Religious freedom in a secular society: the case of the Islamic headscarf in France

Jones, Nicky (2012) Religious freedom in a secular society: the case of the Islamic headscarf in France. In: Freedom of religion under Bills of Rights. University of Adelaide Press, Adelaide, Australia, pp. 216-238. ISBN 978-0-9871718-0-1


One of the most interesting examples in recent years of a confrontation between secular and religious values occurred in France in the so-called 'affair of the headscarf'.
The affair can be traced back to events in 1989, which were followed by a further series of events during the 1990s. It started when a public school in Creil, a town in northern France, expelled three Muslim schoolgirls for refusing to remove the Islamic headscarves they wore to school.
This chapter will discuss some of the significant events in the affair of the headscarf, including the 1989 legal opinion delivered by France's highest administrative court,
the Conseil d'Etat, which stated the legal principles to be followed in resolving the disputes, as well as key ministerial circulars issued to explain how the legal opinion was to be applied and the case law from the appeals brought by many of the expelled schoolgirls. The chapter will also consider the development of secularism in France
and the notion of rights and duties, which was integral to the doctrine of secularism, as emphasised in the 1989 legal opinion and then applied in the 'headscarf' case law. Finally, this chapter will consider some lessons that can be learned from the affair of the headscarf in France: should a government legislate against clothing and what
issues arise in relation to such legislation? How might religious freedoms be best protected? Should religious protections (or indeed secularism itself ) be narrowly or
broadly defined? I also note some events that have occurred in Australia in recent years which raise similar questions to those considered in relation to the French affair of
the headscarf: what does secularism mean in a country such as Australia and what might be its implications for cultural and religious freedom and restrictions on such

Statistics for USQ ePrint 21081
Statistics for this ePrint Item
Item Type: Book Chapter (Commonwealth Reporting Category B)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Copyright retained by the authors. Chapter is freely viewable at the publisher URL. This book had its genesis in the 'Cultural and Religious Freedom under a Bill of Rights' Conference held 13-15 August 2009 at Old Parliament House in Canberra, Australia.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business and Law - School of Law (1 Jan 2011 - 30 Jun 2013)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business and Law - School of Law (1 Jan 2011 - 30 Jun 2013)
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2013 11:08
Last Modified: 25 Nov 2022 00:31
Uncontrolled Keywords: burqa; headscarf; religious freedom; France; secularism; Muslim; conservative government
Fields of Research (2008): 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2204 Religion and Religious Studies > 220405 Religion and Society
16 Studies in Human Society > 1608 Sociology > 160803 Race and Ethnic Relations
18 Law and Legal Studies > 1801 Law > 180119 Law and Society
Fields of Research (2020): 50 PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES > 5004 Religious studies > 500405 Religion, society and culture
44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4410 Sociology > 441013 Sociology of migration, ethnicity and multiculturalism
48 LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES > 4804 Law in context > 480499 Law in context not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): C Society > 94 Law, Politics and Community Services > 9404 Justice and the Law > 940499 Justice and the Law not elsewhere classified
Identification Number or DOI:

Actions (login required)

View Item Archive Repository Staff Only