chapter  14
22 Pages

Rethinking National Constellations of Citizenship: Situating the Headscarf Controversy in the Netherlands

ByDoutje Lettinga

Debates about female Islamic head and body covering are far from new in Europe. Already in the late 1980s a conflict emerged when Samira, Leila and Fatima, three pupils from a high school in Creil (an industrial town North-East of Paris) were not allowed to cover their hair in the classroom. It was the first of a range of incidents in France that resulted from the demand to wear Islamic attire in public institutions. In other European countries Muslim girls and women have also insisted on a public space for their own religious and cultural practices and identities. But while French discussions eventually resulted in the adoption of a law in 2004 that banned all ‘conspicuous’ religious symbols from public schools, teachers in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands are allowed to wear headscarves in the classroom, and debates continue to centre on the face-veil.