France in focus

The Muslim headscarf: France's Republican dilemma


This week, we’re putting the focus on a recurrent and touchy issue that has once again made headlines in France: the Muslim headscarf. The debate about the Muslim headscarf returned to the spotlight after footage spread online of a far-right official angrily opposing the presence of woman wearing a headscarf at a regional council meeting. The woman in question was chaperoning her son’s class during a school trip.  The chaos that ensued has sparked a heated debate on islamophobia, women’s rights, sectarianism, inclusivity and the rule of law.


It is by no means the first time that France has struggled with the highly politicised question of whether this Muslim garment is compatible with the country’s brand of Republican secularism, which has its roots in the 1905 separation of the Church and the state.

We take a look back at how the debate has evolved over the decades. We also get some analysis of France’s response to this issue with historian and anthropologist Nicole Pellegrin.

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