In the News: Islamic Veils in France

Two weeks ago, the UN Human Rights Committee (which oversees compliance with the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) declared that France’s ban on full-face veils violates freedom of religion. According to the 2010 French law, “No one may, in a public space, wear any article of clothing intended to conceal the face.” (Similar laws have been passed elsewhere in Europe, most recently in Denmark.) Yet, the Committee wrote that it was “not persuaded by France’s claim that a ban on face covering was necessary and proportionate from a security standpoint or for attaining the goal of ‘living together’ in society.”

In March 2017, the SHARIAsourceBlog highlighted a decision by the European Court of Justice—the EU’s top court—that ruled that employers were allowed to have a general ban on displaying any political and religious symbols in the workplace, including Islamic headscarves. Guest contributor Sara Silvestri wrote that the Court’s ruling was “frustrating and contradictory, particularly as the EU was a pioneer in establishing the principles of equality and non-discrimination on religious grounds in a person’s occupation,” and that it “provided ammunition and political legitimacy” to anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

In addition, in 2016, the SHARIAsourceBlog published “A Brief History of the French Burkini Ban,” in which Europe/Southeast Asia Editor Rachel Mazzarella examined the legal justifications given by the government for the ban—such as supporting women’s rights and maintaining public safety—and the response of international human rights groups who argued that the policy, in addition to violating freedom of religion, could actually be counterproductive.