France: Call for hijab ban in French universities

7th Aug 2013

France could be set to go a step further in its ban on the wearing of religious symbols in state schools. A new report has recommended banning the Islamic headscarf and other religious symbols in the country’s universities, a French newspaper claimed on Monday.

Advertisement France has been urged to consider extending its contentious 2004 ban on Muslim headscarves in schools by also forbidding students from wearing the garments in the country’s universities, French newspaper Le Monde claimed on Monday.

According to Le Monde, a report by the High Council of Integration (HCI), which is set to be delivered to the government later in the year, makes 12 recommendations aimed at defusing a “growing number of disputes” stemming from religious differences at higher education institutions.

The key and almost certainly most controversial recommendation HCI makes is to forbid the “wearing of religious symbols openly in lecture theatres and places of teaching and research” at French universities.

A controversial 2004 law prohibits the wearing or open display of religious symbols in all French schools and colleges, inlcluding crucifixes, Jewish skull caps and the Muslim headscraf  – the Hijab, but does not apply to universities.

A similarly contentious law was introduced in April 2011 which effectively banned the wearing in public of the full face veil, the niqab. It did not however forbid the wearing of the hijab headscarf.

The authors of the HCI report have been made aware of a number of problems and disputes centred around religious differences that are occuring at universities and are keen to ensure “religious neutrality” in France’s establishments of higher education.

Among the issues faced in French universities according to the HCI are “underground acitivity of religious groups”, “demands to be excused from attendance on religious grounds” and “disagreements over the curriculum”.

There have also been reports of students refusing to work in mixed sex study groups.According to Le Monde, the HCI says the freedom of expression granted to users of higher education “should not affect educational activities and public order”.

The report’s writers say that “the public service of higher education is secular and independent of any political, economic, religious or ideological influence,” so there is no reason why higher education should be any different from schools, Le Monde reports.

President of the HCI Benoit Normand confirmed that the report was passed over to the France’s National Observatory on Secularism earlier this year but “will not be made public until the end of the year”.

For his part, Jean-Louis Bianco, president of the government linked National Observatory on Secularism, poured cold water on the report, saying the “issue of head scarves in universities is not on the table”.

‘No justification to ban veils in universities’

Some experts on secularism in France say there is no need to crackdown on religious symbols, particularly those belonging to Islam in French universities.

“Demonstrations of religion in universities have not increased in recent years. Secularism is not in danger,” Raphael Liogier, director of the Observatory on Religions and author of “Islam is a Myth” told Europe 1 radio said.

“Wanting to ban the veil in school is justified by the need to protect children from the influence of their parents. But it makes no sense in higher education,” he added.

However making a distinction between schools and universities has caused its own problems.

Earlier this year The Local reported how a university lecturer was foreced to apologise after ejecting a Muslim student from one of his classes for wearing the hijab.

The teacher, who had worked in secondary schools, had forgotten that the ban on headscarves did not apply to universities.

The veil ban continues to cause controversy in France and only last month the country’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls was forced to defend the law after a weekend of rioting in a Paris suburb.

The violence followed a police stop on a woman who was wearing the full face veil in public. However local residents and police doubted the two days of clashes that followed were due to anger over the law and were more likely the result of historic tensions between youths and authorities.

Ben McPartland

8 Responses to “France: Call for hijab ban in French universities”

Kerry TouatiSeptember 21, 2013

France is supposed to be big on “Liberty” which quite frankly is a joke. Their ridiculous laws on religious expression are completely the opposite of freedom. Muslim girls who want to wear their headscarves are forced to take them off before going into the classroom is pure discrimination. The suggestion to then ban the scarf from universities too is ABSURD. Those young women are educated enough to know what they want to wear. The issue of the HEADSCARF is BORING. The French government seems to have nothing else to discuss.


    NOctober 10, 2013

    I agree that if you can’t wear your religious symbol in public, you should leave that country but how can you assume that everyone is able to do that?! Not all Muslims must be immigrants, what about those who are settled there since a long time ago and shifting to a different country altogether is not a possibility? Of course it’s their country too! (those who were born there) plus, headscarf is not just a symbol of Islam. It is worn to hide the hair so as to appear modest. It’s not just a symbol and hence very important whereas wearing a veil is entirely optional in Islam. But keep in mind that a head scarf is not optional. Looks like I should stop dreaming about going to study to France one day since I would most probably be frowned upon or if this law comes into action, be expelled.


ARIAOctober 2, 2013

I think they should come to America! America is more free than France! If France does not allow this, well then, they should move to the UK or the US.


ARIAOctober 2, 2013

If you are so religious, why stay in a country where you cannot wear your religious symbols openly in public? You cannot change their laws; it is not your country. THE ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD OPEN TOWARDS CHANGING LAWS FOR EVERYONE IS AMERICA. AMERICA IS A COUNTRY FOR EVERYONE THAT YOU CAN PROUDLY CLAIM YOURS, NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE FROM OR WHAT YOU BELIEVE.


Kerry TouatiNovember 8, 2013

Aria – you have ignored the fact that there are also HUNDREDS of French converts (in their OWN COUNTRY IE THEIR COUNTRY) who want to stay in THEIR COUNTRY and wear hijab freely. I believe in being positive and if the muslim women rally together and put up a fight for their freedom maybe one day they can change the laws!!! From my own experience, the French people are on a whole respectable towards others its the law makers who are desperately trying to put fear in the minds of the masses. For God Sake – how can anybody be scared of a piece of cloth??????


saraDecember 28, 2013

The whole world has gone mad???,,, Do people not realise that WE all come from the same UNIVERSE??? There are much more pressing issues that need & should be dealt with. Leave Religion & Faith & Prejudice out of the Equation. & Just Luv Thy Neighbor.


Hamid BoutermaJanuary 31, 2014

we do come from the same universe.. If I may ask what is it that seperate us from each others ? isnt it obviously religion ? I.E. Muslims can only marry muslims… I actually think this law put everyone in the university at the same level . At least the university offers them the freedom of being able to take it off ( or an alibi to do so ) unlike the rules that are forced upon them by the islamic society.


UllaMarch 11, 2014

THEIR WHOLE ARGUMENT IS WRONG. A hijab is not a symbol of islam, some people wear the hijab even though they are not muslim, people choose to view the headscarf as a symbol of islam. If many of the muslim men grow their beards does that mean that men should not grow a beard or otherwise they will be expelled since long beards are “symbols of islam” (symbols of religion).
This is ridiculous, I understand there are too many immigrants and muslims in france and that the french are getting annoyed by it, but seriously, if you are going to decide to ban the headscarf in schools, at least provide a legitimate reason. And what is the point of passing a law that isn’t going to benefit anyone?


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