Living Together v. Living Well Together: A Normative Examination of the SAS Case

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

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Living Together v. Living Well Together: A Normative Examination of the SAS Case


  • Lori G. Beaman Department of Classics and Religious Studies, University of Ottawa, Canada


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Abstract:  The European Court of Human Rights decision in SAS from France illustrates how a policy and national mantra that ostensibly aims to enhance inclusiveness, ‘living together’, is legally deployed in a manner that may have the opposite effect. In essence, despite acknowledging the sincerity of SAS’s religious practice of wearing the niqab, and her agency in making the decision to do so, the Court focuses on radicalism and women’s oppression amongst Muslims. Taking the notion of living together as the beginning point, the paper explores the normative assumptions underlying this notion as illustrated in the judgment of the Court. An alternative approach, drawing on the work of Derrida for the notion of ‘living well together’ will be proposed and its implications for social inclusion explicated. The paper’s aim is to move beyond the specific example of SAS and France to argue that the SAS pattern of identifying particular values as ‘national values’, the deployment of those values through law, policy and public discourse, and their exclusionary effects is playing out in a number of Western democracies, including Canada, the country with which the author is most familiar. Because of this widespread dissemination of values and their framing as representative of who ‘we’ are, there is a pressing need to consider the potentially alienating effects of a specific manifestation of ‘living together’ and an alternative model of ‘living well together’.

Keywords:  citizenship; Derrida; identity; niqab; religion; SAS v France; values; vivre ensemble; women

Published:   19 April 2016


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v4i2.504


© Lori G. Beaman. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.