chapter  7
The limits of populism: accommodative headscarf policies in Austria, Denmark, and the Netherlands: Leila Hadj-Abdou, Sieglinde Rosenberger, Sawitri Saharso and Birte Siim
Pages 18

Introduction While ‘multiculturalism’ was once pos it ively associated with a polit ical ideal of a diverse soci ety, Europe has in the past years witnessed a backlash of multicul­ turalist discourses and the rise of polit ical actors that call for a reduction of or even a stop to immigration. In pub lic debates the idea that im mig rants have a right to maintain their culture is replaced by the idea that some cultures contra­ dict with lib eral uni ver sal values, and many coun tries have therefore introduced stricter immigration rules and obligatory civic integration tests for im mig rants. Cultural diversity is no longer regarded as an asset, but as a prob lem for social cohesion and col lect ive identity. In par ticu lar, Islam and im mig rants from Islamic coun tries are often perceived as posing a threat to Western Euro pean soci­eties­defined­by­lib­eral­values­such­as­indi­vidualism,­secularism,­and­gender­ equality (Parekh 2006; Joppke 2007; Zúquete 2008; Betz and Meret 2009). The Neth er lands shifted from a multicultural approach to assimilation (Entzinger 2005). Likewise, Denmark moved towards one of the most restrictive Euro pean immigration and integration laws (Mouriten 2006), while Austria has never con­ sidered itself as an immigration coun try and already had an exclusive approach towards the rights of im mig rants, which has even been strengthened in the last years (Mourão Permoser and Rosenberger 2009). In par ticu lar, right­ wing popu­ list par ties have been engaged in politicizing Islam and Muslim im mig rants, stig­ matizing them as the alien and backward ‘other’ (Zúquete 2008). Most notably, veiling has been portrayed as a sign of the oppression of im mig rant women and, eventually, restrictions on the wearing of the Muslim headgear have been claimed by both the rad ical right and fem in ists alike (see Chapter 1). In some coun tries, this change in attitudes and pol icy positioning went together with a change towards more restrictive meas ures re gard ing veiling (see Chapter 8), but it did not in others. Decision makers in Austria, Denmark and the Neth er lands, three coun tries with elect orally strong rad ical populist par ties, took a different path. Despite increasing politicization of immigration and Islam, these coun tries con tinue to pursue an accommodating veiling pol icy.1 ­ This­chapter­ex­plores­the­structural­and­discursive­factors­which­influence­the­ con tinu ity of accommodating veiling pol icies despite heavy populist challenge

for­restrictions.­Focusing­on­specific­pol­icy­de­cisions­ in­Austria,­Denmark­and­ the Neth er lands, we identi fy and discuss both institutional ar range ments and frames of ref er ences within these three coun tries which are sim ilar in regard to the major inde pend ent vari able, the strength of populist par ties proposing an anti­ veiling agenda. The puzz ling question examined in this chapter is how it can be understood that despite the increasing polit ical con tention over immigra­ tion and Islamic issues, pol icy makers in these three coun tries stand out among our eight cases of the VEIL pro ject as having kept to their accommodating pol­ icies re gard ing the wearing of headscarves in the pub lic realm (within the time frame­from­the­1990s­to­2004).­For­clarification,­we­define­accommodating­pol­ icies as pol icies that expli citly allow wearing the headscarf in pub lic institutions (schools, universities, health care institutions).2 In our search for an explanation we will investigate the under lying mech an­ ism of the polit ical debate on veiling that preceded pol icy formation: we as sume that­pol­icy­outcomes­depend­on­configurations­of­polit­ical­power­(e.g.­the­gov­ ern mental status of polit ical par ties) and to a large extent on long­ standing insti­ tutional ar range ments (in our case the relationship of religion and pol itics). It is expected that polit ical de cisions follow a path dependency in this respect, which leads to the argument that the demands for pol icy change launched by populist par ties are confronted with institutional limits to challenging and mobilizing against rights of im mig rants and their religion (Fetzer and Soper 2005). More­ over, our research is led by the idea that in order to explain pol icy outcomes we must­reflect­upon­the­discursive­construction­of­social­prob­lems­in­the­polit­ical­ sphere by polit ical actors, whether as constituting pol icy or as communicating (or even legitimizing) (future) pol icy. Translated to the subject at hand, this means that we expect the im port ant factors to explain the con tinua tion of accom­ modating regulation of headscarves in Austria, Denmark and the Neth er lands to be: the estab lished state-church relationship, the status of the given populist party within par lia ment and gov ern ment, pre val ent polit ical prin ciples with respect to anti­ discrimination and equality, and whether debating the headscarf issue is aimed at communicating and legitimizing restrictive immigration pol icies or pro­ ducing pol icy change within the area of religion and pol itics. By comparing three coun tries with sim ilar pol icy outcomes, we identi fy which factors are most rel ev­ ant for explaining the accommodating pol icy in these countries. The chapter is structured as follows: the fol low ing section de scribes the accommodating pol icies and ex plores how these pol icies became contested by populist par ties; the next and central section comparatively ana lyses how and why accommodating pol icies stayed in place, that is what the institutional and­ discursive­ limits­ of­ populist­ par­ties­ are;­ and­ the­ final­ section­ summar­izes­ and concludes the analysis.