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Unpublished Paper
Are Muslims the New Catholics? Europe's Headscarf Laws in Comparative Historical Perspective
ExpressO (2010)
  • Robert Kahn
Abstract

ABSTRACT: Many European opponents of the headscarf view themselves as engaged in a “struggle against totalitarianism.” This article explores an alternative framing: What if Muslims—rather than Nazis or Communists in training—are the more like nineteenth century Catholics, who were seen as a religious threat to European (and U.S.) liberalism? To explore this idea, this article looks at the headscarf debate through the lens of the German Kulturkampf (1871-1887) and nineteenth century U.S. laws that banned public school teachers from wearing clerical garb. It reaches two tentative conclusions. First, many of the claims made against European Muslims—especially about the “backward” nature of the religion—were also made against Catholics. Second, just as the Kulturkampf (and US clerical garb laws) failed to create a new “modern” Catholic, headscarf laws will not create Islamic moderates. However, the successful incorporation of Catholics into public life in Germany and the United States after 1945 suggests a more hopeful future—one that will come quicker if there is less legal repression.

Keywords
  • Muslims,
  • headscarves,
  • legal history,
  • Germany,
  • United States,
  • clerical garb laws,
  • Kulturkampf
Disciplines
Publication Date
July 16, 2010
Citation Information
Robert Kahn. "Are Muslims the New Catholics? Europe's Headscarf Laws in Comparative Historical Perspective" ExpressO (2010)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/robert_kahn/2/