The principle of laïcité, which, at a basic level, refers to the separation of Church and State in France, is a complex and dynamic part of French culture and society. In its beginning, laïcité was a response to the belief that the Catholic Church had too much political power. Since laïcité was enacted in 1905, it has come to represent the freedom of religion, but more importantly, the freedom from religion, in France. Laïcité also promotes equality among French citizens through the neutrality of the state; however, there are those who would argue that today, laïcité is characterized by discriminatory laws that target religious groups, specifically, Muslims. The shift from the laïcité of the early 1900s, which aimed to create equality among French citizens and the various religious traditions in the country, to the current laïcité occurred throughout the 20th century. This study examines the development of this discriminatory form of laïcité, the influences from the colonial period which have affected the French view of its Muslim population, and the underlying questions of race and ethnicity. A laïcité of mediation, based on the ideas of religious literacy and interfaith dialogue, is examined as a possible solution to the current religious tensions which stem from the implementation of laïcité in the 21st century.


Duval, Marion

Second Advisor

Mirza, Sarah


French and Francophone Studies; Religious Studies


Islamic Studies | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2017 Theadora E. Kwan