Thursday, July 15, 2010

Why, even if you hate the niqab, you should hate the French "burqa ban" more

The above photo is of one of the anti-Muslim, anti-Islam tags on a mosque being built in Caen, Normandy, France. Charles Martel (ca. 688 – 22 October 741), grandfather of Charlemagne, and a brilliant Frankish general, was a founder of the Kingdom of the Franks, or France, in the Middle Ages, after the defeat of the Roman Empire, and the province of Gaul. He is "hearted" here as a symbol of the far right--the "France for the French", that is those French citizens who are descendants of the Gauls and the Franks. He is credited with decisively halting the Islamic invasion of  the Frankish Kingdom in 732, at the Battle of Tours (also called the Battle of Poitiers). This stopped the northward expansion of the Umayyad Empire into Europe from Al-Andalus in Spain. The Nazi swastika is juxtaposed with pride.

Below are the other tags on the mosque: "Ni Islam Ni Burka" ("No to Islam, No to the Burka", or more literally "Neither Islam, Nor the Burka") with a Christian (Catholic) cross;  "Islam Hors d'Europe" ("Islam out of Europe"), with a Celtic Cross (the Gauls were Celts), a symbol of the far right. These were done as part of the "celebration" of France's National Day, July 14; the tagging took place over the course of the night, July 13-14.

Photo Credits : Islam Normandie

Photo: Ouest-France

Also independently tagged, though in a similar manner, was a halal butcher shop being constructed in Lisieux, Normandy. Here "France aux Français" ("France for the French" ie the descendents of the Gauls and the Franks) is accompanied by both the Celtic Cross, symbol of the far right, and the Nazi swastika, in case the ideology was misunderstood.

These are not isolated incidents, but part of a series of escalating ones over the last year. This Islamophobia and xenophobia feeds directly into the argument that foreigners are taking "our" jobs, taking over "our" country, and perverting "our" values--an argument that always has greater suasion in times of economic crisis, instability, or recession--like now.

It is important to be clear--about what is being proposed, by whom, and why, in the French context specifically--before jumping on the French "Ban the Burqa" bandwagon. This ban is against wearing the face veil any time anywhere in public--not just in public institutions, banks, government offices, or police stations, but walking down the street, going to the neighbourhood park, window shopping, giving the baby a stroll, taking out the garbage, anywhere. Transgressors are subject to fines, and then further legal penalties.

This proposed law, which has already passed in the lower house of the French Parliament, is slated for passage in the Senate in September, after which it will take full effect (regional and municipal jurisdictions have already begun fining women wearing the niqab in public). The ban was originally proposed last June 2009 by President Nicholas Sarkozy. From the right to the left, all pundits and politicians consulted by their supporting newspapers then stated that this was an election ploy on his part to garner votes from the far right in order to assure his own (more centre right) re-election, and a majority Parliament, which would then include a Prime Minister on the right as well.

This manoeuvre of course makes Sarkozy more beholden to the far right who have a clear agenda against immigrants, Muslims, Arabs and Africans; and, think they should all be "sent home", even though by now Maghrebi immigrants recruited in the 50's and 60's (government planes were sent to villages in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, to hire labourers for France by the plane-full) have 2nd and 3rd generation descendants. They also believe that children born in France to Arab/African-French citizens have no right to French citizenship.

Sarkozy himself is famous for having called the disaffected Maghrebi-French youth living in public housing in the suburbs "la racaille", trash. Serious studies show instead that racism makes getting and keeping jobs harder for them even though they are born and raised in France, speak only French, and are educated in French public schools. Rather than trash, they are unemployed and not for lack of trying.

Two constitutional reviews have determined that the proposed ban against the burqa is contrary to the guarantee of personal freedom in the French Constitution. This is unlike the ban on the headscarf (and all obvious religious symbols) in the public schools, as that ban was constitutional (though debatably so). It was also part of an extension of a specific 1905 law, initially directed primarily at the Roman Catholic Church, and secondarily at Jewish institutions, to reinforce freedom from religious symbols in public places, including public schools, a concept called laïcité, which is similar to, but different from secularism, and in line with France's credo "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" for all.

Here is a passage from an article by a Frenchman on the far right explaining the French performance at the FIFA World Cup 2010, and invoking "le Kärcher", a high powered industrial cleaner, as a solution. The article is standard for the ideology. The choice of a German brand is deliberate.

The Blue Team? The Kärcher for that Trash!

If this "French team" has something in common with the France of today, it is that is symbolizes, not even as a caricature, just realistically, like in a documentary, the deliquency of this country. "One sees the spirit of the community letting itself be devoured by the spirit of the public housing complexes" Alain Finkielkraut, very rightly observed. We would add that to speak of community is already to be one step behind. It is to be back at the "black, white, arab" team of 1998. In twelve years the "blacks" have taken power. Absolute power. The Blacks, because they are black, and without any other justification, have eliminated the Ayrabs. Then the last of the Whites. Yoann Gourcuff, the best current French player? On the bench! The Blacks have thrown over the Whites...for the World Cup in the land of Apartheid. What a symbol!

After which, the Blacks fought amongst themselves over the dark (obviously) questions of origin. The Africans against the Caribbeans. Luckily there were no Hutus or Tutsis on the team, it would have finished in a blood bath. Although...That would have made room for football players, real ones, and that would have allowed one to bring some barbarians before an international court. On both sides, that would have left a clear place for Gourcuff, "punished like the first in the class in certain suburban neighbourhoods" (Zemmour).
The ethnic Mafias have taken power in the French team, because they are in the midst of taking power in all of France. Faced with "those people", suburban trash or golden trash, faced with all the spineless and all the criminals, there is only one solution: the high powered industrial cleaner, the Kärcher. But in the hands of those "clowns" [as defined by the "ethnics"], those [unlike Sarkozy, son of a Jewish Hungarian immigrant, and others too cowardly to use it] who are tired of being "clowns": the French.

from Les Bleus? Le Kärcher pour cette racaille!, par Jean-Marie Molitor in Minute [translation mine]

Whether one hates the niqab/burqa or not, one should give pause before reinforcing a xenophobic, ethnocentric law which undermines the French Constitution, and heralds a strengthening of the far right's ideology and political power. The "bleu, blanc, rouge" (blue, white, red) of France should not become the "blue-eyed, white, blond" of the far right. Or do you really want the trains to run on time that badly?

Related posts:
Le 14 juillet, 1789, 1790, 1989, 2010: mythes et réalités en France et au MENA
July 14, 1789, 1790, 1989, 2010: Bastille Day Myths and Realities in France and in MENA
La fête des mères en France et dans les anciennes colonies de MENA
Mother's Day in France and the Former French Colonies of MENA (on the shift to the right culturally in France, including within feminism, and Sarkozy's place in it)
Halal French Cuisine: Gastronomic Integration by French Muslims

External blog posts (on which I have also made substantive comments) specifically on the proposed French ban:
Sarkozy and Burkas
The French burqa ban
The French Face Veil Ban

Other Hijab/Niqab posts Chez Chiara:
The Niqab: Quebec/Canada's "Two Solitudes" and "medieval kingdoms like Saudi Arabia"
Quebec's Proposed Law to Ban the Niqab: "You are as stupid as the ones who wear that rag on their face"
The Niqab and Integration: The Doha Debates Chez Chiara
On Choosing Hijab in a Bi-cultural Family

Your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

This is pretty disturbing. The magazine article especially was shocking - I haven't read anything like it in a long time.

