This project is funded under Socio-economic Sciences and Humanities

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Values, Equality and Differences in Liberal Democracies Debates about Female Muslim Headscarves in Europe

Project aims at...

The VEIL-project explains the differences and similarities in policy-making and regulation across Europe. The project will explicate how the framing of the issue of Muslim headscarves, the values, norms and principles embedded in the debates structures the policy making processes. The aim is to show how constructions of gender at the intersection with ethnicity, nationality and religion are part of negotiation processes over values and norms in European democracies.


VEIL explores the topic with a policy oriented comparative social science and gender-sensitive approach. VEIL applies a gender-critical frame analysis of policy documents on Muslim headscarves to encode values and norms, which underlie the policy debates in :

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Research findings

The Veil-project has generated major findings relevant for studies on migration, gender equality, and religion and politics. We can summarize it by this plan :

We found several modes of regulating Muslim head- and body-covering in the countries investigated. The modes of regulation differ in different political and societal sites (public institutions, education, private sector); they also differ with respect to the type of covering. Some countries have established modes of regulation with prohibitive consequences, in other countries non-restrictive propositions are at work; some of them could be qualified as tolerant regulations, others as non-regulations. In general, we conclude: - In the last decade more and more restrictive measures and public debates calling for restrictions have emerged in the 8 countries. - Debates focusing on restrictions refer increasingly to forms of face covering and full body covering. Put it differently: debates on full veils (niquab, burqua) have superseded the headscarf (hijab) especially in countries with tolerant climate towards the headscarf, such as the Netherlands and UK.

The project results indicate that the historically established relation between religion and state is a major factor in determining the regulation of Muslim head- and body-covering as an issue of anti-discrimination is rarely found in the debates. With respect to "discursive" Europeanization through the use of common values and frames the project gives evidence that the headscarf debate do rather contribute to the re-construction of national identities than to a discursive European value space. In some countries, even universal values and norms are being portrayed as national values deriving from national cultures and heritages.


Policy recommendations

The recommendations focus on major scholarly results of the project and on suggestions how these results could be applied for governing inclusive and participatory decision making:

• Awareness of the multidimensional intersections of discrimination in relation to headscarf regulations by focusing on multidimensional strategies for creating equal opportunity structures

  • Discrimination at the labour-market in the context of tolerant as well as restrictive headscarf-regulations
  • Unequal participation opportunities of headscarf wearing women in the context of tolerant regulation

• Create equal opportunities for participation by focusing on context-sensitive anti-discrimination machinery

  • Enforce and enhance anti-discrimination machinery
  • Creation of new intersectional anti-discrimination machinery on national as well as on EU-level

Create equal opportunities for participation by focusing on innovative anti-discrimination measures

  • Monitoring societal consequences of implemented restrictive headscarf regulations
  • Specify the margin of appreciation of the anti-discrimination directives

• Create equal opportunities through participation at negotiation processes in political and administrative bodies of decision making

  • Inclusive representative bodies as prerequisite for decision-making processes

• Create equal opportunities through participation in public deliberation

  • Recognizing that values and norms are continuously re-constructed in negotiation processes
  • Giving Muslim women a voice

• Elaborate research programs that focus on the governance of intersectional differences and plurality