by Camille Froidevaux-Metterie, Maître de conférences en science politique (Associate Professor of Political Science) at Universite Paris II Pantheon-Assas
The “veils quarrel”—also known as the “scarf aﬀair”—is a useful point of entry into the problem of laïcité in France today, not only because of its topicality, but also because the issue epitomizes the challenge to which the French State, in its secular form, is confronted. When approaching the problem of some young veiled girls in the public schools, our country must consider the ﬁve million Muslims who live in France, half of whom have obtained French citizenship. Despite the fact that the right to family reuniﬁcation—given to immigrants in 1976—has recently been repealed, and also that President Nicolas Sarkozy wants the process to be restricted, we must keep in mind that its implementation has entailed the permanent settling of hundreds of thousands of families, whose children, whether born in France or not, do not want to go back to the country of origin of their parents. Contrary to what was expected—i.e., that the immigrants, who arrived in the 1950s to participate in the industrial boom would go back home once their work was ﬁnished—there is a strong trend towards permanent settlement.