What Went Wrong with the Veil? A Comparative Analysis of the Discourse of the Veil in France, Iran, and Indonesia

Dian Maya Safitri
* Center for Religious and Cross-cultural Studies (CRCS), Gadjah Mada University Yogyakarta, Indonesia

DOI: https://doi.org/10.14421/ajis.2010.481.81-100


This paper attempts to discuss several current issues about the veil. Three  countries are selected, namely France, Iran, and Indonesia, due to their different policies and perspectives concerning the veil. Using discourse analysis, this paper examines the violation of human rights, particularly those of Muslim women, by the ban of the veil in France and the obligation to wear it in Iran. Finally, inspired by the theoretical work of Gramsci, this paper analyzes how the  terms “secular” and “religious“ are used by the state to justify their hegemony over certain minority groups. Moreover, this paper offers the “correct concept of  secularism” as that entails civic reason, constitutionalism, and human-rights based citizenship, and proposed by An-Na’im as the best avenue to safeguard the problem of human rights in France and Iran. The remainder of this paper discusses Indonesia, the largest Moslem country in the world, that is, in fact, “a secular country” based on Pancasila, which respects religious freedom, including  for women to wear the veil or not. It also opens full, equal, and fair access for all Indonesian women, regardless of their ethnicity and religious affiliation,  to compete in the workforce and to pursue education. The author’s intention is to clarify false stereotypes about the veil, to enlighten readers about abuse of power by both French and Iranian governments in violating the rights of women on the issue of veil, and to inform readers --using the case of Indonesia  as an example-- about the importance of state neutrality in supporting the rights of freedom of and from religion.

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Copyright (c) 2010 Dian Maya Safitri

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