Last July 15, the European Court of Justice, based in Luxembourg, issued a ruling that banning the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in the workplace does not fall under the category of discriminatory decisions against the Muslim minority, but quite the contrary, as it helps prevent “conflicts.” community".

(1) The court’s decision came in response to a complaint filed by two Muslim women living in Germany, one of whom works as a nurse in a nursery and the other works as an employee in a pharmacy, after their workplaces banned the Islamic headscarf.

The European Court of Justice considered that the employer demonstrated the real need to take this step aimed at imposing religious neutrality on all employees.

This ruling is a new step in the path of European restrictions on veiled Muslim women, and it comes after several previous steps taken by several countries such as France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark and Bulgaria to ban the niqab at times, and to prevent veiled women from some rights that were considered normal until recently, such as the right to study, work and practice Sports.

However, this Western obsession with the veil (and the niqab) did not appear overnight, but rather as a result of intellectual accumulations that Europeans built for centuries about the East and Islam, and the veil, which is one of the manifestations of this religion, before these accumulations exploded in the form of an identity war against the women of the Islamic communities in Europe.

Orientalism from behind a veil

“Women in the East have wide, black eyes, full of love and desire, but they are held captive by evil men.”

(British writer Thomas More)

We cannot precisely determine the date of the beginning of the spread of this negative stereotype about the veil in Western countries, and considering it a symbol of oppression and patriarchal domination of Arab and Muslim women, but this idea in any case spread among Europeans during the nineteenth century, despite the presence of some voices opposing this stereotype. within Europe. (2) Europe viewed the Orient as a strange and savage place where barbarism and cruelty reign, but full of sensual pleasures and boundless sexual promiscuity. (3) (4)

Romanticism appeared at that stage as an artistic doctrine that followed the same line with Orientalism, which was considered a stand-alone science in Europe, and the fate of Romanticism was linked to the fate of Orientalism throughout the first half of the nineteenth century. This has prompted many Western romantics to search for that mysterious East that is full of romance, excitement and beauty. Then the West was preoccupied with creating a new East, in line with expansionist dreams, an East waiting for its "harem" that coming European knight to save the mysterious, strange and distant beauty. (5)

The oriental "female" body had a great presence in the orientalist drawings that dealt with it from the angle of "beauty and instinct". Classical Orientalist writings also showed a special interest in the Arab body, as "Maupasson", "Andre Gide" and "Victor Hugo" mastered the descriptions of the oriental women's charms. And her sexual adventures in a way that contributed to the formation of the European view of the women of the East. (6) In the tragedies "Antonius and Cleopatra", one of the classics of English literature, we find "William Shakespeare" presenting the character of Cleopatra, the eastern queen who seduces "Antonius" with luxury and pleasures to sacrifice money and power to be satisfied with it, while "Gustave Flaubert" deals with the character of the Queen of Sheba who tried Seducing a hermit with cunning methods when she said to him:I am not just a woman, I am the whole world. Whenever my clothes fall off me, mysteries and secrets are revealed, and when I take possession of my body, you will be overwhelmed with great joy that cannot be matched by the joy of owning any of the countries of the earth.”

In the same context, the novel “One Thousand and One Nights” played a major role in shaping this disdainful picture of the Orient in the Western world, and the book painted an exciting picture of the world of oriental women, and this influence appeared clearly on the writings of orientalists. In his experience of women and the special pleasures afforded by Arab and Muslim women, Mawson, for example, saw Algeria as a hotbed of desires and senses.


However, the intrusion into this exciting world of oriental women was not easy, but required a political presence, military control, and full evangelization of the West and its knights who came to liberate it after living imprisoned for years, hidden behind a long veil that did not reveal the charms of the body, not even the features of its owner’s face.

And then Orientalism began to prepare for the colonial movement, giving it the image of the civilized mission to save the Arab-Islamic East, which is mired in superstitions, backwardness, and promiscuity.

