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  • 1 Centre national de la recherche scientifique
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On July 3, 2003, President Jacques Chirac set up an independent commission to study the implementation of the principle of laïcité [secularism] in the French Republic.1 In the previous weeks, the issue of violence in public schools had risen to a level of visibility so high in the media and the public eye that the French National Assembly had already created a special commission run by its president to study the issue of “religious symbols in schools.”2 The presidential commission had a wider scope—laïcité within French society as a whole—and a more varied membership: its nineteen members included school principals and teachers, academics, civil servants, business people and members of parliament, all with very diverse origins, religious beliefs and political opinions.

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