Join Sherene H. Razack in the discussion The Racial/Spatial Politics of Banning the Muslim Woman's Niqab. Bans, whether travel bans or bans on the wearing of the niqab in public space, mark Muslims as neither inside nor outside the law. They usher Muslims into a spatial void. Occupying a space where law has declared its own absence, the banned Niqabi is denied the right to public space even as she is formally a citizen. What do bans provide to those who are compelled to engage in it?
Bans create a public that is made secure by the eviction of a threatening foreignness. To look at the niqab is to be altered, derailed from the path of racial and sexual mastery, and confronted with the possibility that we do not know, either who she is, or who we are. Faced with the prospect of alteration, we choreograph the encounter with Muslim women through bans on her apparel. Bans enable us to refuse to see, to block from our line of vision the sight that unsettles and that derails us from our plans of mastery. Understood as dreams of possession, bans pre-empt any recognition of the other’s humanity. But this pre-emption troubles and we are haunted by it. Our rage at niqabi women, expressed in the command “yield to me” conceals the ambivalence and desire that marks the encounter.
Sherene H. Razack is Distinguished Professor and the Penny Kanner Endowed Chair in Gender Studies, UCLA. Her books include: Dying from Improvement: Inquests and Inquiries into Indigenous Deaths in Custody (2015); At the Limits of Justice: Women of Colour On Terror (2014, ed. With Suvendrini Perera); States of Race. (2011, co-editor with Malinda Smith and Sunera Thobani); Casting Out: Race and the Eviction of Muslims From Western Law and Politics (2008); Race, Space and the Law (2004)ed. Dark Threats and White Knights: The Somalia Affair, Peacekeeping and the New Imperialism (2004). Looking White People in the Eye 1998.