“Nous sommes contre une loi qui, sous couvert de laïcité, aurait comme conséquence de stigmatiser une population”

Scott Martens provides essential commentary on yesterday’s vote in the French national assembly. More from the Normblog here; and readers with access to an academic library might want to dig out Cécile Laborde, “On Republican Toleration”, Constellations, vol.9, no.2, June 2002, pp.167-183, which does as good a job as anything I’ve read of explaining what’s going on in the politics of headscarves in language that we Anglophone liberal types can understand.

Scott also raises the question — also posed to me yesterday by my friend Naunihal (an occasional commenter at the Virtual Stoa), who is rightly concerned about the impact of the new law on French Sikhs — about whether either the Conseil d’État in Paris or the court in Strasbourg would strike down the new law. I don’t know anything about the former, and not much about the latter, but I’d be very surprised if it did: Articles 10 (freedom of thought and conscience), 11 (freedom of expression), 14 (right of education), 21 (non-discrimination) and 22 (cultural diversity) would be in play here, but given the way they’re phrased, and the characteristic get-out clauses which allow the court to defer to national politics, I strongly suspect that the impeccable drafting skills of French government lawyers will manage to produce a law which Strasbourg will have to swallow. It’s just a hunch, though I’d be interested if anyone has a knowledgeable opinion to replace this rather random guesswork.

Finally: a query suggested by something Naunihal said: is it the case that French “secular” schools are careful to observe Christian holidays? Or am I barking up the wrong tree?

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