Secularism and state neutrality: the headscarf in French and German public schools

Jones, Nicky and Braun, Kerstin (2017) Secularism and state neutrality: the headscarf in French and German public schools. Australian Journal of Human Rights, 23 (1). pp. 61-89. ISSN 1323-238X


In recent years, both Germany and France have been confronted with the question of whether religious clothing could be worn in public schools. In France, the wearing of the Islamic headscarf aroused considerable unrest in many secular public schools during the 1990s. Legislation was enacted in 2004 to prohibit visible religious signs or clothing in public schools although, at the time, there was confusion over which signs or clothing would be prohibited. These concerns were justified – in April 2015, a Muslim schoolgirl was sent home from school for wearing a long black skirt deemed to be ‘ostentatious’ religious clothing. Similarly, since the mid-2000s, laws in different German federal states have prohibited public school staff from displaying religious, political, or ideological symbols. In January 2015 the German Federal Constitutional Court
assessed the constitutionality of such laws, with far-reaching consequences. This paper focuses on the different legal and cultural responses to the wearing of religious clothing in German and French public schools. The paper also notes that it is particularly important, in light of recent events in both Germany and France, that the two countries’ responses not divide their communities in
the name of secularism, neutrality or national cohesion.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to Published version, in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Law and Justice
Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2017 00:26
Last Modified: 23 Apr 2018 02:14
Uncontrolled Keywords: secularism, Islamic headscarf, headscarves, hijab, hijabs, France, Germany, public school, schools, neutrality
Fields of Research : 18 Law and Legal Studies > 1801 Law > 180106 Comparative Law
18 Law and Legal Studies > 1801 Law > 180119 Law and Society
Socio-Economic Objective: 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: 10.1080/1323238X.2017.1314441

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