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  

Karima Bennoune

University of California, Davis - School of Law

Date Written: January 1, 2009

Abstract

"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

Suggested Citation

Bennoune, Karima, The Law of the Republic versus the 'Law of the Brothers': A Story of France's Law Banning Religious Symbols in Public Schools (January 1, 2009). HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCACY STORIES, Deena Hurwitz et al. eds., 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1411873

Karima Bennoune (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - School of Law

Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
Davis, CA CA 95616-5201
United States

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