some fifteen years
after three Muslim girls were suspended for wear-
ing headscarves in a French public school in the town of Creil, the incident
that had provoked sustained controversy, and public comment came to a
dramatic conclusion with the passage of a law in 2004 banning all “ostenta-
tious” religious symbols from French public schools.1 Two years later, this
time in Britain, a similar issue flared up. Public schools were again the site
of controversy, but in this instance the protagonist was a Muslim school-
teacher who was suspended from teaching by a school board in Yorkshire
on the grounds that the niqab (full veil) she wore was hindering students’
ability to comprehend her lessons. Prime Minister Tony Blair described the
veil as a “mark of separation,” while an opinion poll found that 57 percent
of Britons surveyed believed that British Muslims had not done enough to
integrate. Only 22 percent believed they had.2
In January 2005, an article on the “Science and Technology” page of
the Guardian Weekly began as follows: “If you want to understand hu-
man evolution, it may be worth starting with Johannes Daak from the
remote village of Akel in the heavily forested centre of the Indonesian is-
land of Flores.” A team of physical anthropologists in Indonesia claimed
to have discovered in a remote Indonesian village on the island of Flores a
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