The judicial politics of ‘burqa bans’ in Belgium
and Spain – Socio-legal field dynamics and the
standardization of justificatory repertoires

by Marian Burchardt (mpi-mmg), Zeynep Yanasmayan (MPI for Social Anthropology), Matthias Koenig (University of Goettingen)é

Working Papers WP 17-10
October 2017
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

Full text: pdf

Over the past decade, controversies over Islamic face veiling have become increasingly widespread in societies across Europe. This article comparatively explores the socio-legal dynamics of claims-making by proponents and opponents of prohibiting full-face coverings in Belgium and Spain. In Belgium, a federal ban of full-face coverings was adopted in July 2011 and, after intensive judicial struggles,  received judicial validation by the Constitutional Court in 2012. In Spain, local burqa controversies led to municipal bans in the region of Catalonia in 2010, which were annulled by the Supreme Court in 2013 after effective legal counter-mobilizations. Our key argument is that, the diverging legal outcomes notwithstanding, as burqa controversies are transposed from locally embedded political fields to transnationally situated judicial fields the justificatory repertoires employed are increasingly standardized. It is this standardization of justificatory repertoires that, in the long run, has facilitated the rapid spread of ‘burqa bans’.

Keywords: Religion, diversity, law, judicialization, Spain, Belgium, face veil, burqa.

Marian Burchardt is a cultural sociologist and senior research fellow at the Humanities Center of Advanced Study “Multiple Secularities” at the University of Leipzig. Before joining the Center, he was a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen and the University of Bayreuth. His research is mainly about how cultural diversity affects public life, institutions and everyday life. He is the author of Faith in the Time of AIDS: Religion, Biopolitics and Modernity in South Africa (Palgrave Macmillan 2015) and co-editor of Topographies of Faith: Religion in Urban Spaces (Brill 2013), Multiple Secularities Beyond the West: Religion and Modernity in the Global Age (De Gruyter 2015) and After Integration: Islam, Conviviality and Contentious Politics (Springer 2015). His recent publications include “Narrating liberal rights and culture: Muslim face veiling, urban coexistence and contention in Spain” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 41(7), 1068-1087 (2015, with M. Griera and G. Garcia-Romeral) and “Diversity as neoliberal governmentality: Towards a new sociological genealogy of religion”, Social Compass, 64(2): 80-93.

Zeynep Yanasmayan is a Senior Research Fellow and the Coordinator of the project ‘The Challenges of Migration, Integration and Exclusion’ the Department of Law and Anthropology of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology. She holds a PhD in Social Sciences from KU Leuven, Belgium. She worked as a research fellow at various institutions, including Humboldt University in Berlin, European University Viadrina in Frankurt/Oder and the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen. Her research focuses on topics relating to migration and citizenship studies, religion and politics, Turkish politics and law and society. Her recent publications include; “Oppositional usages of Europeanization in Turkish constitution-making: discussions on religious freedom.” Turkish Studies (2017); “Does Education ‘Trump’ Nationality? Boundary-Drawing Practices among Highly Educated Migrants from Turkey.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 39(11) (2016): 2041-2059; “Citizenship on Paper or at Heart? Closer Look into the Dual Citizenship Practices in Europe.” Citizenship Studies 19(6-7) (2015): 785-801.

Matthias Koenig is full professor of sociology at the University of Göttingen and Max Planck Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. He held visiting positions at the École Pratique des Hautes Etudes in  Paris, at the University of Toronto and at the University of Michigan. He has published widely on sociological theory, human rights, religion and immigrant integration in journals such as Ethnic and Racial Studies, International Migration Review, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies and International Sociology. His recent publications include Religion and National Identities in an Enlarging Europe (co-edited with W. Knöbl & W. Spohn, Palgrave 2015), “Governance of religious diversity at the European Court of Human Rights” (in: J. Boulden & W. Kymlicka, eds., International Approaches to Governing Ethnic Diversity, Oxford University  Press 2015), and “Religion and new immigrants’ labor market entry in Western Europe”, Ethnicities 16(2): 213-235 (with M. Malipaard and A. Güveli). His current research focuses on constitutional models of majority/minority relations in global comparative perspective and on religious mobilization in transnational legal arenas.