The Hijab Debate in the Norwegian Press: Secular or Religious Arguments?

In: Journal of Religion in Europe
Cora Alexa Døving Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities Blindern, Norway

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Do religious debaters challenge the secular public sphere? This article is an analysis of the largest religion related debate in Norway: the debate about the hijab and the use of religious symbols in the public sphere. The article is empirically founded on the debates in 2009 that began with the question about to which degree the hijab could become part of the Norwegian police uniform for those who would wish to use it. The analysis is mainly centred on the arguments of the hijab wearers: to what degree is their religious motivation translated into a secular language? The empirical examination will show that Muslim debaters arguments can be characterized by a striking absence of references to religious concepts, and a just as striking use of secular ones. The article suggests that the lack of religious argumentation is an expression of an Islamic secularism rather than a result of a translation process. The hijab wearer's arguments are presented in the light of John Rawls’ and Jürgen Habermas’ thoughts about the need for translation—and its price.

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