Wearing the Islamic veil at school?

Would it be wise to pass a law banning the wearing of the Islamic veil in schools ?

In public spaces the right to wear clothing indicating religious affiliation is guaranteed by human rights law.

Here, the issue is not just about any public place like the street, or public transport. The school is a different setting: teachers are civil servants of the state and as such must respect religious neutrality. Muslim women teachers are therefore not allowed to wear the headscarf in school.

The rest of my remarks will therefore relate solely to the pupils. Initially, I was in favour of a restrictive law, because

  • the veil degrades the feminine condition;
  • Religious symbols whose size can be heard over several tens of centimetres must be prohibited in public schools;
  • hats, caps, turbans and other head coverings are traditionally forbidden in classrooms;
  • should Sikhs also be allowed to wear turbans and daggers, as Canada has legalized the wearing of kirpān in public schools?
  • Clothing exceptions set a precedent for other exceptions on religious grounds such as exemptions for gymnastics, swimming pools or sex education.

However, I have partly changed my mind, because I am even more afraid that Muslims are locking themselves into their community:

  • we must avoid putting children on the sidelines of society and thus depriving them of any integrating influence;
  • we must curb the deployment of Koranic schools or denominational schools as alternatives to state schools;
  • it would be better to focus on less visible, but more important problems, such as the prevention and detection of cultural abuses such as excision, forced marriages, ill-treatment of women and, more generally, all human rights violations. The State has a duty to protect children. The school doctor should carry out regular systematic checks to detect all forms of abuse.

For the reasons given above, a general ban on headscarves should be introduced with exceptions issued after negotiation with parents and subject to conditions. More specifically, the school authority enters into a kind of contract with the pupil's legal representatives: against the right to wear the Islamic headscarf, the pupil undertakes to respect all school obligations, in particular the acceptance of co-education, the attendance of all classes, every day, including gymnastics, swimming pool (where the bathing cap replaces the headscarf), natural sciences and sex education.

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