Abstract

As the second decade of the twenty-first century begins, political leaders across Western Europe have increasingly pointed to Muslims' bodily attitudes as indicative of their refusal to join the wider society, and as indicative of the failure of the society to sufficiently carry out programs of political socialization and assimilation. Among the targeted practices have been covering the hair or face (for women), wearing loose, short trousers (for men), refusing to shake hands with those of the opposite sex, and praying in the street (for men and women). Political actors have made both broader and more specific claims: that these badges of separation show that some Muslims refuse the rules of common social life, and that covering the hair or face shows that the oppression of women, either in particular cases or generally, remains part of Islamic culture. Civic "normality" is thereby portrayed against images of its opposite: people who by their bodily practices show themselves to be visibly and slavishly obedient, unmodern, and sectarian. I examine here how politically useful condemnations have been given the force of law in France. In particular, I trace a shift in the legal justifications for French laws and decisions targeting women's dress during the first decade of the 2000s. The shift, to be found in texts of court decisions and administrative practice, consists in moving from harm-based arguments to values-based ones.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-768X
Print ISSN
0037-783X
Pages
pp. 325-348
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-30
Open Access
No
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