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SOC 885 Chapter Notes -Headscarf, Hijab, Islamic Fundamentalism

Course Code
SOC 885
Amina Jamal

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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.
oPersonal 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
religious/cultural identity.
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
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