Chapter

“Without my headscarf I feel naked”

José C. M. Van Santen

in Powers

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780823231560
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fso/9780823231560.003.0013

Series: The Future of the Religious Past

“Without my headscarf I feel naked”

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This chapter examines the impact of Islamic discourse about the “veil” on the personal life of women in contemporary North Cameroon. Currently, there is a symbiotic relationship between Islam and politics in North Cameroon, and the political elite is Muslim. However, state regulations are determined by the concept of laïcité, inherited from the French colonizers. The state thus imposes the recent French ban on displaying overt religious symbols in public schools. Many Muslim women, therefore, did not go to school, because their fathers did not want them to remove their headscarves. As the relationship between state and religion began to change, veiling has become a motive for the establishment of Islamic private schools, and girls have an increasing place within them. Paradoxically, many girls who consider themselves good Muslims do not see the need to wear the veil. Yet wearing or rejecting the veil is guided by institutions, politics, and the discourse of what it means to be a good Muslim in the officially laical society of current Cameroon.

Keywords: Cameroon; Islam; veil; headscarves; women; laïcité; politics; religious symbols; religion; private schools

Chapter.  7204 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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