Title

French Dressing: Race, Gender, and the Hijab Story

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date

Summer 2006

Abstract

Part of a special section on the debate in France over the hijab, or headscarf, worn by Muslim women. The writer traces the history of the headscarf controversy in France, which reached its zenith in 2004 when legislators approved a law banning conspicuous signs of religion in public schools. The controversy highlights the seeming near-consensus in French political culture around a resuscitated national identity and model for humanity represented by a universalist, secular, republican France. The hijab has been constructed as a serious threat to this model, and the ban on wearing it has been presented as a bulwark against both Islamic fundamentalism and "American-style" multiculturalism. Despite its universalist pretensions, the current model of French identity is nationalized, even nationalistic, and it serves to marginalize ethnic, racial, and religious minorities, as well as those who merely refuse to accept its "universality."

DOI

10.2307/20459086

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