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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Germany: Feminist writes book on Islamic veil

And supports its prohibition:

The headscarf is more than just a piece of fabric, more than just another article of clothing, and definitely not some hip lifestyle accessory that heavily made-up girls should use to add a little color to their wardrobe. No, the head scarf is a "flag and symbol of Islamists" which "followed a crusade all the way to the heart of Europe by the 1980s." Or so says iconic German feminist Alice Schwarzer in her new book, "The Great Cover Up: For Integration, against Islamism".

The book was recently published in German under the name "Die grosse Verschleierung: Fuer Integration, gegen Islamismus," and its strong statements been an injection of yet more fuel into the already burning integration debate in Germany.

Teachers are no longer allowed to wear the head scarf in German public schools, and now Schwarzer has demanded the next step: Girls should be forbidden to wear it as well.

"Only this forceful act would finally give the young woman from a fundamentalist orthodox family the chance to move with freedom and equality, at least within the confines of the schoolyard," Schwarzer writes.

Many readers are likely to react negatively to this demand for a headscarf ban. In themselves, bans clash with freedoms and rights that are supposed to be self-evident in Germany: the right to individual self-determination, the freedom of religion.

So why shouldn't schoolgirls be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not they want to wear a headscarf to school? And wouldn't a ban serve to agitate exactly those young women who wear their headscarves as a symbol of their Islamic identity? Wouldn't they find it more important than ever to wear the garment?

Schwarzer and her co-authors - the book includes articles by a number of journalists and activists - sum up the central conflict as being the opposition between the right to individuality and the right to equality:

"The wearing of the headscarf, which turns the girls into 'strangers' who are cut off socially and limited physically, comes along with a whole array of special treatments that their parents demand from the school. It is always a question of dividing the sexes or - insofar as this is refused by the German schools - giving girls special dispensation from swimming class or gym class, from school trips and from sex education classes."

If the right to individuality is enforced, then the basic right to equality is breached, and the right to equal opportunity is annulled, the argument goes. Islam expert Rita Breuer spent the year 2009 hanging around German schoolyards. She contributed an article about the pressure that girls who wear headscarves often put on the students who don't wear the scarf, making comments like: "Are you trying to look like a German?" or "The headscarf is our honor - don't you have any?"

Such schoolyard discussions are then padded out with Koran commentaries, Fatwas - Islamic legal pronouncements - sermons or in the Internet, Breuer says. In these places, she adds, "Islamic woman's clothing is propagated as the embodiment of her protection and her dignity, whereas the Western alternatives are seen as heinous and disgraceful […] I see no trace of girls having the 'freedom to decide' whether or not to wear the headscarf, which we so much like to suggest."

According to the book, fundamentalists are on the march in Germany. And the real problem, Schwarzer says, is the "systematic undermining of our educational apparatus and the legal system."
Alice Schwarzer in Wikipedia.

Alice Schwarzer's web (DE).

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