Six years after banning pupils from wearing a hijab in public high schools, in July 2010, French deputies passed a law that forbids women from wearing the “integral veil” (or niqab, an outfit hiding the entire face except the eyes) in public spaces. This article examines why such a repressive policy toward Muslim women was unanimously embraced by the conservative majority and some left-wing leaders with so little protest. It aims at underscoring the specific phenomena that, on the basis of a new “orientalism,” contribute in France to institutionalizing a category of people on the basis of race and gender.

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