Reasons to Ban? The Anti-Burqa Movement in Western Europe
by Ralph Grillo and Prakash Shah
Working Papers WP 12-05
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)
Full text: pdf
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.
Ralph Grillo is Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex.
Publications include: Pluralism and the Politics of Difference: State, Culture, and Ethnicity in Comparative Perspective, Clarendon Press (1998); editor of The Family in Question: Immigrant and Ethnic Minorities in Multicultural Europe, Amsterdam University Press (2008); co-editor of Legal Practice and Cultural Diversity, Ashgate (2009). Ralph Grillo is a member of the Advisory Group of the Department of Socio-Cultural Diversity of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity at Göttingen.
Prakash Shah is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Law, Queen Mary, University of London.
Areas of research include ethnic minorities and diasporas in law, religion and law, immigration, refugee and nationality law, comparative law, and legal pluralism. Editor
of Ashgate book series on Cultural Diversity and Law; publications include: Legal Practice and Cultural Diversity (Ashgate, 2009, joint editor), Law and Ethnic Plurality: Socio-Legal Perspectives (Martinus Nijhoff, 2007, editor), Migration, Diasporas and Legal Systems in Europe (RoutledgeCavendish, 2006, co-editor), The Challenge of Asylum to Legal Systems (Cavendish, 2005, editor), and Legal Pluralism in Conflict: Coping with Cultural Diversity in Law (Glass House, 2005).
Islam, Muslims, Europe, Face-Veiling, Burqa, Women