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Joan Wallach Scott

Joan Scott is known internationally for writings that theorize gender as an analytic category. She is a leading figure in the emerging field of critical history. Her ground-breaking work has[…]

Unless the countries of Europe figure out how to accommodate Muslim immigrant populations, there will be increasing numbers of riots, and increasing divisions along economic, religious and ethnic lines.

Question: Where do you think Europe’s Muslim assimilation rnissue will stand in 2050?
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Joan Wallach Scott:  Well two things I can always plead, rnright?  One, I’ll be dead by 2050, so it won’t matter to me and second, rnas a historian I always look back rather than forward, but those aren’t rnfair excuses for this.  I think that unless the countries of Europe rnfigure out an accommodation with these populations it’s going to be rndisastrous.  It’s going to be increasingly... increasing numbers of riots,rn increasing divisions, not only along economic lines, but along rnreligious and ethnic lines and it will be a disaster.  I mean I think rnfor me the most interesting thing I’ve seen and it is not a perfect rndocument was the Bouchard/Taylor report that came out of Quebec.  Do rnyou know about this?  It’s a report.  Charles Taylor the philosopher andrn Gerard Bouchard, I can’t remember what he does, were asked to write a rnreport about the accommodation of Muslims in Quebec and there it was a rnparticularly hot issue because Quebec is secular, although there is a rnlarge Catholic population that wants to press very hard for control or rnpolitical influence in certain ways and they came up with a report aboutrn what accommodation and where to draw the lines and what mattered and rnwhat didn’t matter and I thought it was the most sensible document I’d rnseen in a really long time because it requires adherence to the rnpolitical principles of the nation and of the region—democratic ones, rnrepublican ones—at the same time that it is pluralist in its tolerance, rnin its…  Tolerance is a wrong word because as one of my friend keep rnsaying, “Tolerance means that you abide by something you don’t really rnlike.”  I think "recognition" is the better term. So you recognize that rnthere are certain kinds of practices that need to be respected on the rnpart of Muslim populations, praying five times a day for those who do, rnplaces where you can wash your feet and your hands before you pray.  On rnthe other hand you say "We draw the line here." If you’re at a hospital rnand the only doctor on is a male doctor and you’re a woman you take it—which in fact many of the interpreters of the Koran will tell is alreadyrn there to be or of Hadiths that come out of the Koran is already understoodrn to be a practice and so on. But so you know "Here are the lines.  Here rnis what constitutes respect and recognition.  Here is what constitutes rnthe limit that can be placed on the kinds of demands that can be made ofrn a more general public and of a more multicultural public.  You can’t rnimpose your will, your truth on all of us." So it seems to me that that’srn the kind of accommodation.  That is the kind of policy that has to be rndeveloped.  Whether or not it will is another question. 
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rnThere is also a group of feminists in France who are Muslim feminists rnwho wear the hijab and French feminists, that is we would call them rn"white," but you know, French, French, Francais [...] they call native rnFrench.  I mean all of these terms are loaded and it is very difficult rnto use them, but okay, so there are secular French women and headscarf rnMuslim French women and they came up with a statement of principle whichrn seems to me to offer some of the answers and it is: "We are for rnequality in all realms. We are against the subordination of any rngroups or individuals. No forced wearing of headscarves. No forcedrn removal of headscarves."  And that seems to me to sort of be pointing rntowards the kinds of accommodation that Bouchard/Taylor offered in rnQuebec and that needs to be really addressed and thought through not rnonly in France, but in the countries of Europe.  I think if they don’t rndo it, it’s... one doesn’t even want to think about what the future, the rndifficulties, the tensions, the humiliations, the riots.  You know thinkrn of the 2005 riots.  I mean I think more and more of that will be the rncase unless there is some really serious effort to pick up some of thesern suggestions that have been made and work with them.
Recorded April 26th, 2010
rnInterviewed by Austin Allen