Side Note: I did read something last week about the rift in the French Football team camp and I tended to side with Yoann Gorcuff who seemed to be the victim of a bullying campaign.

There is another reason why they 'hearted' Charles Martel. He defeated the Ummayyad armies in Southern France and is credited with halting the Islamic empire's northward expansion.

Chiara said...

Shafiq--thank you for your comment. I added that aspect of Martel's fame right into the post. He is also the first in a long line of Charles capable of reliably producing male heirs that determined the political and cultural identity of France for centuries and to this day.

I had seen this sport article a while ago and was going to address it in a post on the French team. The bullying is unacceptable but this rationale extended to the whole country is disturbing as you say.

Unfortunately it really is standard fare. I read an older article on Yannick Noah in the left leaning intellectual Nouvel Observateur and it was a high end juxtaposition of his Black African physical skills (and physique) and his White French intelligence about the game. I came across it while researching race and decolonization and it was definitely not what I was expecting from the Nouvel Observateur.

This morning's readings were unexpected and still leave me stunned.

Thanks again for your comment.

Anonymous said...

So what you are saying is that we should not support common sense because it is coming from the wrong people. I appreciate the historical context but a country should try to look forward and work with what it has today. The ban will make it easier for Muslim women, many will feel empowered, like the government's got their back. It will help build a more inclusive and cohesive country. Allowing women to hide their faces is basically allowing them to wallow in their "otherness".
You say that is against freedom to ban women from covering their faces "not just in public institutions, banks, government offices, or police stations, but walking down the street, going to the neighbourhood park, window shopping, giving the baby a stroll, taking out the garbage, anywhere."
Can you say the same about men? How about if a cult of men decided they wanted to exercise their freedom by walking down the streets veiled? Would it be the same?

The politics of the matter should be marginalized. That the ban is pandering to a right-wing will always be conclusion whether the ban is implemented or lifted. If it goes through, the racist right-wing will be happy, and if it doesn't, the Islamist right-wing will be happy. We should rise above that and focus on the women.
Besides it's common sense, just as it is illegal to walk around naked, it should be illegal to walk around with your face covered.

Chiara said...

Saudiwoman-thank you for your comment.

"Common sense" is never common, it is always constructed.

I fail to see how there is an equivalence between walking around naked being illegal (indecent exposure) and making covering the face illegal. In fact in France there are nude beaches, public, not private ones, where it is legal to walk around naked, and many more topless ones. So if the ban were only restricted to wearing the niqab in specific settings it would be more analogous but the ban isn't about that.

What I am describing is not some remote historical context divorced from the current setting, it is the contemporary politics of the situation. Since wearing a niqab in France is far more voluntary than in other countries where there far more family and social pressure to do so, and since there are so few who wear the niqab in France, most of them French reverts I believe you overestimate the empowerment of the un-veiled niqabis. These particular women are choosing to establish their otherness.

The politics of the ban are the whole point of the ban. Sarkozy and company do not care about the women, the "racaille" as they like to call the immigrants, or anyone else except getting (re-)elected.

I really don't see this nearly as genderized as you do. I am not arguing men vs women, but the French themselves, and the European Human Rights Commission, and the French constitutional experts see this as a contravention of personal freedoms, the French Constitution, and human rights guarantees in the European Union's constitution.

It is hard not to see the ban coming from the right wing when the right proposed and championed it. The Islamist right-wing in France is marginalized. The dominant form of Islam is the Maliki fiqh and the very moderate Mufti of the Great Mosque of Paris is the leading religious figure.

One can do more harm to women by encouraging a far right presence in France than by rejecting this particular ban. The far right already gets a much higher % of the vote than most in France are comfortable, and nearly won a recent Presidential election. They easily elect 20% of the representatives to the Parliament of the European Union which is whence Jean-Marie Le Pen built his biggest base in French national elections.

In France, the niqab war is a false fight to get the right in power. Women will be harmed more by the "back to the kitchen barefoot and pregnant you go" ideology (read the post on Mother's Day, and feminist philospher Elizabeth Badinter's analysis), and the xenophobia and Islamophobia that are inherent in the French "Front national" party.

Women may be walking around with their naked faces the better to be treated as the "sale arabe du coin". Not good.

Susanne said...

Interesting post and, yeah, disturbing. Chiara, I'm curious why the French have been going further right these days. Why the sudden interest in "true" Frenchness? Do they feel threatened with outsiders taking over their culture and this is the way they fight back? You mentioned their having gone to certain countries to bring back workers by the plane full. Do you think they now regret this? Maybe they should have had more babies so they wouldn't have to plane in workers to fill their ranks.

I'm curious more about WHY they dislike Arabs, Muslims, Africans. Do they feel threatened? Have these Others stayed outside the culture too much and thus the French feel no connection to them. How important is it to blend into the culture so people will consider you part of that brother or sisterhood? There has to be a REASON they dislike Arabs and Muslims and Africans. The niqab banning is just a symbol of something much deeper. The article about the French football team shows that.

This is so much like Hitler's desire for the purified Germany and that's scary. Hitler blamed the Jews for many of his society's ills so is this what the French are doing? They are just putting the blame on the less-powerful scapegoat? Trying to figure out people is rather interesting. I'm guessing the French are like so many of us. They don't want to take responsibility for their own decisions and choices so when things go wrong, they try to pass the blame onto the ones in society who are marginalized.

I tried to comment on one of your other posts yesterday, but Blogger ate my comment. For real this time. I'll try to get back to it later.

Thanks for an interesting article.

Candice said...

Very interesting! I'm sorry I don't comment more often, but it doesn't mean I'm not reading!

countrygirl said...

Once in a while I'm for the France...Nijab/burka isn't part of Europe where we are accustomed to see the people we are speaking with. There are several converted that wear nijab but from their blogs (I'm speaking based on italian converted) they are more royalist than the king, they simply reject western way of life and it's common to hear speaking in a very negative way of their fellow countrymen/woman I'm wondering if they despite so much Italy why don't they go in some so called "paradise" of sharia like KSA?

I don't see why you consider a far right issue the banning of nijab...I know several people that are leaning left but they are for the banning of the nijab.

I don't see why anyone wearing a full helmet have to take off before entering any shop/bank/post office/whatever but when you asked for the same thing to a full veiled women you are labeled as islamphobic.

Even in some muslim countries there's a ban to the face veil but when an European nation wants to do the same it's racism.

When someone emigrates in a foreign countries MUST adapt to the law and costume of the host country and for sure nijab isn't part of France.

Common people (and I'm not speaking of the ones who are living in their ivory tower) in France/UK/Belgium/Holland are simply fed up of the bowing of their goverment to the muslim: in france a couple of week ago a festival celebrating traditional food (wine and pork) was banned because it could hurt muslim feeling since it was to be held near a neighbour with a majority of muslim.

The nijab banning is simply the tip of the iceberg.
You posted several photos of racism toward the muslim but are you aware that there's a strong emigration of french jews because they aren't feeling safe in their homeland.

Delux said...

An excellent post, and thanks for the additional background about the current climate in France.

Wendy said...

Chiara, I know your feelings on the subject but I support France in their ban on the burqa and face covering as I always have. Pulling up right wing drivel over the subject really doesn't mean anything. You can find right wing drivel everywhere.

Women are supposedly banned from covering their face when doing Hajj so that says it all to me. In the holiest of all Islamic places where people pray to their prophet they must not cover their face ergo face covering is not required in Islam.

