Friday, September 09, 2011

Kosovo Votes for More Secularism, Becomes Third European Country to Move Against the Hijab

The parliament of Kosovo voted 43 to 39 to keep a ban against teachers and students wearing the hijab in schools.  The parliament further voted 64 to 18 not to allow religious education in public schools.  These votes demonstrate the desire of Kosovo's government to continue a path of Europeanization modeled after Turkey (which is now abandoning the secular, European vision for a neo-Ottoman model).

The ban is much like the ban in France and half the states of Germany.  The hijab and other Islamic veils are still legal and religious woman can still wear them except when they are teaching or taking classes.

The ban raises questions about the "otherness" of Islam in Europe.  Ruling Eastern European political parties in Poland and especially Hungary are taking very active steps to (re)emphasize the Catholic Christian nature of their European heritage.  Meanwhile the various Orthodox Churches have reengaged governments to various degrees in countries like Romania, Armenia, Georgia, and Russia.  However, Islam in Kosovo, which has been in the country for some 500 years, is still viewed as a hurdle to Europeaness.  Whether Kosovo adopts more French-style state secularism or can integrate its Islam with a European identity in a Hungarian model will be something to watch.

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