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Headscarves and Feminists

The controversy in France over the Muslim headscarf has not gone away with the passing of the new law barring the wearing of religious symbols in educational institutions…. Among the most vocal opponents of the headscarf are staunch leftists and enlightened liberals, who view it as an alien imposition on European France’s social and cultural common ground. They do not believe their position contradicts the European and French principle of freedom of expression.

Defenders of the Muslim women’s right to cover their hair, and even their faces, actually include some militant feminists. They come from the point of view that a woman has the right to freely express herself and her body- and Muslim women themselves use the same argument. They feel that a devout Muslim woman should be permitted to wear both a daring miniskirt and a headscarf.

The headscarf is not simply an emblem of female modesty—it is a public declaration that the wearer is Muslim… .Of all the major religions’ symbols, it is specifically the headscarf that has become the one theoretically threatening to crush the secular French republic. It’s not the skullcap, not the turban, not the beard, and certainly not the crucifix—all of them predominantly male symbols… .Not only does the headscarf religious symbol bother France because it is Muslim-Arab, they claim, but even more so because it belongs to women.

The feminine aspect is important because women historically have been test cases for the spirit of the times and their crises. From the leprosy that silenced Miriam, Moses’ sister, after she dared to speak her mind, to the witch hunts of Europe in the Middle Ages and abortion hysteria in America today—any cultural change that frightens the conservative establishment takes a brutal toll on women.