The Headscarf Controversy: Secularism and Freedom of Religion

By Hilal Elver | Go to book overview

4
The Role of the European Court of
Human Rights

[It] appears difficult to reconcile the wearing of an
Islamic scarf with the message of tolerance, respect for
others, and, above all, equality and non-discrimination.

JUDGMENT OF THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN
RIGHTS, Dahlab v. Switzerland

In national and international courts, cases concerning freedom of religion and religious symbols raise critical questions about the limits of religious freedom in the increasingly diverse societies of the West, in the European Union, and beyond. On the one hand, these cases signify a growing tension between cultural extension and the legal enforcement of human rights, including freedom of religion and belief; on the other hand, the cases reflect an increased vigilance in relation to religious practices, especially those that reflect Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” and consider restrictions on religious freedom in the name of public order.1 The cases, especially in Europe, also disclose “the growth of pan-European legal discourse of religious symbols not only as text, but as a mechanism, however broad and ambiguous, of social control.”2 Decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in these cases illustrate the pertinence of such a statement.

Although the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention), created by the Council of Europe as a regional agreement, was strongly influenced by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it contains a more precise expression of specific rights and has made a great contribution by raising awareness of human rights issues on the European continent.3 The ECHR,

-72-

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The Headscarf Controversy: Secularism and Freedom of Religion
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1- Introduction Point of Departure 1
  • Part One- Turkey 13
  • 2- The Nature of the Headscarf Controversy in Turkey Popular Discourse 15
  • 3- Understanding a Complex History 41
  • 4- The Role of the European Court of Human Rights 72
  • Part Two- Europe and the United States 99
  • 5- Anti-Islamic Discourses in Europe 101
  • 6- France 111
  • 7- Germany 129
  • 8- The United States from Melting Pot to Islamophobia 153
  • 9- Conclusion 186
  • Notes 202
  • Selected Bibliography 249
  • Index 259
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