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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 II Syllabus “To Veil or Not to Veil: Germany and Islam”


GERM/WAGS 226 To Veil or not to Veil: Germany and Islam Instructor: Professor Kamakshi P. Murti Mondays & Wednesdays: FIC, Cook Seminar #1, 2:45pm–4:05 pm Email: Of fice hours: Mondays & Wednesdays, 4:05–5:05 pm & by appointment Of fice: FIC, Cook #13 Course description The traditions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have always been the sites of contentious debates over the centuries, revolving around issues of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class. The events of 9/11 have, however, been projected – mostly by the media – as uniquely violent and aberrant behavior. This perception has created a kind of mass hysteria where an Islamic “other” has been invented, uncritically equated with terrorism, and consistently demonized. We will attempt, in this course, to rethink these debates by placing them within a historical context. Beginning with the crusades, we will map the discursive paths that Christianity and Islam took in establishing themselves in the consciousness of their followers. A crucial aspect of the “othering” process is gender. Women’s status in Islam is one of the most controversial and serious issues of our time. For those Muslim women who reside in a Judeo-Christian environment, their status is further obfuscated by tensions between contested constructions of gender. We will adopt a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective on gender construction in Germany as relating to Islam. Texts will interrogate 212 Appendix II some of the assumptions made about the formation and representation of “femininity.” Although Germany and Turkey will constitute the focal...

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