By Stephanie Cronin
In fresh years sour controversies have erupted throughout Europe and the center East approximately women’s veiling, and particularly their donning of the face-veil or niqab. but the deeper matters contained inside those controversies – secularism as opposed to spiritual trust, person freedom as opposed to social or kinfolk coercion, id as opposed to integration – should not new yet are strikingly prefigured via past conflicts. This publication examines the state-sponsored anti-veiling campaigns which swept throughout vast swathes of the Muslim international within the interwar interval, particularly in Turkey and the Balkans, Iran, Afghanistan and the Soviet republics of the Caucasus and critical Asia. It exhibits how veiling was once formally discouraged and ridiculed as backward and, even though it used to be hardly banned, veiling was once politicized and changed into a rallying-point for a much wider competition. Asking a few questions about this previous anti-veiling discourse and the rules flowing from it, and the reactions which it provoked, the booklet illuminates and contextualizes modern debates approximately gender, Islam and modernism.
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Extra info for Anti-Veiling Campaigns in the Muslim World: Gender, Modernism and the Politics of Dress
Supporters of the ban were accused of Islamophobic racism; its opponents of endangering the secular character of the French republic. Polemics about the niqab, furthermore, transcended the usual fault lines of French politics, with support for the ban able to draw on a long tradition of secularism and anti-clericalism on the French Left, the usual first line of defence for immigrant rights. The controversy in France over the face-veil, which followed a long, similarly articulated dispute over the wearing of the headscarf in French schools, was particularly sharp, but found echoes across Western Europe.
3 It is, furthermore, no longer an issue which affects only the world beyond Europe’s borders, wherever those borders may be imagined to be. As the case of France shows, owing to the presence in Europe of substantial immigrant Muslim communities, often possessing a new level of confidence and articulating a new opposition to Western foreign policy, and the rise of an Islamophobic far-Right, debates over veiling have taken on an unprecedented significance within European domestic politics. Both within the Muslim world and in Europe, polarized debates about the meaning of veiling may again be heard, these debates signifying, as in earlier periods, a much wider political and cultural clash.
The Egyptian Qasim Amin’s critique, for example, was focused very much on the face-veil. 25 It was rather the perceived function of veiling, of the role played by the veil in the perpetuation of segregation, seclusion and all their attendant evils, which was crucial. Veiling was defined as operating as an extension of female seclusion, veiled women simply taking their seclusion with them, symbolically and actually, wherever they went. 26 In Iran, it was the body-enveloping chador and the picheh, a face-veil of black horsehair mesh worn under the chador and tied over the head with a ribbon, or niqab/ruband, a face-veil of rectangular white cloth with a latticework panel at one end covering the eyes.