Posts Tagged ‘laïcité’

September 7th, 2016

Regulating symbols: The burkini and niqab bans in France

posted by

Burkini | Image via Flickr user Giorgio MontersinoLast month, the image of three police officers standing over a woman on the beach in Nice, supervising the removal of her “burkini” (a wetsuit-like swimming costume favored by some Muslim women), provoked great outrage over the bans of the garments in five French seaside towns. The criticisms have been several. The bans are conceived as a trespass against freedom of expression, guaranteed in that foundational document of the French political imagination, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789). Others have seen the bans as manifestations of patriarchy or symptoms of Islamophobia in the West. In the United States, the bans have been labeled assaults on the freedom of religion.

The debate over the burkini strongly evokes the 2010 debate over the niqab (the veil that conceals everything but the eyes) in French public spaces. That debate—itself related to France’s earlier debate about the hijab in public schools—issued in a national ban. The ban was implemented over and against the advice of the Conseil d’État, which advised the niqab could not be said to represent a sufficient threat to “public order” to justify it. When the burkini ban was challenged last week, the Conseil d’État overturned it, citing similar considerations. (The Conseil d’État has the power to nullify administrative actions but can only issue advisory opinions vis-à-vis legislation.) And yet the niqab ban persists: when it was challenged before the European Court of Human Rights in 2014, that Court allowed it to stand.

February 17th, 2015

Values and violence: Thoughts on Charlie Hebdo

posted by

Until last month’s attack, Charlie Hebdo was little known beyond France. In the wake of the massacre, however, it was quickly valorized as a symbol of freedom of expression and French secularism, and the hashtag #JesuisCharlie (“I am Charlie”) spread rapidly across social media. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared a “war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam, against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity.” On January 11, 2015, more than a million people, including 40 of the world’s political leaders—not all of whom are otherwise known for their support of free speech—marched together in Paris.

The week after the massacre, Charlie Hebdo’s “All is forgiven” issue featured a cover depicting the prophet Muhammad in tears, holding a sign that read “Je suis Charlie.”

The violence, and responses to it, have raised a slew of questions. Is it helpful, or even accurate, to characterize these killings as religiously motivated? How have the attack and responses to it helped to construct or entrench the identities said to be in conflict? Should the events be understood in the context of France’s history of satire or its history of colonialism? Can the two be separated in this case? What is the significance of the willingness of many not only to affirm free expression, but also to identify themselves with the magazine? Are there limits to the freedom of expression?

September 4th, 2014

Short skirts and niqab bans: On sexuality and the secular body

posted by

Introduced in Québec in March 2010, Bill 94 proposed requiring women to unveil their faces if they wanted to work in the public sector or access public services, including hospitals, universities, and public transportation. The bill was eventually tabled and was followed in November 2013 with Bill 60, which demanded in more generalist language the removal of conspicuous religious signs in order to dispense or use public services in the province. These Québécois bills—which have not passed—echo the logic of the April 2011 French law targeting the niqab (face veil) and banning the “dissimulation of the face” in public spaces. Both French and Québécois proponents of these laws cited gender equality and women’s emancipation—which they deemed foundational to French and Québécois values—as their primary goal. Despite Québec’s long insistence that it espouses a third path between Canadian multiculturalism and the French Jacobin model, Québec and France have increasingly converged to promote a model of secularism in which liberty and equality are articulated as sexual liberty and sexual equality. In fact, these niqab restrictions represent a broader secular-liberal discourse—what Joan W. Scott calls “sexularism”—that posits secularism as the best guarantor of women’s sexual freedom and sexual equality and, therefore, as that which distinguishes the West from the woman-oppressing rest, especially from Islam.

February 20th, 2014

The Charter of Quebec Values

posted by

On November 7th, 2013, on the heels of a heated public debate about the role of religion in public life, the government of Quebec tabled its controversial Bill 60, “Charte affirmant les valeurs de laïcité et de neutralité religieuse de l’État ainsi que d’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes et encadrant les demandes d’accommodement” (Charter affirming the values of state secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests). The legislation, introduced by Bernard Drainville, the minister for Democratic institutions and active citizenship, seeks to affirm the religious neutrality of the state, specifically by prohibiting public sector employees—including those working in hospitals, schools, daycare centers, and universities—from wearing “signes ostentatoires” [conspicuous religious symbols], examples of which include hijabs, kippas, Sikh turbans, and “large” crucifixes. The legislation also proposes to amend Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, in order to enshrine the equality of men and women as the highest human right, to which other rights (e.g. freedom of religious expression) would be subordinated.

February 20th, 2014

The Charter of Quebec Values in the media: Panic, contempt, and division

posted by

The recent media buzz stirred up by a sad story captures well the sense of uneasiness pervading Quebec since the ruling Parti Québécois (PQ) began working to implement a bill known as the “Charter of Quebec Values,” which would ban state employees from wearing “conspicuous religious symbols.”

September 27th, 2011

Philosophy of religion in the public sphere

posted by

Ars Disputandi has recently published a collection of essays from the 2010 Conference of the European Society for Philosophy of Religion titled Religion in the Public Sphere. Edited by Niek Brunsveld and Roger Trigg, the volume—available online and in print—includes contributions from Nicholas Wolterstorff (“Does Forgiveness Violate Justice?“) and Richard Amesbury (“Secular State, Religious Nation?“). In the introduction, Trigg writes.

