Roberts, Jr. 1 Steve Roberts, Jr. HTY 106 13 December 2013 Les Affaires de Foulard Les Affaires de Foulard (The Affairs of the Head Scarf) was a series of controversies in France and the greater Islamic world concerning secularism and religion in all levels of the French state1. These controversies occurred as a result of the French constitutional ideal of laïcité2 or the principle of a homogenized ultra-secular society, and the permeable boundaries set forth in the perceived fundamentalist Islamic culture. French culture values secularity and in 1989 the issue at hand: the burgeoning Muslim population; was regarded as a threat to the status quo. These two archetypes clashed after conservative politics spilled forth in a public school just 30 miles from Paris.3 According to Joan Scott Les Affairs de Foulard began when a secondary school principal; M. Chenière expelled three female Muslim students for refusing to remove their head scarves during class. M. Chenière justified expelling the students for violating laïcité. Immediately following the expulsions Catholics, Jews, and Muslims alike all denounced what they regarded as a violation of religious liberty. The highest court le Conseil d’État ruled that students should be allowed to wear unostentatious signs of religion so long as they did not interfere with the civic liberties prescribed in the constitution. Schools were left to interpret the high court ruling as they desired. All this came to ahead in 1989 due to the fervor of the bicentennial of the creation of the French Republic. As French politicians from around the political spectrum reflected on 1 Symptomatic Politics, Joan Scott, Page 106 2 French Constitution of 1958, Article One 3 Symptomatic Politics, Joan Scott, Page 106
Roberts, Jr. 2 citizenship and its importance to the republic; there was a widely regarded divide between the French, integrated French citizens born on foreign soil, and those immigrants who were French citizens in name only. The French being construed as those whose families lineage could be traced back centuries. The flourishing immigrant population was generally looked upon with prejudice by the political-sphere as not being true citizens to the Republic4. These immigrants were all purported to be Islamic fundamentalists5. This political hysteria receded from public view until 1994 M. Chenière again revived them to the international stage. After that flare up of irrational nationalist sentiment the issue went to rest until the post-September 11th world of 2003; in that year suspicion of the Muslim population in de facto Christian cultures grew. It is at this point in Scotts article Symptomatic Politics that she asserts that various French cultural groups are misinterpreting the situation. The general misinterpretations6 included perceptions that the head scarf directly interfered with the ability of students to learn on an equal playing field; that it subordinated women; and that it was anticolonial: against the French ideal. French feminists were wrong for interpreting the head scarf as a threat to women’s liberation; politically, sexually, economically, and culturally7. Politicians misinterpreted the Muslim population as being unable to assimilate with the homogenous secular French culture8; especially stressing laïcité. Scott also stresses that Muslim school children were unnecessarily targeted as opposed to any other religious group. Muslim school children were definitely targeted by M. Chenière primarily
4 Symptomatic Politics, Joan Scott, Page 110 5 Symptomatic Politics, Joan Scott, Page 111 6 Symptomatic Politics, Joan Scott, Page 118 7 Symptomatic Politics, Joan Scott, Page 120 8 Symptomatic Politics, Joan Scott, Page 110
Roberts, Jr. 3 because they were easy targets (and he could easily earn political points with conservative politics). All this being said is there a future for growing diversity in France? French multiculturalism is not idealistic for French culture. Think of French society as a fine cheese: a homogenous of culturally similar peoples. Multiculturalism has no place in France simply because it is wholly undesired across the entire political spectrum. Immigration is again another identity problem for France as it finds its constitutional principles9 completely irreconcilable with a racially diverse and spiritual immigrant population. French culture must maintain the status quo in France in order for the current French state to exist. The French state relies on a common language of French, a common identity as French people, and the same moral fraternity to exist among all citizens. French culture; just as the French state; relies on homogeneity, unity, and accordance. Religion has a place in this culture, but its place is strictly out of the public view. This secularity is explained further in the French principle of Laïcité. Laïcité is an uncompromising version of secularity. In France it leaves no place for religion in the government “the Stasi Commission took laïcité to be a principle that allowed for no negotiation”10. The specific history of laïcité is rooted in the secularization that occurred after the French Revolution of 1789. It was at this point that French citizens were required to swear oaths to the state and to the government over their oaths to the Roman Catholic Church. Even priests were required to swear oaths to the state1112. Religion was still important in France, but it would be administered by the state. This put the state above all other institutions. At present day
9 “France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic.”
10 Stasi, Laicite et Republique, 138 and Debre, La Laicite a I'ecoie, vol. 1, 45, citing Jacques Chirac at Valenciennes, 21 October 2003: "La laicite n'est pas negociable."
11 In accordance with the terms in the Civil Constitution of the Clergy 12 In accordance with the terms of the Concordat of 1801
Roberts, Jr. 4 the Church is no longer an entity fully administered by the government13; with a few minor exceptions14 it is its own organism, but the emphasis on the state cannot be under estimated. In modern times laïcité was not enforced as written in law, and in 1989 it was used to target Muslims. The targeting of one religious group is completely and wholly baseless within the laws of France15. The true purpose of laïcité is to keep all religion out the state. It is a not discriminatory law as it directly affects all citizens equally. With all this said and done was the 2004 law banning “ostentatious signs of religious affiliation” justified? Les Affaires de Foulard should never have happened. The French State did not perform its constitutional duty of enforcing laïcité throughout its existence in the Fifth Republic. This unlawful and unjust discrimination brought to light the inherent differences between Islamic culture and French culture. It inspired radicalism throughout France in the form of the Union des organisations islamiques de France which is an Islamic fundamentalist group. The French government caused its own problems. It outright fumbled, and discriminated against Islam. The Chirac law of 2004 banning “ostentatious signs of religious affiliation” was unnecessary and unjustified. The French constitution of 1958 explicitly defines separation between religion and its place in the state. Secular France is the only France that can exist under such constitutionally defined practices of laïcité and secularism. The constitution itself is the only law that is required to ban head scarves in schools. The constitution is the law that bans all signs of religion in all aspects of the life of a citizen when concerning the state and its subsidiaries. It not only bans head scarves in school, but yarmulkes at the National assembly, and
13 The separation of Church and State, Constitution of 1905, Third Republic 14 The Minister of the Interior still appoints bishops 15 Consitution of 1958, Article One “ It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion.”
Roberts, Jr. 5 the bible from use by the Conseil dâ€™Ă‰tat. The law in 2004 was a redundant reiteration of French law that has precedent from the days of the Third Republic. Les Affaires de Foulard was regrettable, unnecessary, and unjustified. If the law had simply been enforced from the beginning of the Fifth Republic these events may just have been able to be averted.
Primary Sources The French Republic. Constitution of 4 October 1958. Paris: , 1958. Web. <http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/english/>. Scott, Joan W. "Symptomatic Politics." 106 - 127. Print. "The Civil Constitution of the Clergy." Encyclopaedia Britannica . 2013. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/119210/Civil-Constitution-of-the-Clergy>. "Concordat of 1801." Encyclopaedia Britannica . 2013. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/181059/Concordat-of-1801>.
TA Britney Thank you so much for the great semester! I hope this is what you are looking for the Islam in Europe essay; it has caused a lot of stress for me because the Scott article did not present any straightforward chronological argument. I hope you have a wonderful break!
Roberts, Jr. 6 Steve Roberts, Jr.