International Migration: Political and Social Aspects

Critically discuss the different sites, forms and degrees of marginalization and exclusion that Muslim women experience in a member state of the E.U of your choice.


Today, Europe faces a major challenge of an influx of immigrants from other regions, particularly Africa, Asia, and the Arab world. In the process of accommodating these immigrants, the European countries face various challenges. Concerted efforts are normally made to ensure that the dream of equal rights and democracy across Europe is realized. However, in a dynamic world facing the growing challenge of immigration, the pursuit of democracy and equality is not always an easy undertaking. Different minority groups end up suffering from the problem of marginalization and exclusion. For example, in France, Muslim immigrant women have traditionally been marginalized. They have been denied a voice, thereby making them increasingly submissive to patriarchs.

France has the highest Muslim population in Europe. For this reason, it would be important for an in-depth analysis to be undertaken on the challenges that Muslim women who have immigrated into this country face. Such an analysis would more or less be representative of the challenges faced by women Muslim immigrants in other European countries. This paper discusses the sites, forms, and degrees of marginalization and exclusion of these women. The thesis of this paper is that the most significant way in which Muslim women immigrants have been marginalized and excluded in France is by being denied a voice. This lack of voice renders the women vulnerable and submissive to the whims of patriarchs.

Theoretical framework

Several theoretical perspectives may be of relevance to the present study. To begin with, this study relates closely to the realms of religion, women studies, and feminist theory. In each of these realms, different perspectives are bound to be adopted. The best thing would be to adopt an approach that creates the best platform for analyzing the problem of marginalization and exclusion of migrant Muslim Women in France.

Religious studies provide insightful ideas on the role of spirituality in women’s lives. However, some people consider religion to be an area of little theoretical importance. In the present study, analysis from the point of view of religious studies may be inappropriate given that the issues being addressed relate to a nation that is founded on secularism, particularly with regard to separation between the state and religion. In this case, antagonistic views are likely to emerge as far as the role of religion in women empowerment is concerned.

The “Women’s Studies” approach may provide an excellent theoretical framework only that it does put much emphasis on the meaning on the meaning and practice of religion in the lives of women of today. It is likely that little focus is being put on religion in Women’s studies simply because the field is dominated by social scientists as opposed to humanities scholars. In such a situation, feminist theory provides the best option as far s the choice of theoretical framework is concerned. Therefore, the theoretical framework for this paper will be the feminist theory.

Forms of Muslim women marginalization and exclusion in France

One of the forms through which Muslim immigrants in France are being marginalized and excluded is by being denied a voice. For instance, during the discussion on the 2004 ban imposed by the French government on the headscarf that is traditionally worn by Muslim women, the voice of Muslim women was conspicuously absent. The voices that emerged in the three main French daily publications were those of male editorialists, politicians, school principals, and religious leaders.  The only exception was the comment made by the wife of former French President, Danielle Mitterand. Another exception was that of young Muslim women who were briefly quoted only once.

In France, young Muslim women are unspoken and they are denied a chance to speak their minds on even those issues affecting them. They have to rely in patriarchs to either defend or oppose them.  These patriarchs include their fathers, male religious leaders, school principals, and politicians. It seems that their opinions are apparently not regarded as worthy of any consideration. This seems like the worse form of marginalization that a woman can be subjected to.

In the absence of this voice, immigrant Muslim women face a phenomenon whereby they have no option but to support the prevailing patriarchal discourse. Unfortunately, this discourse tends to enforce binary perspectives instead of addressing the challenges that women face on a day-to-day basis. In such a situation, women who dare speak out are looked at with insolence. They are made to appear contemptuous in the face of the public and even the patriarchs. In this situation, the public is unable to understand these women beyond the few words that the French media allows them to say publicly.

By being denied the freedom to wear the veil, many Muslim women in France feel that they are being denied their religious right. This is unfortunate given that many of these women hold the conviction that the Koran requires them to wear the headscarf. Some women are driven to wear it by family pressure. Many young women, particularly those approaching their twenties, compare wearing the veil to wearing the latest fashion clothing. They argue that one can wear the veil as a sign of submission to God while at the same time sending a fashion statement to the public. For others, the veil is simply a sign of adoration to the Supreme Being. By requesting to be allowed to wear it in public, these Muslim women are simply asking to be given the freedom to adore their God in public and to recognize Him as their only master. These statements are an indication that the intentions of Muslim women are genuine and that they should not be denied to portray their religious inclination in public simply because they live in a nation that was founded on secular values.

By opposing the idea of wearing the headscarf among women, many French people seem to hold the view that Islam is a threat to the country. They seem to hold the view that the values of Islam are incompatible with those of the French society. This perception may have started creeping in when Muslim immigrants were said to be expressing unwillingness to acculturate. Moreover, they were said to have a tendency to distance themselves from the rest of the French society. At this point, most of the focus shifted to Muslim girls who wear the Islamic headscarf in all public spaces.

When the headscarf debate began in 1989, it was highly politicized and accorded widespread media coverage. At that time, the headscarf was regarded as symbol of a radical form of Islam that focused too much on threatening and oppressing women. Against this backdrop, one can understand why many French feminists are opposed to the hijab (the Islamic headscarf). They are opposed to it not only on grounds of French secularism, but also because it seems like a symbol of oppression of women.

When the French government banned the hijab in 2004, the argument raised was that it was necessary for the freedom of conscience of everyone in France to be protected. However, the reality of the matter is that the number of Muslim girls insisting on wearing the headscarf was too small to pose a threat to the freedom of conscience. According to USA Today (2004), of the 250,000 Muslim pupils in France, only 1,256school girls were insisting on wearing headscarves meaning that a very small proportion of the Muslim school-going children (about 1 in 200) chose to wear headscarves (USA Today). Such a number is too small to pose a threat to the French society. The real intention of the government may have been to marginalize new Muslim immigrants. The intention may also have been to portray France as a country that is not desirable for Muslim immigrants. Such a move would help stem the rising rate of immigration by Muslims.

Dimensions of Muslim women marginalization and exclusion in France

There are different dimensions through which one can be marginalized or excluded. In many countries, France included, immigrants are excluded and marginalized by pointing out to factors that set them apart from the rest of the country’s population. For example, when the wearing of the headscarf among Muslim women was banned in 2004, the intention may have been to exclude Muslim women from various social places. Some Muslim women may be reluctant to visit places where they are prohibited from wearing the hijab. Moreover, the government may fail to give such people a voice. It may refrain from creating platforms that enable such women to express their views regarding the ban. Incidentally, this is precisely what happened following this ban. Muslim women were never given an opportunity to communicate their views to the authorities.


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