Paris, Sept. 23 (Reuters): Is it a piece of innocent cloth or the thin end of a threatening wedge'
The traditional Muslim woman’s headscarf is causing such controversy in some European countries that prime ministers and supreme courts are being asked to decide when it can be worn. The hijab, as it is called in Arabic, has offended Europe’s teachers, bureaucrats and modern-minded women for over a decade.
The September 11 attacks in the US heightened fears that the veil could be covering a head full of radical thoughts.
Germany’s highest court tackles the issue tomorrow when it rules on whether Stuttgart school authorities were right to bar Afghan-born Fereshta Ludin from a teaching job as her headscarf would violate the state’s neutrality in religion.
In France, a state commission is debating whether Paris should forbid Muslim girls from wearing a scarf to class.
Not all Europeans have such troubles.
The British, for example, generally shrug at the headscarves in their Muslim neighbourhoods as just another part of a multicultural society. Not all Muslim women in Europe wear headscarves, either.
But the ones who do are increasingly teenagers and young women who have grown up in Europe and want their full rights but also consider modesty in clothing an Islamic duty.
Where it is an issue, the headscarf has challenged notions about integration and religious rights. Deeper down, it uncomfortably recalls struggles over religion that modern secular societies thought they had long put behind them.
“This traumatic history is coming back in the confrontation with Islam,” the German weekly Die Zeit observed.