11 Apr 2018

Feminists divided over Austria's headscarf ban

As the Austrian government debates a possible headscarf ban in kindergartens and elementary schools, activists take opposing stands. Even among Muslim feminists, the headscarf is divisive.

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Feminists divided over Austria's headscarf ban - NewsMavens
Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Too often, the headscarf debate is dominated by the voices of white, Christian men. This is why Der Standard editor-in-chief, Beate Hausbichler, has interviewed two female Muslim activists with opposing views on the matter.

Lawyer, author and supporter of the ban Seyran Ateş believes that Western feminists display a certain level of hypocrisy when it comes to the headscarf for Muslim girls.

“While feminists fight for equal rights and self-determination in their own community, they allow for archaic practices and sexism in Muslim culture,” she claims.

Ateş perceives the headscarf as a way of sexualizing girls. She sees it as a hindrance in their daily lives, one that changes the way they move and behave.

Educator and Islamic scholar, Kevser Muratovic, on the other hand, is suspicious of the motives of politicians and believes a ban would not help the girls involved.

"Through these discussions, we challenge 'white feminism' to question its own racism,” she adds.

Is the headscarf an expression of the right to self-determination or is it a patriarchal tool? Will banning it lead to emancipation or is it just another way of controlling women's bodies? Obviously, burning questions remain, even in feminist circles.

education, religion, politics, gender, women's issues

Details from the story:

  • Last week, during a press conference Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Vice-Chancellor Heinz Christian Strache announced their intention to ban the headscarf for girls under 10 years old. The "child protection law" will be drawn up later this year, as a "symbolic act" in protecting Austrian culture from Islamic influences, they stated.
  • Seyran Ateş is a lawyer, author and feminist. She founded a liberal mosque in Berlin, where women do not wear headscarves and gay imams are welcome. Ateş has receive numerous death threats because of her views. In 2006, she demanded a headscarf ban in primary schools and day-care centers.
  • Kevser Muratovic studied Education, Islamic Studies and Public Law in Tübingen and Vienna. She is an adult education teacher and author. She specializes in migrant integration.
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