“The Headscarf law was not so much a solution to a problem as a symptom of France’s inability or unwillingness to face the racism that has characterized its dealings with North Africans for so long.” -Joan Scott
The passage of the 2004 law banning headscarves (and other ostentatious religious symbols) from public schools came after almost two decades of public debate on the place of the Islamic headscarf in French society. Although the law purports to target all religious symbols, it is predominantly Muslim girls wearing headscarves (and Jewish boys in yarmulkes) who are affected by it. This project attempted to visualize all of the private Islamic schools at this time in Paris, looking closely at their opening date. The passage of the 2004 law would increase the need for private Islamic schools, as girls began having to choose between education and religious expression. As the map below shows, there were no private Islamic schools operating in Paris until after the passage of the law.
The map below depicts the private Islamic schools in Paris, with their opening dates:
One potential takeaway is that prior to the law that targeted religious dress, there was no strong need or desire for private Islamic schools among the Muslim population. In other words, the French Muslim community did not feel the need to insulate their children in a private educational system, which would be expected of a group deemed ‘incompatible’ with French society. The lack of private Islamic schools until after the solidification of the 2004 law indicates that, at least in the realm of education, the Muslim community shared the same values as the rest of French society; it was only after legislation was passed that asked some Muslims to choose between education and religious expression that these private institutions emerged. This potentially indicates the fallacy in the narrative of a population that ‘refuses’ to assimilate.