Date of Award

2019

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

This paper addresses the discriminatory features and applications of laïcité in France, specifically as they pertain to French Muslims of Maghrebi descent. It seeks to answer why Muslims are targeted by policies regarding laïcité and by what means. This is done by analyzing how laïcité has been used, at times, to include populations and at other times to exclude certain populations. By using a postcolonial theory as a guiding theoretical approach, this research addresses the power imbalance and biases present in discussions surrounding laïcité’s uses. This paper argues that the reasons for laïcité’s effectiveness in othering French Muslims of Maghrebi descent are threefold: that different statuses were given to religions established prior to the 1801 Concordat and those established afterwards; two, that this distinction has created a perception of “good” religions in line with French values of universal republicanism, and all other religions; and three, that this understanding of the two differing groups of religions in France leads to the conclusion that Islam is not compatible with a French identity. This interpretation of laïcité has significant implications for Muslims that include a lack of representation in positions of power, higher unemployment rates than the general population, and difficulties integrating their identity as followers of Islam into French society because of anti-Muslim and xenophobic rhetoric in the press and in politics.

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