A decision has been made by France’s highest administrative court to deny citizenship to an Algerian woman after she refused to shake the hands of two French officials. What seems absurd by the rest of the world, has been ruled completely legitimate according to nation of France.
In 2010, the woman, known as Madame B.A, married a French citizen in the Algerian town of Nédrona. Five years later the woman applied for citizenship to France. It was during the naturalisation ceremony that she refused to shake the hands of the two officials present at the time. It was only later they realised that the woman was of Islamic faith, and her religion prohibits women from shaking the hands of other men (other than their own husbands).
The woman appealed the decision to refuse her citizenship based on the grounds to her religious freedom in the country. The court however explained that she ‘failed to assimilate’ which is a provision under French law. To backup the ruling, the French court based their decisions on the Conseil d’Etat 1905 law, which was put in place to keep religion out of public affairs.
In contradiction to the 1905 law, it is also included that people have the right to preserve religious practice. The dissonance between protecting the interests of its citizens and allowing for religious freedom is the confusing situation that France has found itself in.
This isn’t the first time that France has put laws in place against religious practices. In 2004, the Islamic headscarf as well as other religious symbols were banned in state schools and the face-covering niqab banned in all public places in 2010. In 2016, the mayors of selected French beach resorts attempted to ban the ‘burkini’, a style of swimwear with an attached headscarf, however this was overruled in court.