Neil Macmaster
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The failure of history

Emancipation was seen as preempting the dangers of the Front de libération nationale (FLN) itself organising women and offering to liberate them. Overall the French 'emancipation' strategy failed miserably, a failure that was linked to the extraordinary inability of European decision-makers to recognise the enormous weight and complexity of Muslim society and its deep-seated durability and powers of resistance to colonial attempts to re-shape it in its own image. Islamist groups unleashed a wave of violence against women, forcing them to wear the hijab, or to retreat from education and employment back into the seclusion of the home. The impacts of French emancipation of Algerian women had been perverse, and achieved the very opposite results from its proclaimed goals. Through the fatal association between women's liberation and the assault on the Muslim nation, the French succeeded in reinforcing the reactionary elements within the FLN and Islamist currents.

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Burning the veil

The Algerian war and the ‘emancipation’ of Muslim women, 1954–62


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