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

Article


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. https://doi.org/10.1080/1323238X.2017.1314441
Article Title

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

ERA Journal ID33110
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsJones, Nicky (Author) and Braun, Kerstin (Author)
Journal TitleAustralian Journal of Human Rights
Journal Citation23 (1), pp. 61-89
Number of Pages29
Year2017
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
ISSN1323-238X
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1080/1323238X.2017.1314441
Web Address (URL)https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1323238X.2017.1314441
Abstract

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.

Keywordssecularism, Islamic headscarf, headscarves, hijab, hijabs, France, Germany, public school, schools, neutrality
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020480302. Comparative law
480499. Law in context not elsewhere classified
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Byline AffiliationsSchool of Law and Justice
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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