The return of political theology: The scarf affair in comparative constitutional perspective in France, Germany and Turkey

Philosophy and Social Criticism 36 (3-4):451-471 (2010)
Abstract
Increasingly in today’s world we are experiencing intensifying antagonisms around religious and ethno-cultural differences. The confrontation between political Islam and the so-called ‘West’ has replaced the rhetoric of the Cold War against communism. This new constellation has not only challenged the hypothesis that ‘secularization’ inevitably accompanied modernity but has also placed on the agenda political theology as a potent force in many societies. This article analyzes the contemporary revival of political theology by focusing on the headscarf debate in comparative constitutional perspective. It compares the well-known decision of the French Parliament banning the wearing of the headscarf in public schools (2004) with the decision of the German Constitutional Court concerning whether Fereshta Ludin, an Afghani-German teacher wearing the hijab , could teach in German schools (2003) and with the more recent judgment of the Turkish Constitutional Court (summer 2008) upholding the ban on the wearing of the scarf or the turban in institutions of higher learning. At stake in these debates is not only the meaning of fundamental human rights but also why women and their bodies become the object of disciplinary conflicts in culture, law and religion
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