If Muslims who feel they must cover/cover their women they should choose a country where they would be more comfortable. I think Saudiwoman made a good comment about what if men decided to cover their faces as well.

Anonymous said...


I'm inclined to agree with Saudiwoman and Wendy with the general gist of their argument. The reasoning behind the law doesn't necessary nullify the reasons for which decent people support it.

I do disagree with Saudiwoman about the law being 'common sense'. I don't think it is and I would personally much prefer a law that universally bans all face coverings than one that targets specifically the face veil.

Whether the veil isolates its wearers in western countries is also debatable. I know two women, both sisters, who wear the face veil. The first runs a successful catering business that employs about a dozen people, is the main breadwinner in her family and as a result of her business, comes into contact with male and female clients of all religions and ethnicities. The other sister, is the complete opposite and is pretty withdrawn from society and exists only as a mother/wife. The question is that if both these women were not wearing the veil, would their lives have been any different.

Chiara said...

Thank you all for commenting and I hope others will contribute too.

I will return with more individual comments but for now I wanted to address some common themes.

The French are both very welcoming to refugees and yet have a strong current of anti-Semitism and racism. The far right (which, since seeing the pics in this post, I ALWAYS type with at "t" at the end of "far" and have to correct) is where most of this sentiment lives, because it is constructed in large part on being French French, ie from "la France profonde", the deeply, historically French Roman Catholic roots shared by most, or adopted by most.

The aftermath of WWII was the loss of the French Empire and the importation of now "guest workers". It wasn't intended that they should stay or establish families in France, it was intended that they would work in France for however long and then leave--even if that was after 40 years and after retirement (sounding familiar?).

The French themselves acknowledge that moving from one region of France to another means that one is treated as a foreigner, even after years, and most often friendships are formed among these foreigners. My students who had gone through these experiences as adolescents now in their 20s were stunned that I had French friends.

Also, the French themselves acknowledge that they see "pieds noirs"--ie French who returned from or are descendants of those who returned from the former North African colonies, particularly from Algeria (where some French had lived for 3-5 generations)--as different and other. I have had French warning me off the "pieds noirs" as racist themselves and misogynistic ie contaminated by so much time spent with Arabs, and having been colonists. I have also had older "pieds noirs" tell me what it was like to return, and how unwelcome they were, and how considered not French.

Current Arabs and Africans in France, no matter when they arrived or where they were born, come from former French colonies where they were an underclass--ie to the French colonizers. There are 2 stereotypes that are distinct and persist. The Africans are kind of big, muscle guys, good for labour, laughing, and rather benign (too stupid to be malicious)--"watermelon heads". Kind of the galoots who would make it in sports and knock the finesse (white) players off the team. The Arabs are wily, suspect legally, given to petty theft, violent and malicious. Both are, of course, oversexed, and dirty.

The otherness of both these groups is reinforced when there is an economic downturn and a need to blame someone for unemployment figures. This is evident in attitudes, eg in whether a well dressed, middle-class Arab or African gets served or not in a line, eg a very clear single next come next serve line at a bank or airport ticket window; and in the graffiti that appears on highway overpasses, walls, etc. In the south the Corsicans are included in the "get out of France" even though Corsica is a French province. Anti-semitism increases too, as the French philosopher Berndard Henri-Levy never fails to point out, and justifiably so.


Chiara said...

I have no objection to the ban just because it was initiated by the right; I have objections to it because of its propaganda power, and its political expediency which all, including the French definitely right of centre Le Figaro declared was its intent when Sarkozy proposed it. It is an easy, visible target that emphasizes otherness, and can be passed off as feminist and protecting human rights, when the basis of feminism and human rights in France is expanding personal choice. Thus, these women and their families (who are punished more severely for "imposing" the niqab) are denied choices and personal freedoms that the French Constitution, and the EU Constitution guarantees for others--according to constitutional experts, and human rights groups.

I am well aware that there is no theological argument for covering the face in Islam; and, that some more religiously conservative individuals, families, leaders, societies believe it is the most modest and prefer that it be enforced. That is not the case among the majority Muslim population in France. The very much minority who do believe that are marginal, and the main Muslim leaders are supporting this ban to marginalize them further--which is an intra-Muslim social, intra-Islamic leadership issue.

I didn't go looking for any of these articles, I was smacked in the face by them when I went on looking for other information. In the case of the sports article it was part of those addressing the French team's performance and the reactions to it, which is the topic of a long planned post (since the start of the World Cup) still in draft form. After the post on Saudiwoman's Weblog I wanted to double check how far through the French legislative system and got smacked with these pictures when I typed in the keywords "burqa + loi". The result of my shock and awe is the post here.

Part of my shock and awe is no doubt living in France as a mixed couple, and studying French culture, society, and history. I won't go in to personal details about the number of racist or subtly racist experiences I have had with either Arab family or friends, or students. I will say that I currently have Arab friends and family living in France, and the situation is not improving--either in legitimate work opportunities, academic opportunities, or everyday interactions. As one male cousin said: "I know when I walk down the street why the women switch their handbags to the opposite shoulder, I choose not to react." As a Moroccan woman friend who has a French masters degree from an elite Paris university program in business administration, worked for a year, and is now looking for another job, said: "The economic climate is bad, and me with my Qatari face, I can't get past the first interview". Both are legal in France, and living there for years after attending the French school system in Morocco to the end of high school.


Chiara said...

There is abundant evidence that the French of Arab and African descent are excluded rather than choosing not to integrate. This ban is part of reinforcing that they are other, different, and a threat to French values, no matter how long they live in France, for how many generations, and with what master of French language, culture, and social mores--and what lack of the same for their or their ascendants country of origin.

I think it is very important to realize that France is not the same as Saudi Arabia, and that championing the ban of the "burqa" in France does nothing to alter the decisions within Muslim majority countries. I fear it is similar to Shirin Ebadi (Nobel Peace Prize) realizing too late that in championing revolution against the Shah, and then even moreso for Khomeini, that she was inadvertently making life worse for herself and all (men and) women in Iran. She writes about it very eloquently in her autobiography which I highly recommend.

Again I appreciate all the comments, and those who disagree with me and have shared their rationale have made me think more, and consider more angles which I appreciate a great deal.

I hope all will continue to comment or re-comment on the topic.

Also please let me know if you think I should do a second post with more of the type of information in this comment, and links to article, and stats.

I'll be back after a interlude with the War in Afghanistan--more on that later! :)

Carry on commenting!

M'enfin!! LOL :)

Usman said...

Thanks Chiara,
Your are pragmatic as ever!
I have had my say at my forum. ( don try to read the translation which appears very clumsy :) ). Just don't want to engage in the debate in English blogosphere. But Thanks for giving the insight. I stand by you.

oby said...

I hesitate to even comment and bore everyone with my stance on this…I have said it before and in general it has not changed. However, while reading I wanted to open a page and comment on it as I read so I write down impressions as I go.

It seems that France is now fighting against a decision it made 40+ years ago to bring in immigrant workers. I have often felt that governments (mine included) make decisions based on short term needs and never consider the long term ramifications…now there are second and third generation people living there. Well Duh!!! What did France expect???? That these people would somehow while living and working there not reproduce and create lives of their own and, uh, I don’t know, MAYBE want to stay considering the quality of life was better than what they had at home. IF they did not want the consequences why not think of that 50 years ago? Or maybe they did and it is something else that that they are railing against.

