Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2011

Document Type

Thesis

Department

International Affairs

First Advisor

Beverly Weber

Abstract

The current manner in which French law makers debate Islamic covering practices undermines the means of creating equality among visible minorities; especially Muslim minorities. For France, covering practices are seen to contradict the French notion of secularism known as laïcité. However, the current logic of laïcité exhibited in French legal documents, political discourse, and case law reveals a contradiction in how France manages the relationship between Church and State suggesting that France needs to rethink its logic of secularism to fulfill its goal of achieving equality. Current French legal documents talk about covering practices in a way that generalize the conditions under which a woman covers herself, assuming it is radical and under the context of patriarchal oppression. This limits the development of multi-tiered identities. The current discourse about covering practices also contains racialized undertones that exclude visible minorities from being a part of French society. Current policy has prevented the development of a “French-Muslim” identity and has resulted in the marginalization of visible minorities, especially Muslims, in the areas of politics, education, housing, and economics. The current structural limitations imposed on visible minorities reveal the need to rethink the framework of accommodation policy to fit the model of integration rather than assimilation or marginalization. Integration seeks to develop policies that ensure political, economic, and social equality while being sensitive to multi-tiered identities including religious and cultural expressions. Multi-tiered identities are important for democratic development. Given that France’s Muslim population is likely permanent, and given the rise in fear of radical Islam, it is imperative that France recognize the limitations on the current discourse around coverings practices in order to focus their resources on cultural public policy making that address the cause of the tension: unethical accommodation policy.

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