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Unpublished Paper
The European Case Against the Face-Veil
  • Stéphane Mechoulan
In 2010, France banned the wearing of face-veils in public. Anglo-liberal
scholars criticized the move vehemently. France succeeded in confusing the
European Court of Human Rights into accepting the proposition that the
visibility of the face is key to the so-called “vivre ensemble.” However, such
arguments distract our attention onto the material implication of the practice of
veiling while obscuring the genuine driver behind the prohibition, i.e., the
metaphysical harm caused by publicly displaying an ideology supporting a
competing vision of the good. This is corroborated by those attempts to ban the
burkini in the summer of 2016 in some French municipalities. The surge of faceveil
bans and condemnations of the practice of face-veiling across Europe
underscores the existence of a common sensitive nerve: the face-veil appears to
defy the minimal amount of cohesiveness necessary for the preservation of
collective identity within European culture. In turn, this article provides a legal
articulation for the ban that does not need the tenets of French republicanism as
support. Drawing from anthropology, sociology, and political philosophy, I
elucidate how, in this haphazard concept of vivre ensemble, one must read in a
legitimate injunction to abide by the tacit, unbending rules of membership
inherent to a national community.
  • face-veil,
  • France,
  • European Court of Human Rights,
  • Identity,
  • Burqa
Publication Date
Winter January 1, 2017
Citation Information
Stéphane Mechoulan. "The European Case Against the Face-Veil" (2017)
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