Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 31 January 2004

French Government's Divisive Ban On Headscarves

ON 17 January 2004, demonstrations took place in many countries against the French government's proposal to ban the wearing of the hijab (headscarf) in France's state schools. Below we print a statement about this issue from the Committee for a Workers International (CWI - the international socialist organisation which the Socialist Party is affiliated to), as well as comments from members of Gauche Revolutionnaire (CWI, France).

FOR SOME months, a debate has raged in France about the right of female Muslim students to wear the headscarf or hijab in state schools.

The right wing has cynically used the language of 'republicanism', and the historic division of church and state, to launch a campaign against symbols of Islam. Some school authorities have actively campaigned to exclude students who attend classes wearing headscarves. In some cases, these campaigns were successful.

French President, Jacques Chirac, recently announced that he will support a law that forbids the wearing or displaying of "ostensible" religious symbols in state schools.

Chirac claims that this targets Christian and Jewish symbols, as well as Islamic symbols, and that only a few thousand wear the hijab. However, the law is generally regarded as a new attack against the five million Muslims in France.

The result has been to sharply polarise French society along religious, race and national lines. The ultra right-wing party of Le Pen, FN, of course, hopes to make gains in this charged atmosphere.

Many young women chose to wear the headscarf as a symbol of identity in a society where racism is rife. They also see it as protection against the influence of capitalist sexist ideology, which treats women as objects, most clearly in advertising and the 'entertainment industry'. It is also the case that many leaders in the Muslim community use the issue of headscarves to oppress women.

But it is wrong to think that a law banning female students' rights in schools will 'liberate' these women. In fact, Chirac's legislation will increase the strength and influence of the Muslim religious leaders. Only a united struggle of the working class, across all religious, race and sexual barriers, can win genuine rights for women.

The debate over headscarves has wider implications. The banning of headscarves at school is the first step towards banning all religious and political symbols. According to the International Herald Tribune (12/01/04): "Some politicians are calling for the ban to apply to political symbols in schools as well, such as the Palestinian kaffiyeh and T-shirts emblazoned with the face of the Cuban guerrilla leader Che Guevara."

Gauche Revolutionnaire (CWI in France) opposes Chirac's reactionary law on religious symbols. Socialists oppose all forms of discrimination, including along religious, sex, ethnic, and race lines.

All young people should have access to properly funded, public education and should have the right to practice their religion. No religion should have special status in schools. And students should not be told what they can and cannot wear.

The hypocrisy of the French government is shown by the fact it is not applying the "principles" of secular education in the private education sector, which is 95% Catholic.

Socialists stand for the unity of the working class against the real enemy - the bosses' system, which Chirac and the main parties defend. We are against either the state or religious leaders ordering any woman to wear a headscarf, just as much as we oppose attempts to ban women wearing one.

Against The Law That Forbids The Wearing Of The Headscarf

"IN CAPITALIST society it is the ruling class who, by the means of the media, advertising, movies etc, projects an image of women as objects without rights.

Fatima, Rouen

This sexist ideology influences a growing number of people, who in turn show a more disrespectful and oppressive attitude towards women.

Confronted with this, young girls in the deprived boroughs of French cities believe they can try and protect themselves by wearing the headscarf. For them, wearing the headscarf or hijab, signals that they are not "approachable".

The headscarf is also favoured by the leaders of the Islamist movements that use communal and sexist methods to divide workers and youth

If female students that wish to wear a headscarf, who are vulnerable because of their age and their situation at home, are excluded from schools, this will add to their isolation. They will be forced to stay at home, with a future imposed upon them by their family, or they will be made to continue their education at a private 'Koranic' school, where they could undergo even more subjection.

The wearing of the headscarf, just like the practising of a religion, is a private matter for the individual. It is not up to the ruling class to decide what is in our and our children's interests. That is why it is up to youth, teachers, educational staff, and the unions to explain what the ban on wearing the headscarf really means. And only through our struggles, against this capitalist society and for a democratic socialist society, will the full emancipation of woman take place."

Public Education Is A Right For All

"THE LAW against the hijab is a step to limit and then suppress political rights in the schools (mostly won during the school student strikes in the 1970s , in 1990 and 1998/99).

Alex Rouillard

How can this government talk about women's rights when it is attacking the rights of public sector female workers and cutting subsidies for family planning?

Unfortunately, the 'Trotskyist' left organisations have helped Chirac. Lutte Ouvriere (LO) has declared that the law is a good thing because it will help teachers to fight against the headscarf. The LCR have said that they are equally against the headscarf and the law and haven't been able to campaign against this racist attack from the government. Teacher activists from LO and LCR actively campaigned for the expulsion of the two young school students, Alma and Lila, from their school in Aubervilliers, near Paris, last October.

Members of Gauche Revolutionnaire are actively campaigning against this law as well as waging a campaign against sexism and women's oppression."

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.

In The Socialist 31 January 2004:

Blair is Damaged Goods

Where Are Iraq's Weapons Of Mass Destruction?

Battered Blair Clings On For Now

Brown - The Bosses' Friend

Top-Up Fees - The Fight Goes On

International socialist news and analysis

Workers Speak Out at World Social Forum

French Government's Divisive Ban On Headscarves

Socialist Party news and analysis

Socialist Party And The Respect Convention

"It's Not Just Pay"

Hackney Workers Fight 'Single Status'

Scotland: Nursery Nurses To Ballot For All-Out Action


Home   |   The Socialist 31 January 2004   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  

Related links:


triangleBirmingham Central Socialist Party: France in May 1968

triangleFrance: rallies in support of oppressed Kurdish people

triangleA world in crisis, ripe for revolution

triangleFrench Labour reform protests

triangleFrench elections: Macron's win


triangleDerby public meeting: Women's Lives Matter

triangleContinuing the fighting tradition of working class women

triangleInternational Women's Day

triangleWhat we saw


triangleWorkplace news in brief





Spain: millions on streets against sexism and capitalist oppression



Italian elections create huge political shake-up



Japan - toxic legacy of the Fukushima disaster



Syria: No ceasefire for 'hell on earth' eastern Goutha



United States: young people demand change after latest mass shooting



Russia: Ali Feruz, journalist and human rights activist, freed from jail


South Africa

South Africa: Ramaphosa is a safe pair of hands for capitalism



France: rallies in support of oppressed Kurdish people



Big political strike against Finnish government's attack on unemployed



Brazil: Lula conviction confirmed


South Africa

Cape Town drought



May's silence is a green light for Chinese repression


Tamil Solidarity

Protesters denounce oppressive Sri Lankan regime



Sudan: Mohamed Satti released - global solidarity campaign gets results!



Stop the war on the Kurds

triangleMore International articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551



Alphabetical listing

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018