IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


5th September, 2023 Polity

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Picture Courtesy: ajuntament.barcelona.cat

Context: The recent announcement by the French government to ban the wearing of abayas in state-run schools as a violation of the principle of Laïcité has sparked significant debate and controversy.


  • Laïcité, which refers to the French idea of secularism, is a complex and politically charged concept with a history dating back to the 19th century. It involves the formal separation of the State and Church, with the goal of removing religious values from the public sphere and replacing them with secular values such as liberty, equality, and fraternity. The state plays a crucial role in ensuring that affairs are conducted in accordance with the principle of Laïcité.

Key Highlights

  • Historical Background: Laïcité in France has its roots in the French Revolution and was further codified in the Law of 1905. It represents the formal separation of church and state and the removal of religious influence from the public sphere. Its historical context is linked to the struggle against the power of the Catholic Church, and it aimed to establish secularism as a cornerstone of French society.
  • Conflict Over Religious Symbols: There have been various incidents and laws regarding religious symbols in public spaces, such as the banning of headscarves, face-covering veils, and other "ostentatious" religious symbols. These actions have generated mixed responses and interpretations of Laïcité.
  • Controversy and Criticism: Critics argue that Laïcité is sometimes used as a tool to oppress religious communities. They see it as an impediment to religious freedom and the integration of minority communities. Some view it as a pretext for policing clothing choices, which can be seen as an intrusion on personal freedom.
  • Laïcité is a deeply ingrained principle in French society, but its application in a changing demographic landscape has sparked significant debates and controversies. Finding a balance between preserving secularism, respecting religious freedom, and promoting social integration remains a complex and ongoing challenge for France.


Q. The term “Laïcité” is frequently seen in the news. What is the fundamental principle behind Laïcité in France?

A) Promoting religious dominance

B) Ensuring the strict separation of religion and government

C) Establishing a national religion

D) Encouraging government involvement in religious affairs

Answer: B

Explanation: Laïcité in France is primarily about ensuring the strict separation of religion and government.