The politics of headscarves in Denmark...and an appeal to Kate Moss to help out

by: Tim Anderson (

basketball playing boys and girls at lunchtime - near a private muslim school in Nørrebro in Copenhagen...

Muslim headscarves have become a rather hot subject of late around Denmark.

Recently, there was the case of Enhedslisten parliamentary candidate who suggested she would wear her headscarf in parliament if she was elected an MP.

It's not only Denmark. Headscarves have become quite a political issue around Europe. In France, they're banned in public schools.

Yet the idea of passing such laws, in Denmark and elsewhere, just don't quite seem right. It smacks of intolerance and ignorance, and issues like censorship come to mind as not exactly unrelated ones.

A few points.

First, a bit about the comment, contributed helpfully by the leader of the Danish Racist Party Dansk Folkeparti, that Muslim headscarves should be banned in Denmark.

Um, why?

Yes, we all understand that in many Muslim countries the rights of women have been thoroughly and appallingly trampled on. However in Denmark, this is quite simply
not the case.

It's like banning pink button shirts because somewhere in the world pink button shirts are worn by oppressed people. In short, it's a pretty unprogressive viewpoint to take.

There has also been much talk in the Danish media about the childcare worker who wanted to wear a burqa to work.

This is a far more sensitive issue then the previous one, and I'm going to take a qualified position on this one that many will probably disagree with. Though I intensely dislike the idea of a woman feeling there is a need for them to cover her face for any religious or cultural reasons, I haven't seen the evidence to demonstrate that such a covered woman couldn't nonetheless be a successful and competent childcare worker. I'm doubtful that it exists.

Still, this has been the conclusion of Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who has clearly stated that children should be able to see the faces of those who take care of them, and thus childcare workers in Denmark should not wear burqas.

As I said, I'm not entirely sure about the merits of that one, though there may well be something to it.

Because I can't help but think that having young children in contact with such a person is a clear acknowledgment that every person in the world is different, and in countless ways. It might just help them as they grow older and are truly confronted by just what this really means.

This seems more progressive then simply trying to create an environment as neutral, though entirely unrepresentative, as possible. And given that a fair number of burqa-wearing women can be seen walking the streets of Denmark everyday, for example around Nørrebro in Copenhagen, well, it really is a reality that is pretty close to home.

Still, I acknowledge that I may have to revisit my views on this one in the future.

And in the meantime, I'd just love to see someone like Kate Moss popularise some sort of muslim-inspired headscarf or burqa for all occasions that suddenly became the rage for young western women everywhere to wear anytime they felt like it. She could be just the one to do it, judging by the current success of her TopShop line of fashion.

3 Response to "The politics of headscarves in Denmark...and an appeal to Kate Moss to help out"

  1. Isabel says:

    I couldn't agree more that the idea on passing laws to ban head scarves is
    going too far, and its definitely pushing the bounderies of tolerance.
    I think people should stop regarding the headscarve as a symbol
    fundermentalist Muslim ideals or denying women's rights. Actually I find
    them quite beautiful sometimes.
    The more people sensationalize another persons cultural beliefs negatively,
    the more likely there is to be a resistance or backlash. Yes, Kate Moss
    needs to takes up the headscarve soon to save us from ourselves.


    Racquel says:

    I agree with you. Such laws show disrespect to the Islam religion. It also shows that in reality, there is a struggle in achieving equality. *sigh* oh well..

    Anonymous says:

    You made a point concerning the issue of headscarves. I believe that Muslim women should be allowed to wear the haedscarves.

    However, I strongly don't think that a carrer should wear the burqa!!. To start with, that will tend to frighten the child being cared for. Children respond to expressions and gestures more than speech and will always stare at peoples faces. That is why if a mother or carer is moody or sad, the child is also affected.

    While the headscarf is generally accepted by all muslims as required, the burqa is not. So if muslims disagree themselves on this one, why should it be an issue in Europe? Tell me, how do you identify a person wearing a burqa? have you also thought about the security implications as criminals (men included) can hide under it?


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