On goal, and the second, equality between all

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March 15th 2004, France was the first western country to introduce a
ban on the headscarf and any other religious symbols in state schools, in the
attempt to become a more secular state. Following this, in 2011 France became
the first European country to ban the full-face Islamic veil in public places
“The burqa will not be welcome on the territory of the French republic.” The
French President Nicolas Sarkozy argued that by imposing a law that banned the
burqa “such a law is necessary to uphold France’s values and secular ways,
viewing the burqa as a sign on subservience rather than an expression of
religious belief.”i
The ban outlines that no woman, French or foreign, is able to leave their home
with their face hidden behind a veil, within France, there is an estimated 5
million Muslims, however of those 5 million, only approximately 2,000 women
wear the Burqa, thus the law being far more symbolic than practical. France
argues that legislators and administrators were trying to balance two goals,
the first, maintenance of neutrality in public institutions as an essential
entailment of goal, and the second, equality between all basic beliefs.ii

the law France does not single out Muslims or Islam, the symbol is associated
with the religion of Islam,  “The law
constitutes a restriction of a practice adopted only by women associated with a
particular religion with the effect of impairing their enjoyment of fundamental
rights”iii France believed that by
banning the burqa or hijab that it would increase equality throughout the
country, “Given the damage the full-face veil produces on those rules which
allow the life in community, ensure the dignity of the person and equality
between sexes, this practice, even if its voluntary, cannot be tolerated in any
public place.”iv
There is a €150 fine for any woman covering her face, and anyone forcing a
woman to cover her face risks a €30,000 fine. The Data from 2015, four years
after the ban was enforced showed that 1,546 fines had been imposed.v President Sarkozy in March
2011, argues that the reason behind banning the Burqa in public places was

“I do not want a society where communities coexist side by
side… France will not welcome people who do not agree to melt into a single
community. We have been too busy with the identity of those who arrived and not enough with the
identity of the country that accepted them”vi

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human rights

rights are fundamental to every individual regardless of their “Nationality,
place of residence, sex, national or ethic origin, colour, religion. Language
or any other status”vii
Nations have to abide by these basic rights, as part of international law. The
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was established in 1948, and is
devised into 6 categories. The banning of the Burqa breaches two of the
fundamental rights, the first being the freedom of liberty and the second, the freedom
of religionviii The UNHCR outlines that
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, either
alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his
religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”*

29 of the UNHCR limit the fundamental rights, by outlining that “Everyone shall
be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the
purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of
others and of meeting the just requirements of reality, public order and the
general welfare in a democratic society”ix



The French principle of Laicite, has been a law within France
since 1905, which requires separation between the church and the state. Laicite
is the idea that:

shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It shall
ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of
origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs. It shall be organised
on a decentralised basis.”x

Laicite developed during the French
revolution (1789-1799), and is based on the idea that France should promote
“unified national identity and ignore religious and ethnic differences”xi
The law within France, outlines that French Citizens are not obliged to follow
any religion as France does not promote any specific religion, they do however
have to show loyalty to France. The Burqa Ban can also be described as going against the key
principles of the French Revolutionary Trinity: Liberty, Equality and
Fraternity. The Burqa ban is an example of how the three principles contradict
The principle of Equality demands that there must be equality between all
different citizens, faiths and basic beliefs, where no single religion or
demographic is more important than another. The banning of the burqa can be
seen as being in conflict with this main principle. It can be said that by
definition, a demographic and religion (women of Islamic faith in religious
dress) are being directly targeted and treated differently by this law.

The banning of the burqa
in France is a clear example of how western society has become less tolerant to
Islam and particularly Islamic symbols.

Germany, Belgium and Austria are amongst other western countries that are looking
to impose the ban, suggesting that there is a spread of Islamic intolerance
within western Europe.

i . 2018. Mckinneylaw.iu.edu
accessed 9 January 2018 pp.94

ii 2018. Mckinneylaw.iu.edu
accessed 9 January 2018 pp.98

iii  2018. Mckinneylaw.iu.edu
accessed 9 January 2018 pp.98

iv 2018. Mckinneylaw.iu.edu
accessed 9 January 2018 pp.98

v “The Islamic veil across Europe”.

2018. BBC News 
accessed 9 January 2018


vi Kern, Soeren. 2018. “Debate Heats Up
Over Muslims In France”, Gatestone Institute
accessed 9 January 2018

vii Associates), DARA
(Development Assistance Research. 2016. The Humanitarian Response Index
(HRI) 2009 (London: Palgrave Macmillan UK)

viii Associates), DARA
(Development Assistance Research. 2016. The Humanitarian Response Index
(HRI) 2009 (London: Palgrave Macmillan UK)

ix Associates), DARA
(Development Assistance Research. 2016. The Humanitarian Response Index
(HRI) 2009 (London: Palgrave Macmillan UK)

x Winkler,
E. (2018). Is it Time for France to Abandon Laïcité?. online New
Republic. Available at:
https://newrepublic.com/article/127179/time-france-abandon-laicite Accessed 8
Jan. 2018.

xi Kern, Soeren. 2018. “Debate Heats Up
Over Muslims In France”, Gatestone Institute
accessed 9 January 2018

xii Butler,
J. and Mendieta, E. (2011). The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere.

New York: Columbia University Press. Pp39



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