The colonial movement considered the veil as an actual tool to subjugate women, who will not rise and liberate until they follow Western ideas. Although these ideas are deeply rooted in Western masculinity that they have articulated with a clear sexual desire, many feminist artists and writers have promoted this idea of ​​Eastern women as sexual creatures subject to the power of the Arab man. (8) (9)

In her book "The Western Look at the Hijab", Canadian writer "Catherine Bullock" mentioned the story of a European lawyer who resided in Algeria, and the nature of his work allowed him to see women without the veil. A people who possesses this treasure of pearls and models of natural perfection should not keep them for themselves, and reveal and display them, even if there is no way to do that but to force them to do so. Although it was only a wish from a lawyer who wanted to show the beauty of the East to the world without a veil, the French authorities in Algeria actually encouraged women to remove their veils when a number of French military leaders, in coordination with their wives, organized a “festival to take off the veil.”On May 17, 1958, some Algerian women took off their headscarves and burned it behind the gate of the general government under the protection of soldiers from the movement (A), after France worked a lot through women's clubs, cinemas and theaters to intensify initiatives directed at women in order to liberate them from the veil and the niqab.

It went beyond trying to persuade Arab and Muslim women to remove the veil. The Algerian writer "Malik Alloula" presented in his book "The Colonial Harem" many photographs that the French took of Muslim women from Morocco and Algeria without referring to their names after stripping their bodies, and transforming their photos into "greeting cards" sent by the French residents of the occupied Arab countries to their families In France, a move that represented a complete desecration of the Arab woman while stripping her of her veil, which represented a strict barrier that did not give the "Knights of the West" the opportunity to explore her body, which they composed and wrote about.

Western civilization, which reached the pinnacle of glory, after subjugating the Arab and Islamic countries to the scourge of colonialism, did not accept to be concealed from it, so it declared a relentless war on the niqab and the veil.

As the Times newspaper said in 1851 on the occasion of the Great World Exhibition: “We are a people who like to put everything we have in our possession in glass boxes and then look at it as much as we can.” Therefore, what was required, and indeed the inevitable, was that the Western man should be able to look as he wanted and wherever he wanted. to his subjects, voluntarily or involuntarily.


enemy industry

"The Islamic headscarf is not welcome in our society."

(Jean-Michel Blanquer, French Minister of Education)

By the middle of the twentieth century, Europe came out of most of its colonies, and returned to its lands burdened with military and economic losses that are not insignificant, especially after the Second World War, which destroyed the continent and killed millions of its residents, so it was necessary for it to search for a labor force that would rebuild these countries and restore the old continent to its history. First. Then thousands of Arabs and Muslims moved to the other side of the Mediterranean in search of a better future, while at the same time fulfilling Europe's need for labour. But these Arab and Islamic communities did not move alone, but rather carried with them their customs and religious beliefs, and the most prominent thing they carried with them was the veil that women usually wore or worshiped.

Thus, the confrontation between the West and the veil moved to the European interior, and the alleys of Europe began to know the presence of veiled women who lived in closed houses in the East. A significant section of Western society is evidence of the strangeness of the East, its backwardness and its enslavement of women.

The issue of the veil combines two basic problems that Europe is currently suffering from. The first problem concerns immigrant minorities who have gathered on the outskirts of cities in neighborhoods designed specifically for the first generation of immigrants.

These minorities closed the doors on themselves after they suffered from political and societal lack of acceptance, and formed closed "ghettos" that posed a major challenge to European public policies, especially in France, which hosts the largest Muslim community in Europe.

The second problem is the position of women in Western societies, as inequality between men and women is still present in the labor market, in wages, and in the amount of practical responsibilities borne by each gender. And because the legal, intellectual and political arsenal in Europe was not able to solve these complex problems, it was necessary to find an easy-to-resolve issue that helps to confront the problems of integrating immigrants and equality between men and women without high cost, and without entering into real discussions that show the inability of the system to find any effective solutions , an enemy whose fight does not require intellectual and legal weapons outside the box, but rather a discourse that gives the masses the impression of achieving the victory of my identities.

The beginning was in France, the first enemy of the veil in Europe. The laws of the French Republic are considered the pride of the French as they are the natural extension of the French Revolution, which opened the door to the oppressed and the fugitives and wanted to make France a land in which freedom, equality and fraternity are sanctified. On the other hand, the laws that the French are keen to sanctify have become a tool for expanding inequality, racism and contempt for the other. (11) Launching the war on the veil was not easy. In 2003, one year before the adoption of the ban on religious symbols in schools and public spaces in France, the country recorded only 1,200 disputes over the veil, only 24 of which required judicial intervention. Therefore, the main objective was to amplify the issue into a public opinion issue, and to achieve this the French government relied on two basic policies.

