Why the French Don't Like Headscarves: Islam, the State, and Public Space

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9780691138398: Why the French Don't Like Headscarves: Islam, the State, and Public Space
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The French government's 2004 decision to ban Islamic headscarves and other religious signs from public schools puzzled many observers, both because it seemed to infringe needlessly on religious freedom, and because it was hailed by many in France as an answer to a surprisingly wide range of social ills, from violence against females in poor suburbs to anti-Semitism. Why the French Don't Like Headscarves explains why headscarves on schoolgirls caused such a furor, and why the furor yielded this law. Making sense of the dramatic debate from his perspective as an American anthropologist in France at the time, John Bowen writes about everyday life and public events while also presenting interviews with officials and intellectuals, and analyzing French television programs and other media.


Bowen argues that the focus on headscarves came from a century-old sensitivity to the public presence of religion in schools, feared links between public expressions of Islamic identity and radical Islam, and a media-driven frenzy that built support for a headscarf ban during 2003-2004. Although the defense of laïcité (secularity) was cited as the law's major justification, politicians, intellectuals, and the media linked the scarves to more concrete social anxieties--about "communalism," political Islam, and violence toward women.


Written in engaging, jargon-free prose, Why the French Don't Like Headscarves is the first comprehensive and objective analysis of this subject, in any language, and it speaks to tensions between assimilation and diversity that extend well beyond France's borders.

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"This book casts a great deal of light on the events leading up to the French law banning Muslim headscarves in schools. Bowen takes us through the strange and often distorted debate that culminated in the decision to pass a new law. He shows the roots of this decision in French history and politics, with a marvelous eye for nuance and a sensitivity to the many positions which clashed in the debate. The result is a work that not only is tremendously important for an understanding of France today, but that also has relevance for similar debates that are now in train in many other Western societies."--Charles Taylor, Northwestern University

"This book, ostensibly an account of the French debates on Muslim headscarves in public schools, is a thoughtful and deep probe into French political culture, the legacy of colonialism, and the difficulty for a state that refuses to recognize communal differences in the public sphere to accommodate millions of Muslim immigrants. It is a timely, learned, and provocative work."--Stanley Hoffmann, Harvard University

"France's decision to ban religious signs in public schools was quite puzzling, if not downright crazy, to many outsiders. In Why the French Don't Like Headscarves, John Bowen manages to make sense of the apparent madness by carefully tracing the disparate threads of the issue, in particular by replacing the debate within the specific French context of the long, complicated relationship between Church and State. This book should be read by all those who seek a fair and comprehensive analysis of the headscarves decision and of the broader question of the place of Muslims in contemporary French society."--Sophie Meunier, Princeton University, author of The French Challenge: Adapting to Globalization

"This extremely important book brings us a fresh and innovative analysis of its subject. What is new is that it is not by a French scholar--who would be immersed in the heated passions of the issue--but by an American anthropologist who decodes for us the chronology and the political and philosophical foundations of this particular debate."--Malika Zeghal, University of Chicago Divinity School, author of Les islamistes marocains

About the Author:

John R. Bowen is Dunbar-Van Cleve Professor in Arts and Sciences, Professor of Anthropology, and Director of the Initiative in Pluralism, Politics, and Religion at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the author of Muslims through Discourse (Princeton), Islam, Law and Equality in Indonesia, as well as the forthcoming Can Islam Be French? (Princeton).

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Book Description Princeton University Press, United States, 2008. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The French government s 2004 decision to ban Islamic headscarves and other religious signs from public schools puzzled many observers, both because it seemed to infringe needlessly on religious freedom, and because it was hailed by many in France as an answer to a surprisingly wide range of social ills, from violence against females in poor suburbs to anti-Semitism. Why the French Don t Like Headscarves explains why headscarves on schoolgirls caused such a furor, and why the furor yielded this law. Making sense of the dramatic debate from his perspective as an American anthropologist in France at the time, John Bowen writes about everyday life and public events while also presenting interviews with officials and intellectuals, and analyzing French television programs and other media. Bowen argues that the focus on headscarves came from a century-old sensitivity to the public presence of religion in schools, feared links between public expressions of Islamic identity and radical Islam, and a media-driven frenzy that built support for a headscarf ban during 2003-2004. Although the defense of laicite (secularity) was cited as the law s major justification, politicians, intellectuals, and the media linked the scarves to more concrete social anxieties--about communalism, political Islam, and violence toward women. Written in engaging, jargon-free prose, Why the French Don t Like Headscarves is the first comprehensive and objective analysis of this subject, in any language, and it speaks to tensions between assimilation and diversity that extend well beyond France s borders. Seller Inventory # AAU9780691138398

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Book Description Princeton University Press, United States, 2008. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The French government s 2004 decision to ban Islamic headscarves and other religious signs from public schools puzzled many observers, both because it seemed to infringe needlessly on religious freedom, and because it was hailed by many in France as an answer to a surprisingly wide range of social ills, from violence against females in poor suburbs to anti-Semitism. Why the French Don t Like Headscarves explains why headscarves on schoolgirls caused such a furor, and why the furor yielded this law. Making sense of the dramatic debate from his perspective as an American anthropologist in France at the time, John Bowen writes about everyday life and public events while also presenting interviews with officials and intellectuals, and analyzing French television programs and other media. Bowen argues that the focus on headscarves came from a century-old sensitivity to the public presence of religion in schools, feared links between public expressions of Islamic identity and radical Islam, and a media-driven frenzy that built support for a headscarf ban during 2003-2004. Although the defense of laicite (secularity) was cited as the law s major justification, politicians, intellectuals, and the media linked the scarves to more concrete social anxieties--about communalism, political Islam, and violence toward women. Written in engaging, jargon-free prose, Why the French Don t Like Headscarves is the first comprehensive and objective analysis of this subject, in any language, and it speaks to tensions between assimilation and diversity that extend well beyond France s borders. Seller Inventory # AAU9780691138398

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Book Description Princeton University Press, 2008. Condition: New. 2008. Paperback. The French government's 2004 decision to ban Islamic headscarves and other religious signs from public schools puzzled many observers. This book argues that the focus on headscarves came from a century-old sensitivity to the public presence of religion in schools, feared links between public expressions of Islamic identity and radical Islam. Num Pages: 304 pages, 6 halftones. BIC Classification: 1DDF; JFSR2; JPH. Category: (P) Professional & Vocational; (U) Tertiary Education (US: College). Dimension: 229 x 155 x 18. Weight in Grams: 434. . . . . . . Seller Inventory # V9780691138398

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