Why the French Don't Like Headscarves: Islam, the State, and Public Space

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Princeton University Press, 2007 - Design - 290 pages
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"This book casts a great deal of light on the events leading up to the French law banning Muslim headscarves in schools. Bowen takes us through the strange and often distorted debate that culminated in the decision to pass a new law. He shows the roots of this decision in French history and politics, with a marvelous eye for nuance and a sensitivity to the many positions which clashed in the debate. The result is a work that not only is tremendously important for an understanding of France today, but that also has relevance for similar debates that are now in train in many other Western societies."--Charles Taylor, Northwestern University

"This book, ostensibly an account of the French debates on Muslim headscarves in public schools, is a thoughtful and deep probe into French political culture, the legacy of colonialism, and the difficulty for a state that refuses to recognize communal differences in the public sphere to accommodate millions of Muslim immigrants. It is a timely, learned, and provocative work."--Stanley Hoffmann, Harvard University

"France's decision to ban religious signs in public schools was quite puzzling, if not downright crazy, to many outsiders. In "Why the French Don't Like Headscarves," John Bowen manages to make sense of the apparent madness by carefully tracing the disparate threads of the issue, in particular by replacing the debate within the specific French context of the long, complicated relationship between Church and State. This book should be read by all those who seek a fair and comprehensive analysis of the headscarves decision and of the broader question of the place of Muslims in contemporary French society."--Sophie Meunier, Princeton University, author of "The French Challenge: Adapting to Globalization"

"This extremely important book brings us a fresh and innovative analysis of its subject. What is new is that it is not by a French scholar--who would be immersed in the heated passions of the issue--but by an American anthropologist who decodes for us the chronology and the political and philosophical foundations of this particular debate."--Malika Zeghal, University of Chicago Divinity School, author of "Les islamistes marocains"

 

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About the author (2007)

John R. Bowen is Dunbar-Van Cleve Professor in Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St Louis, and recurrent Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He has been studying Islam and society in Indonesia since the late 1970s, and since 2001 has worked in France, England and North America on problems of pluralism, law and religion, in particular on contemporary efforts to rethink Islamic norms and civil law. His most recent books are A New Anthropology of Islam (2012) and Blaming Islam (2012).

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