How is the ban on the burka different than a ban on the headscarf? From where I am standing the burka is a religious symbol. How many other religions besides Islam wear one? ANYONE who sees someone wearing one knows instantly that the person wearing it is a female Muslim…cultural or not it is a symbol of islam. Burkas are worn in public places and if all people are banned from religious symbols in public places then this one should be no different. If ones vocation is religious life Ie: nun, priest, rabbi, mufti , imam etc. then that is different as that is their vocation. Having said all that the only major issue I personally have is covering of the face. If they want to wear Burkas as they do in KSA or Afghanitstan then no I don’t think it is OK…

But you said that only a tiny majority of the French wear them and those are reverts. I think that statement requires a little closer examination. If that is true and I am assuming it is, why would people who have never worn that sort of full covering in their entire lives, who come from a secular culture without any sort of allowance of that type of thing (banned religious symbols) want to wear the MOST visual form of islamic statement possible once they convert? (I find the term revert offensive as it assumes all people on the planet are Muslims to begin with and those that “revert” have fallen away and come to their senses and come back to the fold. An arrogant position IMO) I think the question needs to be asked, “why are they choosing the most extreme and restrictive form of Islam available?” ESPECIALLY since they know about the ban on religious articles. Also important is how many converts percentage wise are choosing the strictest form of Islam. As Suzanne said there must be some reason that the French and in fact a lot of Europe is taking this stronger stance. Is it at all possible that they are feeling that the Muslims in their own countries don’t accept THEM or their way of life and feel an encroachment of sorts? Why are they not complaining about the various and sundry other religions that are in their countries? What makes Islam different and complaint worthy?


oby said...

Part 2:

I am not so sure I am COMPLETELY comfortable calling them all racists. The reason is this…if you asked the countries that are Muslim majority (or any majority, say Jewish or Buddhist) would they want their country to be a different religion and would they feel comfortable with people who are very visibly different from the majority gaining numbers and rioting etc. to get their point across how many do you think would be saying “hey yes that is fine…we have no issues with that at all.” HONESTLY not many would be fine with that. So if that is the case we would need to label all of them racists starting with the Middle East which has the worst violations of freedom of religion in the world. But I am not so sure I look at it as a racist issue. Or atleast not entirely a racist issue. More as one of maintaining a culture and keeping it the way the people like it. If we are not willing to label the MENA countries as racist why are we so quick to label the Western countries racist? If the criteria of being a racist stand in the West it must stand everywhere and looking at it like that the whole world is racist. OK, I realize that sounds simplistic. I would not want my country to be Muslim majority. It is not that I don’t like Muslims or think that they should have no rights. Due to practice and differences in basic beliefs if Muslims became a majority, my culture would look very different than it does now. And I like my culture the way it is. Very much. As do other countries including those of the Middle East and Asia etc. Does that make me a racist? I guess it depends on whose yardstick you use to measure. If you are standing on the outside of my country looking in then I guess I am…but if I am standing outside of your country looking in and it is Muslim majority one then you are (I don’t mean you personally). So does that make either of us wrong or does it make us human and want to protect the values and culture we love and hope to continue into the future? I say it makes us human. That is why I have always said that if people want to immigrate to any country they have to be the ones to do the adapting to the culture not the other way around. So a big thumbs down to the burka and niqab.

The article does seem over the top racist, but I must ask what is the MINUTE magazine? Is it a far right publication and therefore likely to state such thoughts? If so why bring it up at all? It is to be expected of a rag. Isn’t bringing it up propaganda in and of itself? What does Paris Match have to say?

Countrygirl said...

bravo obi...

As Chiara Said nijab women are right now a tiny minority but what about their daughters will they be able to go outside as normal teenagers...I pity those converted IMHO they were brainwashed by their husband/iman/whatever, I follow some of their blogs (in italian) and they simply considered us (by us I mean fellow countrymen/women) as kuffir, someone to avoid is possible, they keep on saying that they wish for the sharia...if so why don't they move to KSA.

In Europe there's an increase of wahhabism and many "moderate" iman they were forced out of their mosque.

Nijab isn't part of Europe and nothing and none can convince me otherwise.

Usually who wears it will demand sooner or later special privilege:

eg a policeMAN can stop her and aske for document and she willl ask for a policeWOMAN. Right now in Italy women wearing nijab DEMAND a woman doctor when they go for any emergency to the hospital.

Wendy said...

Oby, I like your comments. Germany has the same attitude about the Turks. They brought them in to do the jobs nobody else would do and then refused them citizenship, etc. Germany is paying the price for it now. I understand what Chiara is saying about the political issues in France in regards to Muslims. 16 years ago when I was in the south of France I heard stories about local governments refusing permits to build mosques and of course that contributed to the problems with youths and so on. As Chiara also said, the French can be 'racist' to other French living in other regions of the country. They are a unique bunch. :) I also think that the French were less harmful than the English and Scots to our 'Canadian' aboriginals when the country was being 'conquered and settled' way back when so they are not all bad. :)

Susanne said...

Since it's related, I'll pass along this news that my Arab friend told me via IM about an hour ago. Syria banned face covering veils in its universities.

I think the secular gov't there has a fear of Islamic extremists and this is one way of trying to curb that (see the article for more details).

Wendy, you wrote:

"As Chiara also said, the French can be 'racist' to other French living in other regions of the country. They are a unique bunch. :)"

But maybe not so unique. Don't people in other countries feel they are superior to people who live in other parts of their own countries? Like I've read of some Saudis who think they are better than others based on what region they were from. And I'm sure this is the same in India and maybe even in the US and Canada to some extent. Hopefully not among the majority, but among some. Just a thought.

I agree with you that the French aren't all bad. :)

Oby, I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

Interesting discussion!

Anonymous said...

The article is interesting, but you conclusions are questionable, Chiara. Seeing bigotry against Islam behind every rock and tree is sheer nonsense. Just for the record, the Kärcher is not only for industrial use. It is an excellent power washer used in many homes. It just happens to be made in Germany. As far as I can see, the article speaks of the French soccer team’s unprofessional behavior akin to people who run amok in public housing projects. The fact that a number of them hail from Islamic lands is only relevant because, Muslims have a habit of being disrespectful to the infidel world. The team’s behavior was disrespectful and that is why they were sent home.

I will say that it is common knowledge that all too many Muslims themselves have refused to integrate and assimilate in virtually any land to which they have ventured since the days of Muhammad. Muslims to this day try to force the conquered and hosting peoples to follow their customs and laws. These days it’s called “creeping sharia,” special privileges for Muslims such as gender separate facilities, that other people do not enjoy.

I have travelled and even lived in France for decades and found the country and its people very welcoming, provided one is polite and obeys French laws and customs. That is only natural since it is their country.

Chiara says: "The economic climate is bad, and me with my Qatari face, I can't get past the first interview".

It may not be the “Qatari face” but rather the Islamic dress and demeanor. I have a number of French friends among them a teacher of Moroccan origin. She does not feel discriminated against because, she is very, very secularly French as are her very Moroccan looking children. This woman is one of the most adamant against not only the veil but also the head-scarf. Despite her clearly Moroccan looks and Islamic background, she has never permitted Muslim girls to wear the scarf in her classrooms much less a burqa or niqab. She believes, as does the French government and the majority of the population, that even the scarf subjugates women and renders them second-class citizens.

The banlieues of France are very much a self-made Muslim phenomenon. Other ethnicities who migrated in great numbers worldwide including Italians, Irish, Germans, Jews, etc. don’t seem to sequester themselves generation after generation in ghettoes and have “no go” areas where the original inhabitants of the country, not even the police, cannot venture. In recent days Muslims are again rioting in France. Why? Because one of their own, a robber who shot at police, was killed. People who burn and loot for any reason are not only “trash” they are criminals and should be treated as such.

