Female Subjects of International Human Rights
Law: The Hijab Debate and the Exotic Other female
AU: Sevda Clark
A Veiled Understanding
Orientalism and the “Othering of the Muslim Woman
• M.Jacques Chirac, president of the republic of France expressed an underlying
assumption that the poor, repressed Muslim woman needs to be saved and
liberated from the prison of the veil that constrains her.
• The European imperialism shows that the East is an object over which power
is exerted by way of an overarching orientalist narrative.
• Such attitude towards the veil demonstrates the othering of the Muslim
• Western culture refuses to grant women full membership as rational beings in
the human race. Demonstrates the extent of the othering of the Muslim
woman w/in the religious system and then consequently by the very system
that claims to speak in her best interests (referring to feminism and the state
actors who have banned the hijab).
The Veil as a Religious Observance Rather Than a Political Symbol
• Raffarin, PM, stated that the political symbol can’t be separated from its
religious aspects. Thus, banning the veil as a political symbol infringes on the
religious rights of Muslim woman in a way that the banning of purely political
• There are number of reasons why Muslim women wear the veil, which this
limited understanding of the hijab as a monosemic symbol fails to recognize.
These range from personal religious devotion to the cultural and political.
o Personal religious conviction, freedom of religion, acceptance as a good
Muslim female, compliance with family values, neutralization of sexuality
and protection from harassment from males, and individual choice and
o There is more than one reason as a justification to wear the hijab and her
reasons may change over time.
• While hijab as a cultural entity may not be connected with religious
observance, but may be an identifying symbol of class, status and sex, the
hijab as a political symbol is intricately connected with religious observance.
• In the case of hijab its different to say that hat, cap, hood or even a bonnet
rouge, the red cap worn during the French Revolution as a symbol of liberty
b/c it can have multiple meanings not just to different women but to any
given individual. It can’t be reduced to a single unitary meaning such that the
piece of fabric is “symbolic” of any one thing specifically.
• Hijab is banned in France and Turkey b/c of its political symbolism reduces the
plurality of reasons that Muslim women wear the hijab to the singular and
presumes Muslim women, as a group, all wear the veil for the same reason.
• Generalization of its use is bound to infringe the universal right to religious
freedom and expression for those Muslim women who wear it as an act of
personal religious belief.
• These decisions suggest that the Islamic headscarf is no longer simply
considered a religious symbol but is increasingly perceived as a political symbol that has negative implications for public order and individual freedom
in a democratic society.
• Criticising the majority’s views on the meaning of headscarves in a secular
and democratic society, stressed that not even the Turkish gov’t in its
defence argued that Sahin used the headscarf in an aggressive manner or to
exert pressure to provoke a reaction to proselytize(convert) or to spread
• Author argues that wearing the headscarf can’t be associated with
fundamentalism and it is vital to distinguish b/w those who wear the
headscarf and extremists who seeks to impose the headscarf as they do
other religious symbols.
• Muslim women’s wearing a headscarf is a deeply personal choice and a sign
of their religious conviction and has nothing to do with Islamic
fundamentalism, others claim militancy and headscarves are a way of
expressing anger and forging an identity.
• Notions that such religious symbols represent a threat to the secular republic
in the case of France for example seem to stem predominately from
underlying attitudes towards the Muslim veil.
A Contextual Assessment of Alleged Violations of Women’s Rights and the
• Right to freedom of religion and belief, to education and to political
expression and also most recently right not to be the victim of spirit injury are
violated by banning hijab.
• Doctrinalists propose strategies for changing her mind and thus for removing
an obstacle to universal recognition of the right, they express sensitivity to
• It’s important to understand women’s rights from their perspective to
understand why they defend the practice rather than change their mind.
Women’s views/desires are either ignored or attribute to her false
• Secular states that is choosing to ban the headscarf b/c it views the veil as a
monosemic symbol that has the same meaning for the entire Muslim
An Assessment of Violations of Women’s Rights to freedom of Religion or
• Universal Declaration of Human rights states that everyone