Burning the veil

The Algerian war and the 'emancipation' of Muslim women, 1954-62

By Neil MacMaster

Burning the veil


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8754-7
  • Pages: 432
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £21.99
  • Published Date: June 2012
  • BIC Category: Relating to Islamic people & groups, European history, Colonialism & imperialism, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Islamic Studies, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Colonialism & Post-Colonialism, Humanities / Colonialism & imperialism, Humanities / European history, Modern History, History, Social groups: religious groups & communities


Burning the veil draws upon sources from newly-opened archives, exploring the 'emancipation' of Muslim women from the veil, seclusion and perceived male oppression during the Algerian War of decolonisation. The claimed French liberation was contradicted by the violence inflicted on women through rape, torture and destruction of villages. This book examines the roots of this contradiction in the theory of 'revolutionary warfare', and the attempt to defeat the National Liberation Front by penetrating the Muslim family, seen as a bastion of resistance.

Striking parallels with contemporary Afghanistan and Iraq, French 'emancipation' produced a backlash that led to deterioration in the social and political position of Muslim women. This analysis of how and why attempts to Westernise Muslim women ended in catastrophe has contemporary relevance and will be important to students and academics engaged in the study of French and colonial history, feminism and contemporary Islam.


1. From the Sétif massacre to the November insurrection: the origins of the Algerian women's movement, 1945-54
2. The origins of the emancipation campaign, November 1954 to May 1958.
3. Unveiling: the 'revolutionary journées' of 13 May 1958
4. The propaganda offensive and the strategy of contact
5. The Mouvement de Solidarité Féminine: army wives and domesticating the 'native'.
6. Military 'pacification' and the women of Bordj Okhriss
7. The Mobile Socio-Medical Teams (EMSI): making contact with peasant society.
8. The battle over the personal status law of 1959.
9. The FLN and the role of women during the war
10. From women's radical nationalism to the restoration of patriarchy (1959-62).
11. The post-independence state and the conservative marginalisation of women


Neil MacMaster is Honorary Reader in the School of Political, Social and International Studies at the University of East Anglia

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