This article focuses on the emerging phenomenon of Muslim women’s entrepreneurial networks in France. It seeks to illustrate a causal relationship between a sociopolitical context where state secularism (laïcité) has been abusively interpreted as a blank check to enforce religious neutrality in France, which has therefore inadvertently encouraged these entrepreneurial networks. As such, this article positions these networks as form of empowerment to overcome the sense of humiliation, isolation, and exclusion produced by the current context of state secularism in France, rather than solely an illustration of an independent entrepreneurial spirit. The labor market appears as a field in which social and political practices regulating religious visibility have been enacted within a context of religious tensions in French society rising since the late 1980s (Baubérot 2000). This occurs between the pre-eminence of individual freedoms in secularism and the anticlerical tendencies that can be inferred from recent decisions made by French courts. Based on observations of participants in two women’s entrepreneurship networks made as part of my doctoral research on the impact of la nouvelle laïcité on the lives of Muslim women in France, this article also draws on qualitative interviews with over 30 Muslim women entrepreneurs and dozens of participants involved in professional network initiatives. Because these networks are rapidly evolving and relatively new, my fieldwork data addresses a significant gap in the literature concerning this particular aspect of the debate concerning laïcité. This study makes it possible to observe how in a key part of the private sector—that of entrepreneurial self-employment—the question of the place of religion and its expression in society is a consequence of a particularly French shift away from a common-sense duty of religious neutrality, the result of mounting layers of political debate over the hijab at schools, universities, and hospitals. The Baby Loup case legally confirms the gradual prohibition of public displays of religion outside of the public-sector work environment.
"International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society" – Springer Journals
Published: May 31, 2018
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