Muslims rail incessantly against western “oppression” and “imperialism,” while seeking to come to the free west, to partake of its largess, only to refuse to fit in. They don’t seem to have a problem with Islamic oppression and its imperialism that has subjugated the conquered peoples for over 1400 years and continues to do so. Why is the defeat of the invading, supremacist Ummayyad armies in Southern France and halting the Islamic empire's northward expansion by Charles Martel a bad thing? What were the armies of Islam doing in Europe?

Why is demanding that today’s immigrants to free democratic nations adhere to their host country’s laws, customs and values a bad thing?

I have never spoken to a single European (and I know and have spoken with thousands of people over many years) who is not against the supremacist, totalitarianism that Islam espouses and is trying to force upon the world in the 21st century be it via Wahhabi mosque building, Islamic immigration or terror.


(continued below)

Anonymous said...

Why is demanding that today’s immigrants to free democratic nations adhere to their host country’s laws, customs and values a bad thing?

I have never spoken to a single European (and I know and have spoken with thousands of people over many years) who is not against the supremacist, totalitarianism that Islam espouses and is trying to force upon the world in the 21st century either via immigration, legal or illegal, Wahhabi mosque building or terrorism.

Chiara says”The dominant form of Islam is the Maliki fiqh and the very moderate Mufti of the Great Mosque of Paris is the leading religious figure. “

Every single school of Islamic jurisprudence advocates the killing of apostates and the second class status of women. There is no such thing as “moderate” Islam. Islam is what Muslims do and they all follow the Qur’an wherein it is written that women and nonbelievers are lesser beings than Muslim men. It is a fact that non-Muslim expats in Islamic lands, especially Arabs lands, are treated very badly, many are even persecuted and killings are not uncommon.
Additionally, it is well known that Muslims have a history, since Muhammad’s days, of acquiescing while they were weak and then breaking all treaties when they become stronger.
Why is it that Muslims do not regularly protest by the millions the daily Muslim on Muslim carnage worldwide instead of rioting over veiling or cartoons? For all of the above reasons and many more the rest of the world is afraid of Islam and does not trust Muslims. It has gotten so bad, that the way to fight back against Islamic misogyny and gender apartheid is with laws.

Susanne says: ”This is so much like Hitler's desire for the purified Germany and that's scary.”

It is nothing like Hitler’s desire for a purified Germany! Muslims are not being herded into death camps and exterminated like rats. The French merely want those who visit or immigrate to their nation to assimilate, obey their laws and respect their customs. Muslims as a general rule do not do that. Thus, the laws against the subjugation of women and gender apartheid. The French and every other nonIslamic nation on earth have the right to demand that.

Muslims should protest the banning of the veil in Turkey, an Islamic land, if this issue upsets them so much. Evidently the Turks know where the veil leads. There is nothing “racist” about banning the veil, since race is not involved. Muslims of all races and ethnicities, including white converts, wear the demeaning shroud either voluntarily or involuntarily. It has no place in a democratic, secular nation!

Chiara says: ”The French are both very welcoming to refugees and yet have a strong current of anti-Semitism and racism.”

Yes, the French have always been welcoming to refugees and all races and ethnicities. American blacks, especially artists for example, have been very welcome in France when they were terribly discriminated against in the U. S.

You must know that the current of anti-Semitism emanates from Muslims, Chiara and not from the “far right.” Things are so bad that many Jews have chosen to leave France because of physical attacks from Muslims. Plenty of people on the left and in the center are all for this law.

If true believers don’t like the customs and laws of the rest of the world they should stay in dar al Islam instead of trying to shove their backward, dark-ages customs and laws down the throats of their generous host nations.

In democracies everyone is equal under the law. There are no “best of peoples, evolved for mankind,” as the Qur’an claims in Surah 3:110 nor is there a superior gender as in Islam.


Chiara said...

Thank you all for your ongoing comments, and sharing your own perspectives, insights, and resources. I sincerely wish this dialogue to continue as I believe it touches on themes important to the French ban but also to others in European countries and broader issues within Muslim majority countries and their relationships with the West.

I am going to go ahead with other postings, including the original one I planned to do on the French niqab ban which includes a "backgrounder".

I do hope all will continue to share here and others will jump in.

Back with the individual comments after the "Camel Crisis"! :)

Susanne said...

Arianne, thanks for your comment. It's always good to hear from someone actually living in the discussed country to give her thoughts on what is really happening. I know your opinion doesn't represent everyone, but still I'm sure it does represent a sizable number so I'm really glad to read what you wrote.

My comment about Hitler and Germany may have been very wrong. I apologize for that. When I saw the end of the post basically this --

"The "bleu, blanc, rouge" (blue, white, red) of France should not become the "blue-eyed, white, blond" of the far right."

I couldn't help but think of Hitler and how he wanted to purify Germany for the Aryan race. Since I am not blond, I take these kind of statements personally. Actually I don't think the French are all blondes .... :)

Your comment made a lot of sense, and, although I don't like graffiti on anything, I DO understand why Charles Martel is well-liked. I wouldn't want the invading Muslims (or any invaders!) to overtake my land either. That said, I don't know if using him as a symbol for today - and stopping the march of the Muslims which is what they implied - is a good idea. It seems to polarize the population even further instead of building bridges - addressing issues to bring some sort of understanding to the people who live in France whether they are "French French" or other kinds of French.

Curiously my Arab friend who is currently living in Germany for his master's degree said just yesterday - and has mentioned it to me a few other times in the past - that he doesn't blame the West for banning things like the niqab or minarets in Switzerland. He is of the opinion that it's "their culture" and they can do whatever they want to promote or maintain it. He WAS upset, however, that the niqab was banned yesterday in Syrian universities. His own family members don't wear niqab, but some of his friends' family members do. He thinks this is just a way the secular gov't wants to control a vastly Muslim population. He believes this takes away women's religious rights in his own country. And as one of his friends said, "As if Syria doesn't have other major problems, the gov't decides to pick on niqabis?" On the other hand, I know the police state there fears the population uniting and bringing around real change as there are far more Muslims there than secularists. This is one reason the Muslim Brotherhood was squashed nearly 30 years ago in the Hama massacre.

I digress.

Thanks for your comment about life in France as you see it!

Chiara said...

Susanne-thanks for your comments and links. I hope I answered most of your questions in the more general comments. Overall, Europe and France have not had the same attitude towards immigration as the Americas have had. The Americas welcomed immigration as a way to build a sparse population (of non-Aboriginals)whereas Europe has seen hiring guest workers as more of a "necessary evil". They have not wanted immigration so much as needed manpower (literally) at a certain point in history. At that time--post WWII--they still had colonies in North Africa and Africa so could get workers from there, or from there immediately after independence most easily and cheaply.

There was no provision for integration and there still isn't really. Just in the last 3 nights there have been riots in the suburbs of Grenoble because of a police shooting of an Arab. The analyses in the French papers--right to left--agree that the problem isn't specific to one incident or suburb but rather to a high density of poor in the suburbs and a racial as well as socio-economic divide between them and the white French, or even the poor white French. There is a feeling of hopelessness and exclusion because, due to racism, despite being born and raised as well as educated in France there is discrimination in hiring, particularly in better and more stable jobs.

