ABSTRACT. This paper explores how the Muslim veil, a highly connoted gender marker and an international symbol of a certain form of womanhood, has called into question the foundations of French “laicité” or universalism, especially as concerns sex and gender. Over the past twenty years, rarely has the Muslim veil been absent from public debate and its role in public space is contested, making of it the catalyst of two important pieces of legislation limiting where and how it can be worn, the law of 2004 and that of 2011. In this paper I ask if there may not be other issues at stake besides “liberté, égalité, fraternité,” such as the heavy legacy of France’s colonial past in North Africa or the perception of international terrorism in French society. pp. 138–146

Keywords: Muslim veil, laicité, colonialism, terrorism, French laws of 2004 and 2011

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Université de Paris 8, France

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