The Hijab and Religious Liberty
Anti-Discrimination Law and
Muslim Women in the United States
Scholars have argued that developments since the 1960s in the judicial interpretations of the religion clauses1 of the First Amendment to the Constitution have produced a “more generous and accepting spirit” toward the religious practices of minority religions in the United States.2 It has further been said that certain statutes enacted by the federal government have gone beyond simply allowing free exercise (up to a point) to intervening in social and economic life to ensure that Americans are not deprived of certain rights because of the religious prejudices of their fellow citizens.3 Civilrights and hate-crimes legislation have specifically targeted discrimination based on racial, ethnic, and national origins, and sexual, as well as religious, differences. The prescribed solution to discrimination of all types, according to these laws, is the creation of a uniform civil code of protection for all persons regardless of their ascribed characteristics (e.g., skin color) or religious beliefs. The liberal guarantee of nondiscrimination and equal protection of the law, so fundamental to the U.S. Constitution and the Enlightenment ideal of an Archimedean point—in other words, a point of view from nowhere4—are present in the formulation of such uniform codes. For instance, rules and regulations promulgated in compliance with the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination in the workplace, reflect the normative claim for equal or “color blind” treatment.5
Yet recent appellate court decisions tell a different story. They belie the espoused commitment to neutrality and suggest that earlier research indicating a “more generous and accepting spirit” toward minority religions needs to be reconsidered in light of a conservative shift of late in the judiciary.6 In 1986 the U.S. Supreme Court told Orthodox Jews that they may not wear yarmulkes while on duty in uniform when this violates a military
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Publication information: Book title: Muslims on the Americanization Path?. Contributors: Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad - Editor, John L. Esposito - Editor. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 105.
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