While I wouldn't say that the far right is Hitlerian, I understand how you were reminded of that by what I wrote. The far right is though very overt that this is an issue of race even more than of religion, and that those who aren't white in the Nordic sense should leave--whether they are well-behaved or not, whatever they are wearing, wherever they were born, and whatever ties or not they have elsewhere. Some of those on the far right are descendants of French who were kicked out of Algeria on independence, with nothing. Truly only the clothes they had in suitcases, and nothing else after their families had lived in what was considered French territory for generations. They have a particular disregard for the feelings of those whom they think should leave.

Others were living the good life in African countries until decolonization messed that up, and they needed to return to France for work or safety reasons, sometimes without having lived there at all, or not as adults.

As regards the white French reverts/converts they are seen as being corrupted by a foreign ideology as well as losing or potentially losing white women to the non-whites.

Thanks again for your comments, and thanks for comments on other posts as well.

Chiara said...

Candice--thank you for your comment! No worries, comment whenever you like, at whatever length you please.

Delux--Welcome to my blog and thank you for your comment and compliments. Please feel free to comment on other older and newer posts of interest to you.

Usman--thank you for your comment and support. I know you are not alone in preferring not to address this in English. I am glad you were able to take away something of relevance from this post. Even my Google Urdu-ish isn't working anymore :( . I hope you had a good dialogue there. I look forward to your comments on other posts. Thanks again.

Chiara said...

Susanne--PS--on Syria and Syrians (LOL :). Thanks for sharing these insights, and Samer's rationale for his differential attitudes on the German ban and the Syrian, as well as your knowledge of the dynamic in Syria. Indeed Islamism is a greater potential threat in Muslim majority countries, especially because of the high numbers of young unemployed men in many (too much time on their hands, discouraged about the status quo), and the proximity geographically and culturally to movements like the Muslim brotherhood. Thanks again for sharing and for the links! :)

Chiara said...

Wendy--I hope you would realize that I don't just pull up "right wing drivel". If it were as harmless as drivel I wouldn't bother with it at all; and, if it hadn't been directly related in the French press, and by its own symbolism and content to the themes of the burqa ban I wouldn't have posted on it here. The proposal for the ban came from Sarkozy, who has a history of racist comments as regards disruptions in the suburbs, is the one who proposed this ban. It is one thing to say as many analysts from across the spectrum have said, that this is a racialized problem because of the demographics of these suburbs, and another to call them all trash in response to questions about social grievances as Sarkozy did when he was Minister of the Interior.

Politically this ban on the burqa is being the most enthusiastically supported by the far right, which is the same group of voters, all, including the centre right agree that Sarkozy was trying to attract with this ban. The rest of their beliefs are as I have described them in the post and in the general comments here, and in comments on other blogs.

Generationally, immigrants are less likely to cover, just as they are less likely to adhere to the language and traditions of their countries of origin. Moreover, the North African countries which were former French colonies and which are the bulk of the Arab Muslims in France, didn't wear the niqab in their home countries, nor often the hijab. Most are used to dressing in modest European clothes. This is particularly true of the non-grannies.

Thanks for your comment, and sharing your perspective. I appreciate that you can disagree civilly.

Chiara said...

Shafiq--thanks for your follow-up comment. My concern about the ban is less the reasoning behind it for logic sake than that it is one step in a progressively xenophobic discourse and political enterprise that is already proposing laws against France's own constitution. This makes it categorically different than the ban on the headscarf in public institutions including schools, which was constitutional and in line with laws already in place and enforced about all religious symbols.

In comments I wrote on various blogs about the headscarf ban in public insitutions (ie government ones), I made it clear that France had the right to enact it because it is in line with the constitution and its existing and universal bans on all overt religious symbols.

This ban is quite different. It is not about all face coverings, it is about all Muslim face coverings (clearly burqa is not just the Afghani shuttlecock burqa, and the niqab is specifically mentioned), not scarves in winter on men and women, weather appropriate balaclavas, whatever. The discourse that goes along with the same discussion of Muslims, race, and reverts/converts makes that clear.

Thanks again for your follow-up comment.

Chiara said...

Countrygirl--Brava! Sometimes one must be pro-French despite oneself; or at least a number of Europeans share your sentiment. LOL :)

I hope I have answered some of your questions/issues in my general comments. I will address the ones that I didn't here, and let me know if you have more.

It is a well known phenomenon that reverts/converts (I use both terms as some refer to themselves that way and they are more likely to embrace wearing the niqab) are more royalist than the king, more Catholic than the Pope, more rigid than others. They may well be proving to themselves and others what good Muslims they are, as they do not have the security in their identity as born Muslims do.

Muslims are required by Islam to adhere to the laws of the countries they travel to, and the vast majority do. As you are aware, those laws in the European Union, and in individual countries more specifically include human rights, which include the freedom of religion and personal freedoms like dress. These are the freedoms that constitutional and human rights experts of both the French Constitution and the European Union say are being transgressed by the proposed ban. So in fact it would be acting to guarantee women's rights, to allow women a choice. Like all, Muslim women in Western countries are subject to the will of their families until the ages of 16-18, whatever the age of majority is, or before that if there is abuse or reason to remove them from the home. After that they come fully under the Constitution as adults and their rights to wear (until the ban passes) or not wear the niqab are theirs alone. So if it passes they will be uniquely deprived of personal choices, and all in the name of feminism supposedly, by political groups (not individuals) with a track record of racism and misogyny.

Thanks again for your comment, and please comment further, especially if I have not addressed one of your concerns adequately (I don't hope to change your position, only to clarify mine!

Chiara said...

Oby--thanks for your double comment, and always thoughtful approach. I hope some of your questions have already been answered, let me address the others, and let me know if you have follow-up one.

6% of the population of France is Muslim.

About 1/2 of that, or 3% of the population of France are Muslim women.

Of that 3% about 12% cover. Of the 12% who cover most, according to the French, most are reverts/ converts, who are white, and originally Roman Catholic. They have made a choice to convert, usually in late adolescence, while single. and to convert to a very conservative interpretation of Islam, even though it is a minority form of Islam in France. They have been raised in and well exposed to secularized, egalitarian, feminist French society.

In France the exclusion of Muslims is longstanding based on race,ie before there was Islamicism there was race, and French, Arabs, and Africans, with the French rejecting the other 2 based on physical appearance and passport first, and behaviour second.

This means that those who have built incomes and lives in France are marginalized as are their children. They stayed as most immigrants, guest workers, in a country stay. Because they needed the income, they lost opportunities in their home countries, they age and no longer have the education or experience required to start over in their home countries. They have married and had children; most of the children have insufficient language skills to function in their countries of origin. It was deemed healthier for them, and for French society to let them bring their families at some point rather than have a mass of single frustrated men living cut off from normal social ties. The Moroccan-French novelist Tahar Ben Jelloun wrote his doctoral thesis in social psychology on this topic. The film "Pane e cioccolata" ("Bread and Chocolate") gives the Italians in Switzerland version of the same phenomenon.

The reason that European countries are now taking a stronger stance, has mostly to do with the economic downturn, and partly to do with political parties that hold these views at all times but are now given more credence because of the economic climate. Now everyone is a competitor for jobs and opportunities. Anti-immigrant sentiment thrives in economic downturns. That is part of why there is such a much about illegal Mexican immigration (not about drug trafficking which is different) in the USA. Suddenly, with the economic recession they are taking "our" jobs, using "our" social resources, not fitting in, want Spanish as an official language, not paying taxes, breaking the law, having their kids go to school and stay here, want driver's licenses...These are old themes now at higher volume.