The first is the questioning of official statistics, as the French government considered that taking recommendations and opinions of workers in the areas that have known problems with veiled women, and those with expertise such as social assistants, mayors and activists, is more important than digital statistics. The second is that these numbers are viewed as an apparent small part of an iceberg, and that their public appearance means that there are hidden efforts on the part of someone who seeks to change Western social systems by imposing Islamic religious views on France and Europe. The report of Bernard Stasi, head of the commission that Jacques Chirac assigned to look into the issue of the headscarf, points to the presence of "dark forces", "religious political activists" and "extremist political currents" aiming to destroy Western democracy and its way of life based on freedom and equality. . (13)

The French government tried to show its anti-hijab steps as an attempt to liberate Arab and Muslim women, and the media talked a lot about the veil and the niqab and their symbolism, and highlighted the feminist movements that fought the “imposition of the veil by force” in some Arab and Islamic countries in order to confirm the oppression suffered by women in the Arab world . But the attempt to search for full equality from the French point of view, has plunged veiled women into the trap of inequality, as France’s policies deprived Muslim women who wear the veil of their rights to education, work, exercise, and accompany their children on school trips, thus increasing their isolation from the society in which they live.

In this context, the French researcher Emmanuel Terai considered in a study entitled "The Hijab Question: Political Hysteria" that there is great prejudice against veiled women, as they are the only ones intended by French secular policies that do not approach Catholic nuns or the Jewish community to the same degree. He adds that if the veil actually represents a symbol of men's domination and enslavement of women, then its prohibition should not be limited to schools and public administrations, but rather the government should prohibit it in various aspects of life, otherwise it becomes complicit in this social injustice to which Muslim women are subjected, criticizing At the same time, the absence of any societal discussion about the real issues of trafficking in women such as prostitution and the use of their bodies in advertisements and pornographic films. (14)

Thus, “submission to men” was not the only reason why European countries, led by France, displayed a hostile attitude towards the veil. Rather, there is another reason that is more realistic and related to the Western ideological ground on which these countries stand at the present moment, in parallel with the rise of the right, which is an issue identity.

Hijab is an enemy of western identity

"Marianne was bare-breasted because she fed the people, and she was not veiled because she did not submit to anyone."

(Manuel Valls, former French Prime Minister)

Many immigrants to European countries dream of that day when they can obtain a passport in the country of residence, because it may provide freedom of movement and travel, and immunization from the fluctuations of internal politics that may end in expulsion, but the naturalization procedures are more difficult than difficult in the case of The applicant for this passport is a veiled woman.

In 1993, the French General Inspectorate of Social Affairs revealed a report criticizing some practices of the Naturalization Department, considering the latter's lack of respect for the principle of equal opportunities in granting French citizenship, as it relies on very vague criteria such as the proportion of the applicant's integration with the values ​​of French citizenship. , which cannot be clearly measured, unlike other criteria such as examining the financial capabilities of the candidate, the legality of his residence in the country, and the extent of his compliance with local law. The administration of naturalization in France benefits from the existence of some loopholes in the naturalization law, which does not clearly address all the elements of refusal or acceptance, which gives each state the right to determine a good citizen from a set of points it determines by itself without an explicit legal basis. (15th)

In his study entitled “The Hijab and the Problem of Integration: A Study in the Problem of Possession of French Nationality,” Abdelali Hagat, a sociologist at the Free University of Brussels, revealed that the French Naturalization Department considers the veil an obstacle and a prominent evidence of the lack of integration of Muslim women who wear it with the values ​​of The French Republic, as the candidate wearing this religious dress increases the chances of rejection of her naturalization file. (16)

The study, in which a number of employees of the Naturalization Department participated in various French regions, revealed important details related to the interrogation ritual of veiled candidates. That is in the file that is then sent to the Ministry of the Interior to decide on the application. This illegal ritual then developed. The study revealed that some female employees deliberately summoned male colleagues even after the veiled candidate accepted to remove her veil, to monitor her reaction, and any sign of distress on her part was interpreted as a degree of her lack of integration with the French way of life.

