Jigsaw Reflection

This week for our final Jigsaw, I read an article detailing the experiences of North African Muslim women who emigrated to live in France, and their opinions on the banning of headscarfs in schools. This article fascinated me because it explained such a different cultural narrative than the one we perceive to be “right” and “good” in the United States, which is focused on freedom and not being excessively constrained. Upon reading this article, I found myself frustrated and shaking my head, that these poor girls in school were being restricted from practicing their religion; I understood and respected the opinions of the Muslim women but struggled with still having my own opinion on the matter. Coincidentally, my other class’s readings for that week were also centralized on Muslim women and the veil, and as I progressed through this reading, and the next two that were assigned to me, and the classes that followed those readings, my opinion drastically changed. I realized that I had been guilty of ethnocentrism in a way, in thinking that the French culture was oppressive and that these women were bring stripped of their religious freedom and identity. Before I started studying religion I even thought that the veil itself was oppressive to women.
But I learned that the French culture has a very France-first focused identity for all of the citizens, and that it is no one else’s job, outside of the Muslim women living in France, to have an opinion on headscarves being banned from their schools. In my other class’s discussion on the articles we read I was shocked that so many people did not know the term “cultural relativism” and was frustrated that so many had an opinion on the headscarf without even understanding the concepts of cultural relativism and ethnocentrism, but having realized that I had been guilty of this when reading my assigned article, I realized that it comes from a place of having more to learn, and of not yet understanding.