France and the veil: 30 years of controversy

MArine Le Pen persists and signs. On Wednesday evening, during the debate between the two rounds that pitted her against Emmanuel Macron, the leader of the National Myth (RN) reaffirmed her intention to ban the veil in public space, if she is elected president of the Republic next Sunday. For the record, the hijab, or Islamic headscarf, covers the head and shoulders but reveals the face. “I think the veil is a uniform imposed by Islamists,” Marine Le Pen said. I think a lot of women who put it on can’t do the opposite, even if they don’t dare say it. “The candidate for the Elysée is planning to punish anyone who wears the hijab in public space with a fine, as she stated at the beginning of April on RTL’s microphone.

By contrast, Emmanuel Macron recalled during this debate between the two rounds his link to the secular law of 1905 and its principles of religious freedom. “Secularism is not about fighting a religion,” he told Marine Le Pen. And so with me, there will be no ban on the handkerchief, or the yarmulke, or any religious sign in the public space. The presidential candidate estimated that banning the handkerchief “in the city” could create a “civil war.”

According to a note from the liberal think tank Institut Montaigne, the measure advocated by Marine Le Pen would be very cumbersome to implement from a legal point of view. A reform of the Constitution, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the European Convention on Human Rights would be needed. In France, it is currently only forbidden and punished with a fine (150 euros) to bring the nikab or burka to public space. These two Islamic veils cover the faces of women.

schoolboy with headscarf

The proposal of Marine Le Pen, also defended by Eric Zemmour (Reconquest!), Relaunched in France this 33-year debate on the ban on the Islamic veil in the public sphere. It is necessary to go back to 1989 to find the mother of the controversy. It was the handkerchief in the schools. That year, three Muslim teenagers of Moroccan origin were expelled from the Gabriel-Havez de Creil (Oise) school for refusing to take off the handkerchief they were wearing in class.

The French intellectuals of the time were torn apart for weeks. Point it was asked in an October 1989 issue: “Should We Leave Islam in School? Pierre Joxe (PS), Minister of the Interior when the scandal broke out, asked the Moroccan ambassador to intervene with the families. King Hassan II of Morocco will say that he took care of it personally. The issue of the veil at school goes back to the Council of State. The Supreme Administrative Court ruled in a ruling on 27 November 1989 that the use of the Islamic handkerchief was not incompatible with the principle of secularism.

READ ALSOCreil, thirty years after the handkerchief affair

The debate resumed in 2003 when Jacques Chirac, the then president, decided to set up a commission to reflect on the application of the principle of secularism in the Republic. This famous Stasi commission (called Bernard Stasi, mediator of the Republic from 1998 to 2004) made several recommendations included in a law passed in 2004. The text prohibits signs and costumes that “notoriously show a religious affiliation.” in schools, high school and high school. . It is the end of the veil in schools.

Mothers with veils

Not enough to put out the controversy, though. The debate reappears regularly. In 2006, Christian Estrosi (UMP, ancestor of LR), then the Deputy Minister of Spatial Planning, believes that parents who are school guides must also respect this “principle of religious neutrality”. Veiled mothers are clearly pointed. In 2012, a circular from National Education Minister Luc Chatel (UMP) finally imposed this religious neutrality. The Council of State will indicate in a statement issued at the end of 2013 that school guides are not subject to it. However, Chatel’s circular will continue to apply.

READ ALSO“With the controversy over the veil, everyone loses … except the RN”

In early 2016, he took a walk again. Prime Minister (PS) Manuel Valls talks about banning the veil at the university. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, his Minister of National Education, shows his disagreement. “They are young adults, students. And so there is a freedom of conscience, a religious freedom “, justifies the socialist. “There will be no ban on the university,” said President François Hollande. Manuel Valls’ position may have been surprising. A year earlier, the Prime Minister considered the ban on the hijab in the university to be “absolutely irrelevant” …

Burkinis and hijabs

The veil controversy goes far beyond educational settings. In the summer of 2016, the appearance of the “burkini” on certain beaches in France revived the issue of religious practice in public space. This swimsuit, Islamic version, covers the whole body except the face, hands and feet. He is carried by a handful of Muslim women. Several mayors at spas forbid it.

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Three years later, in 2019, the Alliance citoyenne collective organized a civil disobedience operation in a municipal swimming pool in Grenoble. Some Muslim women bathe in Burkinis, despite the ban. The operation has been repeated ever since. The mayor of Europe Ecologie-Les Verts, Éric Piolle, said that this year he will take a position on the issue, before the opening of the summer swimming pools. Recently, it has been the Hijabeuses collective that has caused controversy. These footballers are asking the French Football Federation (FFF) for the right to wear the Islamic veil in the competition.

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