I didn't call all supporting the ban racists, only that the dominant political parties behind it are also behind racist, or at least anti-immigrant platforms and for a French from France, white, Roman Catholic culture very narrowly interpreted, one that is not favourable to broader choices for women either.

The allegiances of these parties, who composes them, what their platforms are, make this clear; as do the symbols in the graffiti: the Christian cross, the Celtic cross (no Maronites, thanks), and the swastika (willing to go that far, either by belief or for shock value).

Minute magazine is easily googled. It started on the right and shifted to the far right. The author here is its editor. In the article he cites other journalists, also on the right. All are part of the mainstream, ie not clandestine, not illegal, not fringe in the sense of unheard of. The far right, ie Le Front National, gets a substantial portion of the French vote, eg 20%, if that helps give you a better idea.

Thanks again for your comment!

Chiara said...

Arianne--Welcome to my blog, and thank you for your detailed comment. I have left my reply to you to the end so that I can respond point by point, as you constructed it. Some of the issues I have addressed in comments above but let me know if I leave any out.

I don't see bigotry under every rock and tree; in fact, I spend a considerable part of my professional and personal life pointing out how people contribute by their personality, and behaviour to what happens to them, that not all is culture, or racism and that in any case they must learn how to manage in the real world.

We obviously don't talk to the same people, whether Europeans or non-Europeans in France or other countries. The article makes an analogy between the behaviour of the French national team (deplorable no matter what) to that in the public housing projects, but then extends it to the broader social dynamic in France generally. It makes it very clear that the problems are because the wrong races are becoming dominant and are a threat to French life and to whites. The behaviour is posited as endemic to the races. The rest of the article does specifically invoke Islam and how the players are proselytizing amongst themselves and to the broader French public. In fact, Thierry Henry did convert, and has discussed in interview WHEN ASKED that the model of his Muslim teammates was an influence. The article is clear that Black, Arab, and Muslim are a contagion upon the French lands.

It also states clearly that the solution is to have them all leave, no matter what their citizenship, their place of birth, their years, generations in France, or their behaviour. On this account, your Moroccan woman friend and her children are not welcome no matter how Frenchified they are, or think they are, or purport to be, because their DNA is wrong.

I would say most French are polite and welcoming to travelers, and those living in the country who are well-behaved, reasonably well-dressed, and speak French. Most of the time. Not all and not always, and no, the above are not mitigating factors for some.


Chiara said...

My "Qatari face" friend is in her mid-20s, was raised in a Frenchified milieu in Morocco, went to one of the French lycées, with French students and other Frenchified Moroccans, and has been living in Paris since the start of university--for about 8 years, the last 3 with her French boyfriend. She dresses standard Parisian and her French is standard Parisian too--except she can put on a "travailleur immigré" Moroccan-French accent when she jokes with her cousin, who does the same. She would argue that the main reason she hasn't found a new job is the economy, and her "Qatari face" in different proportions in different interviews.

Regarding what immigrants go where, and how they succeed, it is important to realize that the other groups you mentioned are white, and have a longer history of immigration. The greatest rejection is reserved for the most recent groups and the most physically distinct. French Jews, who were highly assimilated and as often Ashkenazi as not, had a rather rude awakening during WWII, not just from the Occupying Nazi forces, but from the part of the French population that was more than happy to join in. That is, even when a minority group is assimilated, it is still a minority that can be disenfranchised if there is a compelling reason or an opportunity to do so.

The examples of Islam and Muslim behaviour that you give are not characteristic of all Muslims and far from mainstream among Muslims in France. In fact the last 2 reports of the French Commission for Human Rights shows that both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are minority phenomena in France; that anti-Semitism is not a phenomenon of the far left, but still one of the far right; not by Muslims against Jews with the exception of an extremely violent incident; and decreasing since WWII. Moreover, both reports (in 2006 and 2007) show that the greatest "racism" in France is against Muslims, and Maghrebis specifically. Again, it is a minority phenomenon amongst the French, but that is where most of the racism is directed.

THAT is why I am against the "burqa ban": it is profoundly racist, and encouraging the beliefs of the minority far right to become so mainstream as to contravene the protections of the French Constitution, the European Constitution, and both their Human Rights accords.

Thanks again for your detailed comment, and you are of course welcome to re-comment here or on other posts of interest to you.
Please put your name in the Name option and leave the URL blank, if you like, so that your comments will come up "Arianne said..." and we can all follow you more easily.

oby said...


"Muslims should protest the banning of the veil in Turkey, an Islamic land, if this issue upsets them so much."

Have they protested in Turkey? And if not, why the heck not? A veil ban is a veil ban....unless one is using the niqab as a Muslim political statement in a non Muslim land. In that case, a protest in Turkey would certainly fall short of the desired mark in an already Islamic country. If Turkey, an islamic country can ban it for people of the Muslim religion there, I think it is an even greater reason to ban it in a non Muslim one. And how insanely ridiculous would it be that a Muslim country can ban a Muslim religious symbol for it's Muslim population, but a secular NON Muslim country can't?

Chiara said...

Oby--the ban in Turkey is about the headscarf not the face veil. The headscarf was first banned by AtaTurk in 1923 when he founded the modern state of Turkey. He wanted a secular state and one that would move all forward. Until the 1960s headscarves were not seen in urban areas. Some women have resumed wearing the headscarf but have been banned from universities for studying or teaching with it on, and for other types of work. The ban was lifted for a while then reimposed.

Turkey, like Syria and Tunisia where there are also bans, are Muslim majority countries, where Muslims are deciding among themselves what to do about these issues within their own country, often based on interpretations of Islam, a desire for modernization,and to create uniformity among the population. That is what should happen in Saudi as well, internal change brought about by the men and women of the country for their own people--even if ideas are borrowed from elsewhere.

It is very different from the situation in Europe which is about race as much as, or more than religion, and of a majority decision over a very small minority--or one empowered minority political position over one disempowered social minority.

oby said...


You have missed your calling in life...You should have been an activist.LOL!

I disagree with you on this one.

"Turkey, like Syria and Tunisia where there are also bans, are Muslim majority countries, where Muslims are deciding among themselves what to do about these issues within their own country, often based on interpretations of Islam, a desire for modernization,and to create uniformity among the population."

I see, so it is OK for Turkey et al, to decide to ban something for the uniformity of their country as you said, but it isn't OK for France to do the same thing? Because France is not Muslim majority they are not allowed to decide for themselves what is OK in their own culture and MUST accept symbols or coverings or practices of other faiths (not even only Islam)that they are not OK with?

Using that yardstick let's look at it from a different angle.If a country can't ban clothing that is not of the majority that means that the Middle East should not be allowed to ban my Western way of dressing if I lived there. (Niqab here, shorts/bikini there). By that logic, I should be able to wear exactly what I want. If I can't does that men that they are racist as you are claiming the French are?

The difference is I am saying a country, any country should be able to decide for itself how it wants to define itself.As a western democratic society one would hope we would be as fair as possible to all. But no where is it written that we have to accept everything under the guise of democracy. Yet somehow the world seems to think so. It seems that it is OK for the Middle East/world to reject things that they don't want in their society and no one thinks about it twice..."well that's just the way it is" but not the West. Looking at it like that I would say the racism is on the other foot.

oby said...

Part 1...

Thank you for taking the time to explain (and re explain :-))

As you stated to Suzanne as Americans, attitudes about immigration are different from day one, it might be hard to wrap our minds around it the way the minorities are experiencing it.

