Tellingly, in Chirac’s speech on secularism last week he referred to the wearing of a head scarf in schools as “a kind of assault” against France. The alleged concern for protecting Muslim girls fell away entirely; we were left with the understanding of secularism as requiring religion’s invisibility, and the silly claim that any religious symbol visible to the naked eye constituted proselytization.
But I worry that Muslim girls are being to cover up, forced to remain isolated from mainstream French culture. It’s not really a choice. Turkey also has no-veil laws to prevent women from being forced into Muslim observance.
In this country, we wouldn’t dream of banning religious symbols. We don’t need to. Well, Sikh kids can’t carry real swords, but that’s about it.
Muslim girls in France may be denied an education if they refuse to remove their scarves. Or, they could end up in Catholic schools.