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To Veil or not to Veil

Europe’s Shape-Shifting ‘Other’


Kamakshi P. Murti

Immigration has become a contentious issue in Europe in recent decades, with immigrants being accused of resisting integration and threatening the secular fabric of nationhood. The most extreme form of this unease has invented and demonized an Islamic ‘other’ within Europe. This book poses central questions about this global staging of difference. How has such anxiety increased exponentially since 9/11? Why has the Muslim veil been singled out as a metaphor in debates about citizenship? Lastly, and most fundamentally, who sets the criteria for constructing the ideal citizen?
This study explores the issue of gender and immigration in the national contexts of Germany and France, where the largest minority populations are from Turkey and North Africa, respectively. The author analyzes fictional works by the Turkish-German writers Emine Sevgi Özdamar and Zafer Şenocak and by Francophone writer Malika Mokeddem. All three deconstruct binary oppositions and envision an alternate third space that allows them to break out of the confines of organized religion. In the latter part of the book, the voices of young Muslim women are foregrounded through interviews. The concluding chapter on the pedagogical tool Deliberative Dialogue suggests ways to navigate such contentious issues in the Humanities classroom.


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CHAPTER II “Tolerance” and Germany’s Ignoble Minorities?


The migrant as shape-shifter Problematic definitions of citizenship that mess with identity have found distinct echoes in US popular culture. I am reminded of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the third of ficial Star Trek series, which revolves around com- plications associated with dif ferent “races” of peoples living together in a hostile environment. The shape-shifting ability of the migrant Odo skill- fully captures his anxiety about identity: Found adrift and alone … in his natural gelatinous state with no clue to his origin, this unique shapeshifter was returned to Cardassian-occupied Bajor in 2356 … [Odo’s] name stems from the Cardassian words for “nothing” – the literal translation of “Odo’ital.” … After he was known to be sentient, the native scientists as a joke “Bajorized” it into “Odo Ital,” and later just “Odo.” (Star Trek) Odo (= “nothing”) and his sentience remain unrecognized by the majority culture. Ironically, his shapeshifting abilities dislocate the myth of a stable, national identity. The mere fact that he is constantly forced to metamor- phose into something that the majority culture perceives as more assimilable is witness to the unstable character of the latter. The migrant’s “nothing- ness,” or “ungrievability,” his/her sense of displacement resonates in the following comment on disruption: This is what the triple disruption of reality teaches migrants: that reality is an arte- fact, that it does not exist until it is made, and that like any other artefact, it can be made well or badly, and that it can also, of course, be unmade. What [Y...

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