Saturday, March 15, 2008

Denmark: Headscarf a woman's choice

"Many Danes think that Muslim women who wear a headscarf do so because their father or husband forces them to, but that is completely wrong, according to a new study by analysis institute Catinét. 391 women and 321 men of non-Danish background were asked about their attitude towards the headscarf.
42% of the women said it was 'important' or 'very important'. Just 29% of the men answered the same. Especially women who didn't feel integrated and didn't have Danish friends thought that the headscarf was important.
The study concludes that wearing a headscarf appears to be a high degree to be a woman's own choice.
Camilla Elg of Aalborg University wrote a PhD on immigrant women and their clothing. She says she didn't hear women say they're doing it because their husband or father told them to. It's a big prejudice that this is the common reason. Then are many other reasons but it's often a personal act.
She says many women choose the headscarf to express resistance. They feel they're worth less in our society. They think: if I'm going to be foreign, I'll choose how. They show they have their own identity. The headscarf can be a way to show that you're standing up for your background and religious orientation."

Translated by, Danish source Nyhedsavisen 10. March 2008
I've tried to find the actual numbers, but that was difficult. The analysis institute Catinét has not yet listed this among their own news. Maybe they will. But if 42% think it's important or very important, we may conclude that 58% don't. However, it's fairly clear that the newest or least integrated women are the ones who stick closest to traditions.
Another interesting thing is the gender gap. Muslim men (it doesn't say that, but I sure hope they didn't ask Swedes and Argentinians) tend to be demonized, while the women are portrayed only as victims. But this is a fairly good example showing that women have a choice, and that women themselves are often upholders of patriarchal cultures.
Although here, another thing is important: Muslim women tend to stay more at home than other women, and get less contact with the rest of society, so they're not going to be as integrated as men.


Anonymous said...

They didn't say they were being forced, but did they explicitly say the weren't being forced?

Unknown said...

Good point. There is at least one thing to mention: I posted earlier a Norwegian story about Somalis, and women said they were met with more respect by elder Somali men after they started to use the veil. And they are also eager to protect their reputation.
So while no-one may have forced the veil on them, did they really have a choice?

Anonymous said...

You know, it seems funny to say that someone isn't 'forced' into something, when from the day of their birth they've been indoctrinated.

Babies aren't 'born Muslim'. They are born to Muslim parents.