Outsiders within: Framing and regulation of headscarves in France, Germany and The Netherlands

D. Lettinga, S. Saharso

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While women in Europe who wear the Islamic headscarf are generally seen as outsiders who do not belong to the na-tion, some countries are more tolerant towards the wearing of headscarves than others. France, Germany and the Netherlands have developed different policies regarding veiling. In this paper we describe how headscarves became regulated in each of these countries and discuss the ways in which French, Dutch and German politicians have deliber-ated the issue. The paper is based on a content analysis of parliamentary debates on veiling in France (1989–2007), Germany (1997–2007) and the Netherlands (1985–2007). Our aim is to discuss what these national political debates re-veal about the way in which the social inclusion of Islamic women in (or rather exclusion from) the nation is perceived in these three countries. Our claim is that veiling arouses opposition because it challenges national self-understandings. Yet, because nations have different histories of nation building, these self-understandings are challenged in various ways and hence, governments have responded to headscarves with diverse regulation. While we did find national dif-ferences, we also discovered that the political debates in the three countries are converging over time. The trend is to-wards increasingly gendered debates and more restrictive headscarf policies. This, we hypothesize, is explained by in-ternational polarization around Islam and the strength of the populist anti-immigrant parties across Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-39
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Inclusion
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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