POINT OF DEPARTURE
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there
is a field. I will meet you there.
JALAL AD-DIN RUMI
Religious pluralism is one of the essential principles of constitutional democracies. Yet the ways in which Western democracies deal with Islamic practices raise a variety of issues that appear to erode religious pluralism. In recent years, there have been major public debates in several European countries about the acceptability of Islamic practices; specifically, the wearing of a headscarf, or hijab, by women and girls.
In the midst of a resurgence of religion, the challenge to accommodate Muslim practices seems greater and more urgent than ever before. It pervades virtually every aspect of modern life, from culture to civil society, from politics to identity, from security to conflict and discrimination. These issues are now being discussed with particular intensity in the United States, Europe, and almost all liberal societies.
The emphasis is on determining how to accept, accommodate, and tolerate Muslim religious observances in countries where secularism (or in France and Turkey laicite) and civil liberties are held to be as important as religious freedom. Devout Muslim women are subjected to serious restrictions, including the exclusion of some rights, not only in Western countries, where Islam is a minority religion, but also in Muslim countries, particularly in Turkey, and to a lesser extent in Azerbaijan, Tunisia, and Albania. In this book, legal, political, and social aspects of the headscarf controversy in constitutional democracies will be discussed from a comparative perspective.