Martine Antle- Introduction
Sahar Amer



Welcome to our site! This site focuses on the veil debate that has been taking place in France and Europe for the last eleven years. This debate started in 1989 when three young school girls arrived in a French high school wearing the veil and were not allowed to enter the school.

This website is meant to be used firstly as a pedagogical tool. You will find here texts, film clips, songs and illustrations that may be useful in your classes. The veil debate in France, as the articles reproduced here illustrate, brings into question the status and the integration of Muslim women in France and Europe. It also brings into question the problematic assimilation of Beurs into French society and it raises the question of Islam, the second biggest religion in France today.

In creating this website our intention is not to take position in favor of, or against, the veil but rather to open up a forum for discussing the veil debate France as it relates to cultural diversity. For this reason, the question of the veil is presented from a multiplicity of perspectives as we follow its representations in film, music, art, writing, and in several cultural contexts.

Most of the images on this site are presented without a text so that students may be asked to interpret them and to try to understand the different meanings of the veil. While we believe that this website on the veil will foster a debate and allow a proliferation of interpretations, we would still like to remind our visitors that the veil, when imposed upon women, becomes a political weapon.

Wearing the veil indeed is never a neutral act. Whether worn as a religious symbol, as a symbol of oppression, as a symbol of liberation, as a means of protection, as an obligation, or by personal choice the veil is often a sign of difference that serves and that is used ultimately to stigmatize women. This is why our first image of the veil under "Les images" represents an image of women who are forced to wear the veil.

The article " Uncovering the Meaning of the Veil" in the second part of this introduction explains the use of the word veil (hijab) in the Quran and the prescriptions surrounding female clothing in the sacred text of Islam.

  • In " Le Développement" you will be able to follow the history of the veil debate in France as it progressed step by step from 1989 to today.
  • In "Les Arrêtés" you will find legal documents providing information on the evolution of the laws on the veil in both France and Europe. The texts of these laws are also designed so that students may familiarize themselves with law texts written in French.
  • In "Les Lectures" you will find articles presenting critical studies and stances on the use of the veil in France. This section is of relevance to teachers and more advanced students.
  • In "Le Racisme en France" you will read official texts and pacts written by the Office des Publications Européenes on the fundamental rights of ethnic groups in Europe. The Amsterdam treaty in particular is an important document regarding the integration and assimilation of minorities, which is one of the biggest challenges of the European Union. " Le Racisme en France" also includes a series of comic strips on the topic of racial and sexual discrimination as well as a useful list of word definitions: "catégorisation" "stéréotyper" "préjugé" "abus verbal" etc.
  • In "Orientalisme" you will find a selection of 19th (and some 20th*) century orientalist paintings that use the veil. In this context the veil is used to represent both the mystery and the dangers of the Orient.
  • Finally," liens" (links) will open up other perspectives on the veil such as the marketing of the veil in the fashion world.

Martine Antle

Conference Organizer: Martine Antle
Conference Coordinators: Florence Carayon & Ruth Pitts
Web Design: Carrie Lovelace with contributions by Martine Antle, Sahar Amer, and Kate Walsh
Sponsors: Center for European Studies, Research Council Grant