SHARE
COPY LINK

UNIVERSITIES

Call for Muslim veil ban in French universities

France could be set to go a step further in its ban on the wearing of religious symbols in state schools. A new report has recommended banning the Islamic headscarf and other religious symbols in the country's universities, a French newspaper claimed on Monday.

Call for Muslim veil ban in French universities
File photo: Peter Rowley.

France has been urged to consider extending its contentious 2004 ban on Muslim headscarves in schools by also forbidding students from wearing the garments in the country’s universities, French newspaper Le Monde claimed on Monday.

According to Le Monde, a report by the High Council of Integration (HCI), which is set to be delivered to the government later in the year, makes 12 recommendations aimed at defusing a "growing number of disputes" stemming from religious differences at higher education institutions.

The key and almost certainly most controversial recommendation HCI makes is to forbid the "wearing of religious symbols openly in lecture theatres and places of teaching and research" at French universities.

A controversial 2004 law prohibits the wearing or open display of religious symbols in all French schools, inlcluding crucifixes, Jewish skull caps and the Muslim headscraf  – the Hijab, but does not apply to universities.

A similarly contentious law was introduced in April 2011 which effectively banned the wearing in public of the full face veil, the niqab. It did not however forbid the wearing of the hijab headscarf.

The authors of the HCI report have been made aware of a number of problems and disputes centred around religious differences that are occuring at universities and are keen to ensure "religious neutrality" in France's establishments of higher education.

Among the issues faced in French universities according to the HCI are "underground acitivity of religious groups", "demands to be excused from attendance on religious grounds" and "disagreements over the curriculum".

There have also been reports of students refusing to work in mixed sex study groups.According to Le Monde, the HCI says the freedom of expression granted to users of higher education "should not affect educational activities and public order".

The report’s writers say that "the public service of higher education is secular and independent of any political, economic, religious or ideological influence,” so there is no reason why higher education should be any different from schools, Le Monde reports.

President of the HCI Benoit Normand confirmed that the report was passed over to the France’s National Observatory on Secularism earlier this year but “will not be made public until the end of the year”.

For his part, Jean-Louis Bianco, president of the government linked National Observatory on Secularism, poured cold water on the report, saying the “issue of head scarves in universities is not on the table”.

'No justification to ban veils in universities'

Some experts on secularism in France say there is no need to crackdown on religious symbols, particularly those belonging to Islam in French universities.

“Demonstrations of religion in universities have not increased in recent years. Secularism is not in danger,” Raphael Liogier, director of the Observatory on Religions and author of “The myth of Islamisation” told Europe 1 radio said.

“Wanting to ban the veil in school is justified by the need to protect children from the influence of their parents. But it makes no sense in higher education,” he added.

However making a distinction between schools and universities has caused its own problems.

Earlier this year The Local reported how a university lecturer was foreced to apologise after ejecting a Muslim student from one of his classes for wearing the hijab.

The teacher, who had worked in secondary schools, had forgotten that the ban on headscarves did not apply to universities. 

The veil ban continues to cause controversy in France and only last month the country's Interior Minister Manuel Valls was forced to defend the law after a weekend of rioting in a Paris suburb.

The violence followed a police stop on a woman who was wearing the full face veil in public. However local residents and police doubted the two days of clashes that followed were due to anger over the law and were more likely the result of historic tensions between youths and authorities.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

STUDENT

Who are all these international students in France and where do they study?

France is the fourth most popular country in the world for international students, with thousands of Americans, British and Australians coming here to study. Here's what you need to know about them.

Who are all these international students in France and where do they study?
Photo: AFP
France is continuing to attract foreign students, with 310,000 choosing to study here over 2015, a 7 percent jump compared to 2012.
 
This is enough to make France the fourth most popular study-abroad country, after the US, the UK, and Australia. 
 
The stats come courtesy of Campus France, an organisation run by the French government that assists foreign students in their university applications.
 
Here's a closer look at the international students in France. 
 
 
 
 
Where do they come from?
 
In 2015, the most represented country among the foreign students in France was Morocco (37,000), followed by China (28,000), and Algeria (23,000).
 
Students from these three countries made up 27 percent of the total population of international students (see graph below).  
 
In Europe, the most popular origins were Italy (11,188), Germany (8,532), and Spain (6,817).
 
 
Meanwhile, there were 5,725 who came from the US, which marked a 2.1 percent increase since 2014, and a 22 percent increase since 2010. 
 
There was also a 10 percent increase in students coming to France from Australasia, bringing to total to around 25,000.
 
There were a further 4,022 from the UK, a 1.3 percent increase on 2014 and an 18.1 percent increase since 2010. 
 
Campus France’s director general, Béatrice Khaiat said she expects the number of students coming to France from the UK and the US to increase in the coming years.
 
“The current situation can be even more favourable to our country: the announcements made in the United States and the United Kingdom to foreign students could encourage students, parents, and even governments in fellowship programs to reorient their choice to France as a study destination,” Khaiat predicted 
 
 

 
While more students are flocking to France every year, France is actually losing its share of the market, as the graph below shows. 
 
The number of students choosing to study abroad (seen in red below) is soaring at a far higher rate than the number of students coming to France (in blue). 
 
The numbers below, which are in thousands, highlight how many more students are choosing to study internationally, with Canada and China enjoying particularly large booms in their international student populations, according to Campus France
 
Where in France do they study?
 
The most popular places to study for foreign students were Paris at 59,179, followed by Versailles at 26,588, and Lyon at 24,150 (see map below). 
 
Other notable cities included Creteil at 21,500, Lille at 15,500, and Toulouse at 15,000. 
 
It was Nice that saw the biggest three-year jump (since 2012), with 25.4 percent more international students choosing the southern city (for a total of 9,202). 

Grenoble, which was named France's best student city late last year, attracted a respectable 11,029 students, up over 12 percent between 2012 and 2015.
 
Other cities with over 10,000 international students included Rennes, Nantes, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, and Montpellier. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
What do they study?
 
As for what they actually study, the graph below shows that most opt for courses in languages, arts, and humanities. 
 
The second most popular field was sport sciences, followed by economics, law, and medicine.  
 
Some 46 percent are in France as part of an undergraduate degree, while 43 percent are here for a Master's degree. Another 11 percent are here for their doctorate. 
 

So what next?
 
Well, now you know what you can expect and who you might meet – and you can always click the link below to find out more about visas and student life. But wait, there's more. 
 
We are making a push to provide more content for our readers who are international students. If you're a foreigner and you're spending this semester studying in France – then we want to hear from you. Especially if you're keen on getting some of your writing published, or feel like letting us know what's going on around campus. 
 
What are you waiting for? Introduce yourself to us via: [email protected]helocal.com. And best of luck this semester. 
SHOW COMMENTS