Politics of the Veil & The Challenge of Multiculturalism

Week 9 // Post 8

To continue our discussion form last week about Muslims and the Islamic system we read more into the book Islam, Europe’s Second Religion by Shireen T. Hunter. This week we focus on the “failure of integration” and gender roles in the French and Islamic system.

There where two significant movements that led Muslims to immigrate into European cultures. The first was the migration of laborers and their families to fill low wedge jobs. This occurred in the 1950’s to 1970’s when the economy downturned and forced the immigration to the states. The second movement was after the end of the cold war; this was caused by the economic insecurities and conflict in their home countries, which led them to flea and migrate to Western Europe. These movements led to the “failures of integration”.

Zemni and Parker explain the “failure of integration” of Muslims in Europe of reasons. The first reason that European segregate Muslims into a different category then themselves. “…As a failure to adapt styles and practices of daily life considered compatible with the more of hegemonic national cultures” (Hunter, 2002) an example of this would be that in 1970 “others” referred to a number of different guest workers from different countries like turkey and Morocco, Today the “others” group are all Muslims. ” Migrants, whose “problems” had been seen as a consequence of their low socioeconomic status during decades, were perceived as “culturally different.” (Hunter, 2002) The other reason explained to be a contributing factor of “failure of integration” is the lack of successful immigrants in European society. This attributes to the failure of conforming to the European norm of the culture.FT_15.01.14_MuslimPopulation420px

The French and Islamic gender system is very different in what they believe in specifically sexuality. The French believe in freedom of expression and feel the veil is hindering them to express their freedom. “…The French system celebrates sex and sexuality as free of social and political risk.” (Scott, 2007) The Islamic system is the complete opposite, “It is a recognition of the threat sex poses for society and politics.” (Scott, 2007) Muslim woman wear veils stray the need to sexualize woman as well as men. The girls who wear headscarves view them to be signified as moistest and sexual unavailable.pic 1

The Islamic headscarf poses a challenge to the French republic’s ideal of “abstract individualims” and “laïcité”. This is further explained the book Politics of the veil by Joan Wallach Scott, she says that “ The French system of gender was offered as not only the best, but the only acceptable, way to organize relations between the sexes. Those who did not conform to it were by definition inferior and therefore could never be fully French. The issue of covered or unconverted sexuality … gave the headscarf affair both its resonance and it intensity.”(Scott, 2007) This is a perfect example of how the Islamic and French “culture” is irreconcilable.

My opinion on this debate and controversy is that it is hard to see where we are debating over this still. For me I think it comes from the ignorance of each culture, and the fear. I believe that French see a veil and at times they serotype and assume that they are terrorist. On the Muslim side of the debate the French are being very insensitive to the Islamic religion. While both sides feel strongly about their opinion and more Muslims continue to move to European countries they will have to be more accepting of each other, which I’m sure is easier said then done.downloadWhile gaining a better understand of Hijabs I found an article from NBC News. Nike is in the processes of manufacturing headscarves or Hijab for athletic Muslim woman and receiving backlash on the topic. Some on social media have used the hashtag #boycottNike because critics are saying that the product supports the oppression of woman. I found this article interesting, because in the Politics of the Veil Scott dose go into detail about how Islam oppresses woman and French liberates them. I though that this article went along with the reading for this week, coming from more a westernized perspective.


Scott, Joan W. The Politics of the Veil. Princeton University Press, 2007. Print.

Shireen, Hunter T. Islam, Europe’s Second Religion. Westport: Praeger, 2002. Print.



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