This discrimination did not appear in the issue of the veil and the niqab with the adoption of the ban on religious symbols in France in 2004, but in fact it dates back to the end of the eighties. A number of employees in the Naturalization Department asked the Ministry of the Interior a question to find out whether wearing the veil prevents the possession of a French identity, but they did not get a satisfactory answer as a result of the absence of any legal basis to prevent veiled women from citizenship, especially after the French State Council canceled a decision of the Ministry not to Grant citizenship to a veiled woman, as the council considered that dress is not legally related to the right to naturalization. (17)

Despite this, Jean-Pierre Chauvinchon, the former French Interior Minister, asked the employees of the naturalization departments to refer in their reports to the veil while urging them to distinguish between a bad veil and an acceptable veil, and a bad veil is simply the Islamic veil in which the veiled woman is keen to cover her entire body, including: This is the neck, ears and all hair, while the accepted veil is the traditional veil worn by women in a number of Islamic countries and is considered a more cultural manifestation and does not cover the woman's body to the same degree. One of the participants in this study said that she differentiates between the popular veil and the Islamic veil with colors and trimmings, as she considers that the Islamic veil is always black, while the popular veil is bright in colors, which reflects a kind of superficiality and stereotyping among some employees of the Naturalization Department. (18)

Things do not stop there. If the applicant manages to overcome these obstacles and acquire citizenship, she will have to sacrifice again during the ceremony held by the municipalities to celebrate the "new French", as she is asked to remove her veil before ascending the podium to greet the governor, and although the occasion is Originally a formality, and the governor did not have the authority to cancel the decision of the Minister of Interior, a number of women agreed for fear of withdrawing their citizenship.

Abdul-Aali Hagat explains this obsession with the veil by the desire of the state, in its national, national and political sense, to have complete control over its citizens, heart, soul and body. Commenting on this, the French researcher of Arab origin says that it is not only related to the intellectual and ideological orientation of these candidates, but also reflects the desire of Western countries to control the sexual image of their residents. The French thinker "Michel Foucault" referred to this phenomenon, saying that "Western countries have passed from the stage of controlling death to controlling life," adding that Europe considers the body a complete political factor that should be controlled as part of the control of life.

However, this battle with the veil as an Islamic aspect does not appear as easy as France and some European countries wished for, because the veil is not just a religious ritual specific to Muslim women, but rather goes beyond all of that to being part of the identity that Muslims in the West are fighting to preserve, and therefore it is The reaction to the laws banning the veil is widespread among Muslim immigrants, especially since the Muslim community sees the large margin of freedom that other Hindu and Jewish minorities enjoy without harassment or mobilization of laws and the media to eradicate them. (19)

Finally, this identity battle that the Muslim communities are waging is becoming more difficult due to the spread of ideas against the veil and the niqab, and considering it a sectarian dress in the midst of the rising right-wing wave and attempts to co-opt the rightists by conservative and centrist parties in Europe.

However, they are ideas with older roots, dating back to the beginning of the colonization of Arab countries, when elites identified with the winds of cultural westernization emerged that fought Islamic dress and considered it evidence of backwardness and obscurantism. In parallel, Orientalist perceptions emerged among the ranks of foreign officials in the East regarding the covering of the body by Muslim women.



  • European Court of Justice: Hijab ban at work 'not discriminatory and avoids social conflict'

  • Western view of the veil, Catherine Bullock, Obeikan.

  • previous source.

  • They mean the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him

  • Western Look at the Hijab, Catherine Bullock, Obeikan

  • Sexual orientalism, Mahmoud Sheikh.

  • previous source.

  • Western view of the veil, Catherine Bullock, Obeikan.

  • previous source.

  • previous source.

  • La question du voile : une hystérie politique

  • previous source.


  • La question du voile : une hystérie politique

  • Port du hijab et « défaut d'assimilation ».

    Étude d'un cas problématique pour l'acquisition de la nationalité française

  • previous source.

  • previous source.

  • previous source.

  • The Ideology of Extermination in the West: The Hijab of the Muslim Woman as a Model, Muhammad Al-Hazaymeh, Al-Manara Magazine.

  • ——————————————————————–


    (A) Harki: Algerian soldiers who volunteered to fight alongside France in its war against the Algerian people.