The Headscarf Debates: Conflicts of National Belonging (Book Review)
Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews, Vol. 45, Iss. 2, p. 204-206, 2016
3 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2016
Date Written: January 31, 2016
The human need to belong to a community. That is the theme that runs through The Headscarf Debates: Conflicts of National Belonging. Standing out from the multitude of binary examinations of the Muslim headscarf as liberal or authoritarian, liberating or misogynist, this book asks the more important human question: what do the headscarf debates tell us about who we allow into our political community.
Acknowledging the agency of Muslim women in the different meanings they attribute to the headscarf – multiple modernities, liberal self-expression, a claim to dignity denied to Muslim immigrant groups, or simply covering up one’s messy hair – the book avoids the common trap of viewing Muslim women through the prism of a mere piece of cloth. Instead, the authors use the so-called “headscarf debates” as an interpretive tool to explore how these debates revisit, reaffirm, and potentially rearticulate the meaning of national belonging in four countries – France, Turkey, the Netherlands, and Germany.
The book situates the topic within the contentious, longstanding debates between multi-culturalism and assimilationism gripping Western and Eastern nations experiencing transformative demographic changes. Notably, the discourse is not analyzed through “Muslim versus non-Muslim” actors’ views of the headscarf, but rather how existing discourses are employed by politicians, government officials, and activists of various religious backgrounds to reaffirm, rearticulate, and transform national narratives of belonging.
Keywords: Headscarf, Muslim Veil, Muslim, Islam, Muslim Women, Sociology, Headscarf Debates, Laicite, Feminism, Gender, Culture
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation