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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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Appendix I Deliberative Dialogue and Excerpts from Student Papers


1 Deliberative Dialogue: Four approaches The class of sixteen formed four groups in the first few weeks of the semes- ter. In week ten of the twelve-week semester, each group developed an approach to the issue and articulated it as follows: Approach 1: Integration of immigrants in a foreign country Main issue: The community in which one lives embodies one’s social inter- actions, views, and success in integrating with a foreign culture. Direct interaction enhanced with positive education is the goal … to improve cul- tural exchange and reduce tensions in the community. This can be achieved when immigrant populations move beyond the comfort of their own ethnic communities. 1 The final project that we submitted to the Women’s and Gender Studies program at Middlebury College has been archived by the program as part of its annual Alison G. Fraker Essay Prize. The award was established in 1990 by Drue Cortell Gensler (Middlebury Class of 1957) in memory of a much-beloved, vocally feminist student who was killed in a car accident a few weeks before her graduation. Although the prize is usually awarded to a single recipient, notwithstanding the group nature of our project, my students received the equally coveted honorable mention. 194 Appendix I Our recommendations Government subsidized housing in historically non-immigrant communi- ties to foster integration: • Council to establish community events for cultural exchange • Celebrating dif ferent holidays, foods, and other cultural nuances. • Involve clerics who are leaders in the immigrant community. Positive education initiatives in public schools • Speakers,...

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