Explaining the Absence of a Veil Debate: The Mediating Role of Ethno-nationalism and Public Religion in the Irish Context

in Muslims at the Margins of Europe
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Abstract

Using public discourse on the Islamic veil, this paper explores the causes for the restricted development of the veil debate in Ireland. This paper argues that the particular confluence of a masculinized ethno-nationalism and the historical role of public religion in Ireland, a product of the colonial and post-colonial experience, has resulted in conditions whereby the debate on the right of Muslim women to wear a headscarf in public schools or indeed public institutions is unlikely to manifest in a significant way as it has in neighbouring European countries, such as the UK, France or Belgium. Nevertheless, the paper also suggests that these same factors deny Muslims in Ireland the possibility of substantively belonging to the dominant group and thus to the full range of rights and responsibilities of citizenship in Irish society, thus posing considerable barriers to genuine multicultural and multifaith equality. Indeed, the virtual invisibility of a substantive veil debate in Ireland may point towards the exclusion of Muslim women from belonging to the Irish nation, rather than benign religious tolerance.

Muslims at the Margins of Europe

Finland, Greece, Ireland and Portugal

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