The Law of the Republic versus the 'Law of the Brothers': A Story of France's Law Banning Religious Symbols in Public Schools
HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCACY STORIES, Deena Hurwitz et al. eds., 2009
36 Pages Posted: 30 May 2009
Date Written: January 1, 2009
"The Law of the Republic versus the 'Law of the Brothers'" aims to complicate the human rights narrative about the 2004 French law banning religious symbols in public schools, and to place this issue firmly within the context of contemporary struggles over and with religious fundamentalisms. This human rights law story is based on field research conducted in France, and features interviews with women's rights activists, journalists, religious figures and scholars of Muslim, Arab or North African heritage living in France who support the law. Their voices have been mostly left out of the Anglophone debate on this topic. For many of them, the 2004 law may be understood as a way to counter the parallel, informal "law" of brothers, fathers and neighbors - and fundamentalist groups - who sometimes seek to impose the headscarf and constrain women's choices about dress. Finding the right balance for addressing the issue of headscarves in school in the contemporary moment is admittedly difficult. However, the concerns raised by those interviewed in this chapter need to be considered in formulating any human rights account of the 2004 Law.
Keywords: human rights, women's rights, fundamentalism, religious extremism, French law, headscarves, international law
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