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Islam, Gender, and Democracy in Comparative Perspective$
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Jocelyne Cesari and José Casanova

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198788553

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198788553.001.0001

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Secularism, Gender Inequality, and the French State

Secularism, Gender Inequality, and the French State

(p.63) 3 Secularism, Gender Inequality, and the French State
Islam, Gender, and Democracy in Comparative Perspective

Joan W. Scott

Oxford University Press

This chapter disputes the current claim that secularism guarantees gender equality. It focuses on France and on the ways in which the word secularism (laïcité) was used polemically, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, by anti-clericals who condemned the dangerous association of women and religion and thus denied women the political rights of citizens. In the twenty-first century, the focus remains on women, but now it is Muslim women who are thought to endanger the republic. In this context, a new version of secularism has been articulated, which extends the demand for the neutrality of the state in matters of religion to the enforcement of the neutrality of public space. The changing meanings of laïcité suggest the need always to historicize it, to analyze its polemical operations and its effects in specific historical circumstances. This demonstrates gender equality is not—and has never been—a primary concern of secularism.

Keywords:   laïcité, Muslim women, women and religion

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