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Headscarves and Burqa Bans: Has France (and Europe) Become Islamophobic?

In recent years, Europe has confronted public anxiety regarding the place of Islam within its borders. With the largest Muslim population in Europe, France has been a focal point of some of the most intense debates – including the 2004 ban on religious symbols in public schools, denials of citizenship to 'traditionalist' Muslims, and the recent burqa ban in public places. These controversies raise questions concerning the character of French identity, the demands of citizenship, and the meaning of France's commitment to liberty and equality. Although framed around the meaning of laïcité and French republicanism, broader issues are implicated as Europe contemplates its historically complex relationship with Islam, in particular, and with religion, in general.


Professor Cécile Laborde

Professor of Political Theory at the UCL Department of Political Science and currently a Member of Princeton's Institute of Advanced Studies. Professor Laborde is the author of Critical Republicanism: The Hijab Controversy and Political Philosophy.

Professor Patrick Weil

Visiting Professor at NYU's Institute of French Studies and Visiting Professor of Law and Robina Foundation International Fellow at Yale Law School (Fall 2010). Professor Weil was a member of the 2003 French Presidential Commission which recommended the ban of religious symbols in public schools.


  1. Cécile Laborde, 'Virginity and Burqa: Unreasonable Accommodations?' (30 Oct 2008) (translated from French: )
  2. Cécile Laborde, 'Quatre raisons pour ne pas interdire le port du voile intégral' (27 Sept 2010) (in French) 
  3. Cécile Laborde, 'State Paternalism and Religious Dress', International Journal of Constitutional Law (forthcoming) 
  4. Patrick Weil, 'Why the French Laïcité is Liberal', 30(6) Cardozo Law Review 2699-2714 (June 2009) 
  5. Patrick Weil, 'La loi sur la burqa risque l'invalidation par l'Europe' (23 Nov 2010) (in French)