Research explores attitudes to the Muslim Headscarf
Lancaster University is taking part in a major European research project exploring institutional policies and public attitudes towards the Muslim headscarf.
The €1,204,000 project called VEIL (Values, Equality and Differences in Liberal Democracies) will examine opinion and regulations surrounding head and body coverings of Muslim women in the public sphere – for example in schools, universities and courts.
In recent years, the wearing of the headscarf by Muslim women living in Europe has raised controversy, dividing opinion among policymakers, courts, churches and the women's movement.
Questions have been raised about the right to wear the headscarf in the public domain – for instance pupils in schools, school teachers, employees in public services such as public transport and the police force, and also in the private sector.
The VEIL project will analyse policies on Muslim headscarves in eight European countries: Austria, Denmark, France, Greece, Germany, Turkey, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The European Union will also be part of the analysis.
Many European countries have enacted laws that deal with the issue of Muslim headscarves but there are significant differences in regulations between countries. The first main research aim will be to find explanations and reasons as to why these differences in regulation exist. The project will also draft recommendations for national and European policymakers for dealing with cultural and religious diversity.
Lancaster University’s role in the three year research project will be to prepare a profile of UK debates and policy relating to the wearing of the headscarf. Lancaster University will also have particular responsibility for researching the religious dimension of the issue. Dr Sevgi Kilic is Senior Researcher on the project.
UK VEIL Principal Investigator, Professor Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University’s Department of Religious Studies, said: “As a highly visible symbol of identity, the Muslim headscarf has been the subject of heated debates across Europe and subjected to legal regulations in some European countries.”
“This project aims to explore the differences in attitude towards the headscarf in different parts of Europe, to map those differences, assess their significance and what they reveal about attitudes to gendered, religious and ethnic difference, and ultimately make recommendations which will help guide policymakers across Europe.”