No Handshake, No Citizenship, French Court Tells Algerian Woman

The court’s ruling has not garnered widespread attention within the country, but many recent debates in France on the place of Muslims in French society have focused on issues of gender relations and attitudes toward women.

Similar debates have played out elsewhere in Europe. In 2016, local authorities in Switzerland said two Muslim boys, both immigrants from Syria, could not refuse to shake their female teacher’s hand on religious grounds.

In the summer of 2016, France was roiled by debates over the burkini — full-body swimsuits that comply with Islamic modesty standards — after several Mediterranean coastal towns banned them on their beaches.

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No Handshake, No Citizenship, French Court Tells Algerian Woman
No Handshake, No Citizenship, French Court Tells Algerian Woman

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The veil worn by some Muslim women also has become a flash point in France, which passed a law in 2010 banning face-covering garments like the burqa or niqab in public, although the law did not explicitly mention Islam.

Wearing a veil that doesn’t cover the face is not banned in public, except in the case of students in public schools and civil servants, who are not allowed to wear visibly religious symbols or clothing on the job.

President Emmanuel Macron, speaking on French television last week, said “the issue of the veil is very important today” but said he was not in favor of any new laws restricting those who choose to wear the garment.

“Why does this veil make us feel insecure?” Mr. Macron asked. “Because it is not in keeping with the civility in our country, that is to say with the relations between men and women in our country.”

“We are attached to this equality between man and woman, and so we do not understand this difference, this distance, this separation,” Mr. Macron said of the veil.

But he said he respected a woman’s choice to wear it.

“I am not personally happy that it is that way, but I do not want to make a law that bans it in the street, because it would be counterproductive,” Mr. Macron said.

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