the wearing of the headscarfis totallyunacceptableon the groundsthat it negates the fundamentalprinciple of egalite (Badinter2003). of course. and legally endorsed.the more strained the tensions between the imperatives of coherence and those of pluralism.The strongerand more distinctive imported by and more unfamiliarthe cultural and religious (includingthe vestimentary) habits of such immigrants. and often such disagreementsare the patent disadvantagesfrom which embittering.Muslim Headscarfand FrenchSchools Coda The Muslim headscarfis a highly emotive symbol and revealingsymptomof complex social and culturaldifficulties. and especiallythose that lay some claim to Christianroots. Equally significant. 2004). All developed societies.Any adequate discussionof those difficulties would exceed both the brief and the space assigned to this article. While these are indeed universalproblems.the argumentof this articlehas been that in the French context they are given a particularsharpnessby the of circumstances nationalhistoryand by the natureof "theFrenchexception. marriage and burial customs. their segregation in with the languageof the so-called depressedurban estates.and their vulnerabilityto radicalization." That exceptionalitywas tentativelyexplored in the attempt made above to French define or at least characterizea numberof common but untranslatable The last fifteen of which by far the most relevantand resonantis laicite. grapple with the paradoxes of preserving the a distinctnationalidentitywhile at the same time incorporating diversities new streamsof immigration. terms.some members of which are perceived as
20 American Journal of Education
. They are. Underlying. the content of meals to be provided at schools.the problems of access to the range of social services available in principle to all citizens.however. the official recognition of different religious calendars and obligations. The problem lies not in agreeing that a line must be drawn but in determiningwhere and on what authority that line should be located.
1984. with state subsidiesfor Catholic schools or the anomalous status of Alsace-Moselle)have been swamped by the currentpreoccupation with thefoulard(Liberation.But the two Frances that now face one another have little in common with their ideological ancestors:the "threat"of the headscarfis totally differentfrom that of the cassock. but not all. Old-fashionedlaiques their traditionalconcerns (e. The early signs were certainly not all that promising. July 6.the central question refersto how the school authoritieswill in the coming months and years react to the new law and determine how they themselves are to respond. But such unanimity of opinion began to crumble as the months went by. The government is most unlikely to welcome such commitments and has every reason to be apprehensive of thereby again calling in question the elaborate compromiseswith Catholics that have been negotiated over the years. The number seeking entry is restricted. It seems highly improbable that the new law will of itself solve very much. and it becomes increasinglydifficult to apply the same principles of laicite to both now complain with some justice that (Bauberot 1990).and thereafterto create in public life an open and neutral space where "the two Frances"(Catholicand Republican)could constructivelycoexist. and 1994 have not been forgotten. therefore.as in most cases a financial contribution. 6. Such a shift of attention July Catholic clearly has some perverseeffects.The Catholic responseto a growing Muslim interestin their schools has been uneasy:they have no desire for their schools to become some kind of refuge for such families(Liberation. 2004).Parliamentmay well have been meekly supportiveof the initiative. Some. For most Muslims. is required. the all-importantcircularregulating the precise terms on which the new law is to be applied was the subject of intense debate within the educationalestablishment.. 2004). In the meantime. Before being finally published in May 2004. complex legal and financialproblemsmake it unlikely that such controversialfunding will be secured. They have good reason to fear that any such development might even reignite the old but apparentlylatent hostilityto the generoussettlement secured from the state for their schools: although for the moment eclipsed. although modest effortsare being made by Muslim communitiesto securestatesupport for their own schools. Principlesthat were hammered out over the centuriesin the struggles to generate a French identity.Only 26 members of the representative council responsiblefor preparingthe text actuallyvoted for NOVEMBER 2004 21
. state-supported schools allow the wearing of the headscarf. were now applied in the very differentcircumstances created by a significantMuslim immigration.since few members of any political party could be expected to vote against a reaffirmationof an emotionallycharged Republicanprinciple.g. 1959.For this and for a range of loosely relatedreasonssome Muslim parentspreferthe Catholicto the public schools. albeit relativelymodest.Judge being unwilling to conform with the prevailing orthodox norms of the Republic.