September 16th, 2011

Beyond moderate secularism

posted by

For Modood, moderate secularism can and should go on more or less as it is, but, in order to accommodate Muslims, must undergo some institutional adjustments. How then can we speak of—that horrible term—a crisis of secularism in Europe? Surely, this is hyperbolic, a gross exaggeration! Here is where we profoundly disagree. Moderate secularism, for me, is irretrievably flawed.

May 11th, 2011

The new faces of the European far-right

posted by

With the ascent of Marine Le Pen to the head of the National Front and her growing popularity in the polls, France joins the surge of nationalist parties that is sweeping over all of Europe. We must understand the new dynamics that underlie this relapse toward a continent-wide far-right movement: in its latest change of face, the far-right misappropriates the legacy of 1968 at the same time that it targets Islam under the guise of defending national values, just as its leaders claim to embody the value of personal liberty all the while asserting their belonging to the “land” of popular imagination, thus forging a new rhetorical repertoire and introducing it into European political culture.

April 12th, 2011

“Burqa Ban” takes effect in France

posted by

On April 11th, the hotly debated “burqa ban” went into effect in France.

October 12th, 2010

“Niqabitches” take on Paris

posted by

French students protest burka ban by hiding face, showing legs.

August 23rd, 2010

‘Legitimate’ Laicite

posted by

Margarita Mooney review’s Raphael Liogier’s ‘Legitimate’ Laicite: France and its State Religions (Entrelacs, 2006) in Contemporary Sociology (sub. required).

August 9th, 2010

Skyping secularism: Religion and multiple modernities

posted by , , and

Since our previous dispatch from the IWM Summer School in Cortona, we have settled back into our real lives in London, New York, and Washington, DC, respectively. But the discussions inspired by the summer school have continued—over email and group chats—and we wanted to share with you one recent exchange that followed from our course on “Religion and Multiple Modernities,” taught by Dipesh Chakrabarty, Sudipta Kaviraj, and Charles Taylor. The course drew on examples from European and Indian history that prompted us to think about the relation between modernity (a concept that itself was called into question) and secularism.

July 20th, 2010

Joan Wallach Scott on notions of French citizenship

posted by

At Big ThinkJoan Wallach Scott discusses French citizenship and laïcité in light of the current controversy over the burqa.

July 6th, 2010

A passing within the Senegalese Mouride Sufi brotherhood

posted by

As I depart from Senegal, a more important passing has taken place within the Mouride Sufi brotherhood.  Serigne Mouhamadou Lamine Bara Mbacké, Khalife general of the Mourides, died last Thursday.  For a student of religion and politics, the post-mortem patterns of partisan condolence have provided yet more evidence of the powerful place of the Mourides in Senegalese society.

July 6th, 2010

Impure thoughts

posted by

What fascinates me about [the] language of purity and contamination is the extent to which it is mobilized in the service of both religious and secularist narratives. This is particularly true in the case of France’s republican culture of laïcité, as the recent controversy over the Islamic     headscarf—repeatedly figured as a scandalous threat to the purity of the secular public sphere—amply attests. . . . What is interesting is that both the religious and the laïque appeal to a discourse on purity and contamination and rely upon a similar narrative structure, invoking the rhetoric of purity to describe both an originary moment that has since been lost, and an eschatological ideal to be fulfilled at some point in the future.

June 21st, 2010

What’s the writing on the wall?

posted by

What makes a religious political party? The question is more than semantic in Senegal.  The constitution bars political parties based on religion or sect (Article 3.1), so when a young leader within Senegal’s Mouride Sufi brotherhood, Serigne Modou Kara Mbacké, formed a political party in 2004, the ban was put to a test.

June 15th, 2010

Sacred, secular, and soccer

posted by

What would FIFA President Sepp Blatter make of the Hand of God? With his declaration that there is “no room for religion in soccer” and that religious gestures could pose “a danger” at the World Cup, maybe Blatter would dub Maradona’s iconic 1986 goal the Hand of Fate.  This all seems perfectly appropriate as I prepare for summer fieldwork studying laïcité in Senegal.

July 30th, 2008

On Turkish laicism

posted by

In a somewhat surprising move, Turkey’s Constitutional Court announced today in a very close vote its decision to not ban the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP)—which was facing charges of threatening the laicist order of the country—but only to cut its financial state support. Despite the relatively moderate decision, the verdict presented by the President of the Constitutional Court sent a clear warning to the AKP that the judiciary will not tolerate any subversion of the laicist order. […]

July 29th, 2008

The rise and fall of the AKP

posted by

Later this week, the Turkish Constitutional Court is expected to hand down a decision that will determine the fate of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Many expect that the highest Turkish Court, when judging the legality of the AKP, will be consistent with its earlier decisions and close down the party, which has controlled the Turkish government since 2002. Furthermore, many expect the court to declare a five-year ban from politics for a considerable number (up to 70) of the party’s high-ranking representatives, including Prime Minster Tayyib Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül. All of this in the name of protecting the laicist order—or, at least, this is the language in which this cause is presented. […]

February 21st, 2008

A headscarf affair, a women’s affair?

posted by

Women who are proponents of the headscarf distance themselves from secular models of feminist emancipation, but also seek autonomy from male interpretations of Islamic precepts. They represent a rupture of the frame both of secular female self-definitions and religious male prescriptions. They want to have access to secular education, follow new life trajectories that are not in conformity with traditional gender roles, and yet fashion and assert a new pious self. They are searching for ways to become Muslim and modern at the same time, transforming both.