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Reasons to ban?: The anti-burqa movement in Western Europe


Grillo,  Ralph David
Socio-Cultural Diversity, MPI for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Max Planck Society;

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Grillo, R. D., & Shah, P. (2012). Reasons to ban?: The anti-burqa movement in Western Europe. MMG Working Paper, (12-05).

During the 2000s, the dress of Muslim women in Muslim-minority countries in Europe and elsewhere became increasingly a matter for debate and, in several instances, the subject of legislation. In France, a ban on the wearing of the headscarf in places of education (2004) was followed in 2010 by the law criminalizing the wearing of the face-veil (usually but inaccurately referred to as the ‘burqa’) in public space. Other countries have enacted similar legislation. Muslim women’s dress has historically been a controversial matter in Muslim-majority countries, too, most recently in North Africa following the Arab Spring, but the present paper concentrates on the movement against face-veiling in Western Europe, documenting what has been happening and analysing the arguments proposed to justify criminalizing this type of garment. In doing so, the paper explores the implications for our understanding of contemporary (ethnically and religiously) diverse societies and their governance. Is anti-veiling legislation a protest against what is interpreted as an Islamic practice unacceptable in liberal democracies, a sign of a wider discomfort with non-European otherness, or an expression of an underlying racism articulated in cultural terms? Whatever the reason, is criminalization an appropriate response? An Appendix notes some topics for further research.