2004). the wearing of a discreet headscarf would therefore be permitted. Only in Alsace was there significant opposition. was dispatched to Iraq to make statements distancing their community from all such actions and explaining carefully that France was in fact friendly toward its Muslim citizens and that to be laique was not incompatible with being a good Muslim. The principal imam in Lyon asserted in July. its three members carefully dressed as ordinary Frenchmen. and on the first day of the school year-after celebrating an unprecedented mood of national cohesion-he went out of his way to emphasize in a television broadcast that the government had no intention whatsoever of devoting one of the nation's public holidays to a Muslim feast (Le Mondede l'Education.Muslim Headscarfand FrenchSchools
it. The situation was abruptly. there were more television cameras than protesters. however. September 4. for example. that he and his colleagues in the UOIF would encourage girls to go to school in September dressed as they previously had been and would support them and their families if action was taken against them. which only a few weeks earlier had been encouraging resistance to the new law. The new minister of national education had already insisted that the application of the new law was not negotiable. nothing had changed. but not permanently. 22 American Journal of Education
. that a bandanna may legally be worn for nonreligious reasons. will now turn on establishing workable distinctions between discreet (acceptable) and conspicuous (unacceptable). Fundamentally. Public opinion. with 28 abstaining and 8 opposed (Le Monde de l'Education. and that is of course a very special part of France (LeMonde. indeed everything. By a perverse twist of fate. was outraged. Much. and the repeal of the headscarf law was the price demanded by the terrorists for their release. when French politics traditionally take a long holiday. in his opinion. September 2004. Even at the gates of the embattled school in Aubervilliers. and still less to approve. A deputation. June 2004). two French journalists were taken hostage in Iraq. and between religious (unacceptable) and other (acceptable) reasons for adopting any particular form of dress. changed in the early September days when students returned to their schools. previously lulled by a belief that consistent opposition to the war in Iraq sheltered France from such attacks. 2004). Less moderate spokesmen. That delegation included not only a representative of the Paris Mosque but also a leader of the UOIF. The current atmosphere of uneasy suspense is unlikely to endure for long. never overly obedient to the moral authority of the Paris Mosque. either Islamic extremism or external interference in their domestic affairs. but how will it be possible to determine the motives for wearing one? The early response to this circular offered by the moderate Dalil Boubakeur was that.September 3. went a great deal further. It is conceded. Liberation. In these circumstances. It was at once clear to Muslim leaders that they could not possibly afford to appear to countenance. the early days of the school year were very much more peaceful than had been anticipated.
Berque. 2004.Judge Notes
1.La Republiquefaceses minorites. Clovis.Jean. du dans Basdevant-Gaudemer. 1985. Dix ans de marche beurs. to warn me of any such mistakes. un Paris:Le Seuil.Elizabeth. L'affaire des Paris:Le Seuil. There are some thirty thousand studentsin Jewish schools.Paris:Syros. Nicholas. This is a dangerousenterprise. Aumoneries l'enseignement Paris:Editions public. de Bourdoncle. Bernard. Besancon: Centre Regional de Documentation Pedagogique de Franche-Comte. Paris:Le Harmattan. 1995. and Atkin. Lejeu concordataire la France XIXe siecle. Brigitte. New York:GarlandPublishing. La crbne beurs. Guy Gauthier. ed. de Paris:La Documentation Francaise. A "lay"or "secular. de Braudel.Pierre.Maurice. du Cerf. 2004. one on the complexitiesof French culture and history. Paris:Le Seuil. a Benbessa. Eric.Paris: PressesUniversitairesde France. Badinter.2003. Brodin.Louis Legrand. for example.Jean-Denis. des Paris:Desclee de Brouwer.1991. and Pierre Moitel. 2004. Esther. 1986. dansles ecoles. des Bauberot. 1994. 1978. 1990.Jean. Bauberot. 1994. 2003. L'immigration Francaise. 1995.Fausse Barbier. colleges lycees publics. Paris:Flammarion. Cahm. L'identite la France. 1378.Jean. NOVEMBER 2004 23
.Le voile de a du de Assemblee Nationale. Paris:CNDP-La Documentation a l'coledela Republique.but I have tried to avoid the grossererrorsby persuadingthree experts." later section of this article returnsto this theme. 3. Paris:Livre de Poche.I am grateful to Chris Hewer. and Pierre Ognier. Paris:Plon. of is 4. L'Affaire Dreyfus.Jacques.It would be grossly misleading at this point to translate the first of these terms as. Histoire la laicite. Projet loi relative l'application principe la laicite et Paris:AssembleeNationale. 1996. No. Bouamana. 1988.Elisabeth. Vers nouveau laique? pacte et dansl'Europe Douze. Paris:Fayard-Juillard. Paris:Odile Jacob. and Bill Boyd for their friendlybut critical efforts on my behalf. Commissionde Reflexion sur l'applicationdu principede la laicit6dans la Republique. and 2. At the risk of irritating the reader.for their meanings are interdependentin a complicatedway. au Rapport president la Republique. de January 2004). Said. La laicit. but I remain responsiblefor the errorsthat survive.
l'cole. 1994. contre Altschull. Characteristic "scientism" the belief that the inductivemethodsof the natural sciences are the only source of authenticknowledgeand that they alone can yield true knowledge about man and society.One is well informed on matters related to Islam. all but four thousand of them supported by the contracts with the state establishedby the Debre law (Le Monde l'Education. Berge.1994. Church Schools Vichy route. in France. Religions laicite de Baub6rot. Paris:Mille et Une Nuits. 1994. L'Affaire.Philippe. this is the first of a nexus of words left untranslated. Pierre.This articleincorporates personalperspectives perceptions. Fernand. Michel Lemosse.and one on the American understandingof educationalpolicies in other countries. in differentfields.
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