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From Colonial Algeria to Modern Day Europe, the Muslim Veil Remains an Ideological Battleground

by Katarzyna Falecka

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“In 1958, during the Algerian war of independence, mass “unveiling” ceremonies were staged across Algeria. The wives of French military officers unveiled some Algerian women to show that they were now siding with their French “sisters”. These spectacles formed part of an emancipation campaign aimed at demonstrating how Muslim women had been won over to European values and away from the independence struggle. They were also staged at a moment of political turmoil in mainland France, which was struggling politically and financially to maintain its colony in North Africa.

The unveilings were publicised and presented to the government in Paris as spontaneous acts. But the French leader Charles de Gaulle remained sceptical of the French settlers’ claims, and historians would later find that some of the women who participated in these ceremonies never even wore the veil before. Others were pressured by the army to participate.”

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