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Assessing Europe's 'headscarf law' debates

After one school term, are we able to assess the impact of the French law on the banning of prominent religious symbols in schools, indeed in any public building?

Julia Doxat-Purser

The banning of the wearing of religious symbols in public spaces in France was supposed to send a strong signal to all faith communities that any encroachment into public life, undermining the almost sacred principle of laicite, would not be tolerated. The vast majority of politicians supported the law as a way of keeping French people free from what they regarded as division and oppression caused by religion. They took care not to single out Islam for particular attention. (The law forbids the wearing of any prominent religious symbol - including large crosses, headscarves, kippas [Jewish skullcaps] or Sikh turbans.) However, most foreign observers believe that the main impulse behind the law was the fear of the rise of radical Islam.