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This thesis aims to situate the controversy surrounding Muslim women's attire in France in a historical context of this country, specifically the development of the French concept of laïcité. In 1905, there occurred an important development in the law, pertaining to the separation of church and state. In France, this is called laïcité and was "informed by and predicated upon French secularism and later inculcated in the ideals of French citizenship (liberté, egalité, and fraternité) through 'neutral' civic education" (Gordner 2008, 75). The relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the state was the main reason for this judicial development that lead to laïcité. Its main purpose was to curb the influence of the Cahtolic Church in state matters. However, in the later part of the 20th century, Islam has taken the place previously associated with the Catholic Church in that its influence was seen as being in contrast with a laïque society and has become "the new focal point for the state secular policy in France" (Gordner 2008, 72). Obviously, there are far fewer Muslims in France than there were or are Catholics, but the concept of laïcité is invoked with regards to limiting certain Islamic practices in public spaces. This shift caused several tensions between French citizens and North African immigrants as France tried to preserve its traditional French culture. As a result, in 2004, a law was passed in France to ban "ostentatious religious symbols" in public schools. Even though the law applies to all religious symbols, most observers would argue that it was really intended towards Muslim girls wearing the Muslim headscarf, hijab. "The wearing of small Christian crosses, for example, is not disallowed and therefore the law can be interpreted to be directed at the wearing of the Muslim headscarf" (Gray 2008, 101). In this Honors Thesis I will explore the question if the French bans on select religious attire in public schools (2004) and the niqab in public spheres (2011) are specifically related to the religion of Islam or if other factors, such as immigration, social exclusion, "otherness" of Muslim minorities etc. play 5 a role. I also will explore the history of laïcité in France and its current application. I further my research by looking into other Francophone countries dealing with similar issues. Much research is available on the 2004 law banning ostentatious religious symbols in public schools. Since the 2011 controversy surrounding the full-face veil is relatively new, there is little scholarly research published at this time. My literature research is also limited due to the fact that I have no background in the French language. However, this topic is of interest because France has the largest Muslim minority in a Western country and therefore the way France deals with this population is of interest to other countries as well.