National identity and the politics of the ‘headscarf debate’ in Germany

Sinclair, Stefanie (2012). National identity and the politics of the ‘headscarf debate’ in Germany. Culture and Religion, 13(1) pp. 19–39.



The German ‘headscarf debate’ was sparked off by a dispute concerning a teacher who refused to remove her hijab at work. ‘Case Ludin’ brought the issue to national attention and eventually led to new legislation in half of Germany’s 16 federated states. This article focuses on a critical analysis of a party-political debate around Case Ludin in the Baden-Württemberg parliament in 1998. The analysis shows that whilst party-politicians claimed to be concerned with issues of social justice as well as with the protection of constitutional rights and democratic values, the party-political arena of this debate has been preoccupied with the discursive construction of German national identity and its assumed incompatibility with Muslim identity. It comes to the conclusion that discourses employed in this debate reproduce stereotypical images associating Islam with ‘gendered oppression’, political extremism and irreconcilable difference, and that these discourses continue to shape current debates in Germany and beyond.

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