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The Headscarf ControversySecularism and Freedom of Religion$
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Hilal Elver

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199769292

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199769292.001.0001

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The United States

The United States

From Melting Pot to Islamophobia

(p.153) 8 The United States
The Headscarf Controversy

Hilal Elver

Oxford University Press

In the United States, the headscarf debate has received less public attention than in Europe and Turkey. Although the majority is Protestant, many religious practices are freely exercised and enjoy wide acceptance, as the Constitution contains a particularly liberal approach to religious freedom. Moreover, secularism in the U.S. is strikingly different in its applications than the French and Turkish models of laïcité, and Germany’s idea of the “Christian Occident.” Comparatively speaking, Muslims have encountered more welcoming behavior in the U.S. than in Europe. Although there were some intrinsic tensions between the heterogeneous, Judeo-Christian dominated American religious culture and the Islamic presence, it did not cause widespread concern until recently. This relatively positive interaction has been significantly damaged following the 9/11 attacks, and “Islam” has been used as a common denominator to establish a new, inflammatory racial category. In this chapter, before considering the constitutional and legal issues of the headscarf controversy in the U.S., and hypothetical arguments potential headscarf decision in American courts, the nature of American Islam in relation to the immigration laws, social structure, political events that are increasingly impacting Muslims in America is discussed.

Keywords:   first amendment, american muslim identity, islamophobia in post 9/11 period, us supreme court in relation to religious freedom

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