Germany

Headscarf debate: How Islamophobic is feminism?

Feminists who want to ban headscarves for girls are betraying the cause – and playing into the hands of the right-wing populists. An essay by Meredith Haaf

A gut instinct is not always the worst argument in decisional conflicts, but politically it is totally useless. In any case at the very latest if one's own gut instincts contradict the practice, needs and instincts of a great many other people. This has also been the Chancellor's experience in recent weeks.

Just as on the issue of marriage for all: within the context of questions of gender hierarchy, the domination of gut instincts remains relatively stable. The Muslim headscarf is currently back at the top of the list of sensitive issues, one that includes gender theory and prostitution and which regularly triggers stomach ulcer-like reactions.

With outcomes that are often hard on those affected: In a decision clearly driven by straightforward gut instinct, the Federal Constitutional Court recently rejected a last-minute appeal by a female Muslim lawyer who wanted to wear her headscarf while absolving her internship.

So here we have a woman being legally prevented from realising her life opportunities in the attire of her choice – in particular a woman whose background and religious conviction evidently make her the target of discrimination in pretty much any professional sector in this country. Nevertheless, this decision will be welcomed by many German feminists, just as the women's rights organisation Terre des Femmes did on Twitter.

Women in burkini and bikini demonstrate together in Antwerp against France′s burka ban (photo: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Sadones)
Topping the controversial league table: ahead of modern gender theories and prostitution, the Muslim headscarf has once again made it to number one as the issue most likely provoke an extreme reaction. Meanwhile, women in Antwerp can be seen here protesting together in burkini and bikini for the right to wear what they want without the state getting involved

This initially appears astonishing. But in the current setting of issues and priorities by groups such as Terre des Femmes or the magazine Emma, it is clear that the view of Islam as the motor of societal ills is not only to be found in right wing conservative circles, asserters of a national identity or the AfD.

In influential feminist circles, a perspective is prevailing from which Islam is being interpreted as the alleged all-powerful main pillar of patriarchal circumstances in this nation. The corresponding argumentation is in the best case anti-liberal and in some ways close to right wing populism. It forces the question of how close the links between feminism and progressive politics are (still) at all.

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