However, there is a difference between pan racism and banning an article of clothing.

In one case you are denying people a way of life, a chance to succeed and relegating them to second class status due to an inability to join the French society at large. In the other you are simply saying "we do not cover our faces in France." No one is herding them onto ships and sending them "home" en masse, no one is saying they are not allowed to practice their faith. They are saying we are not comfortable with this piece of clothing...period. It is not a requirement of the religion so no one is taking away their religious freedoms.
In this world a country MUST have the right to draw lines somewhere. I see it as no different than schools banning a certain type of racist t shirt, weapons that are not allowed to be brought to public places. If I chose to wear a very see through outfit that showed a LOT, I could be arrested for indecent exposure. Who am I hurting? I am minding my own business, but showing my "jewels" off to the whole world is not OK. Our society has said that is a form of dress we don't allow. Similarly, we as a people have the right to say that another type of extreme dress (only this time in the opposite direction) is antithetic to our way of life and is not ok. The world will not stop spinning tomorrow if it is banned. I am pretty sure that Turkey and Syria will continue to do fine without the niqab by law.

I do feel that any country has a right to define itself as it sees fit. I might not like that and I might even find it racist as I do of many countries in the Middle East. But it is their right to do as they please with their culture. Would I like them to be more open? Sure I would. But I have to admit NO ONE is as good at protecting their culture as the Islamic world.

If it is a tiny minority who wear the niqab then a ban is not going to affect many people so no problem, IMO. I was reading today about Egypt (and I could kick myself for not saving the article. I have spent 30 minutes looking for it to no avail). Anyway, they were talking about the veil there. They said it started out quite slowly with only a very few women wearing it...remember in the 70's Western clothing was the 14% of the women wear it. I found this interesting progression of photos taken at what appears to be the same university. It is an interview with Nonnie Darwish whom I know is a bit controversial and I apologize for that as I was not trying to make any statements...I didn't chose it for her but because it was the only series of progressive photos I could find. (Not a big techie) as you can see the "veil" as she calls the hijab has encroached more and more on Egyptian society. I see absolutely no reason to think the niqab will not follow the same pattern in France over time. I think it is foolish to think it won't.

You say the Burka ban is racist…I disagree...As I said they are not restricting Muslims in their faith in other ways. While it may NOT be the most open minded stance to take, seeing the burka in the streets of a western secular country is about as weird as seeing a woman wearing a bikini walking down the streets of Cairo. (I chose string bikini to reflect the extreme on the other end of the burka covering. )

oby said...

Part 2...

It isn’t a part of the cultural norm and no matter how much one tries to dress it up and call it racist it is just plain not normal to that culture. Why are we as a society trying to force a square peg into a round hole all the time? Why is it not OK for a culture to say “We don’t accept that?” What if it was a cultural thing to spit and urinate openly on the streets in one culture? No need for privacy…just unzip and go. Does that mean it is OK to do the same in a new culture that finds that abhorrent? Should we NOT restrict those things which we as a culture don’t accept? Should we let people slaughter their dinner or religious sacrifices on the front steps because that was the way it was done at home? There are limits…and a culture should not be afraid to say “absolutely NOT”.

The funny thing is until I started reading the blogs and realized that the Islamic countries of the world have no issues with defining what is OK with them, I might have been more lax. But then I realized that they have the stones to say clearly what they accept and don’t and I started thinking, why are we such pushovers? What is wrong with defining your culture and saying “we will go this far and no farther?” I have almost a grudging respect for them for that.

I don’t like guns and would love to see them EFFECTIVELY banned or at a minimum have stronger gun control laws, but sadly that is not likely to happen anytime soon. Should I cry that my rights to walk the streets freely without worry of being shot are being violated? Am I being discriminated against? We don’t always get what we want.

(Suzanne, as a true Southerner I can almost see you jumping up and down saying “say it isn’t so!” LOL! Only teasing )

If the French are racist for banning the niqab then you must agree that the whole of the Middle East is racist for doing far worse things to non Muslims in terms of restrictions. Are you willing to say that? If not, then I think a ban on a piece of cloth that affects almost no one (as per your post) is hardly racist.

This following link is a listing of all the countries of the world and their Muslim populations. They list France at 10%. It is from 2009.

countrygirl said...

Chiara you said that "
Muslims are required by Islam to adhere to the laws of the countries they travel to, and the vast majority do. As you are aware, those laws in the European Union, and in individual countries more specifically include human rights, which include the freedom of religion and personal freedoms like dress" but, tell if I'm wrong, muslim can't change religion since they could be killed, there are muslim who chose to convert but they received death are you so sure that a it's a choice if young girl who start to wear the jiahb when she's 5 or 6 and when she's will she have a choice to not wearing it (or the nijab)?

Any immigrand should abide with the law in their host countries that means learn the language, understand that the mentality will be different and adapt.... eg in Uk and USA there was in the new that blind persons with dogs were refused to get on busses or taxi because of the dogs byt the muslim drivers.

Why other immigrants far east asian, south american, italians in Germany, France and UK are fully integrate speak the language and say I'm a french, german, english but a muslim immigrant won't say it? Why around 20% of muslim in UK are for the sharia?

Susanne said...

I finally read through all the new comments that arrived in my e-mailbox. I wanted to reply to a few things mostly from what Chiara wrote.

"Some of those on the far right are descendants of French who were kicked out of Algeria on independence, with nothing. Truly only the clothes they had in suitcases, and nothing else after their families had lived in what was considered French territory for generations. They have a particular disregard for the feelings of those whom they think should leave. "

I'm glad you brought this up as it helps me better understand these people. While we might think they'd be more understanding of immigrants, it seems instead their hearts were hardened by the perceived mistreatment they received in Algeria. And this grudge was passed on from generation to generation...sounds very familiar. A few generations had lived for years in Algeria and, yes, while they were there as a colonial presence, for many of the children - who never CHOSE to go there - Algeria was home although it was a Frenchified version of this African nation. It's all they knew most likely. So to be forced out with much of nothing would likely create hostility between them and others. I better understand their point of view after reading this. Instead of it making them more understanding which we would likely argue is the better choice, they have chosen to harbor resentment and hatred which has lead to them disliking others. Shows us the importance of forgiving and letting go of anger/bitterness/resentment.

I think St. Paul's instructions to the Ephesian church makes a lot of sense and would have been helpful if the people had taken this instruction to heart.

31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

I know this isn't a religious blog so I'll refrain from more verses, but I couldn't help but think how if this advice had been taken, France (and the world) could be much different today. :)

More in a bit....

Susanne said...

"As regards the white French reverts/converts they are seen as being corrupted by a foreign ideology as well as losing or potentially losing white women to the non-whites."

I recall several years back when black women here seemed to have the same attitude. "Their" men were starting to date/marry white women as a cultural taboo was lifting thanks to OJ Simpson in part and the black women were angry. Or so we were told. Maybe it was a ploy to keep the races separate. :)

Interesting comment concerning the French "being corrupted by a foreign ideology." Sounds like some things I read on blogs and what conservative Muslims believe about those Muslims who like the West (movies, dress, music) too much.

"It also states clearly that the solution is to have them all leave, no matter what their citizenship, their place of birth, their years, generations in France, or their behaviour."

And where do they want them all to go? This sounds like the Palestinian/Israeli arguments where they each tell the other to go back from where they came from (Europe for Jews; Arabia for Palestinians) even though many of the younger people have only known this one area and it is home to them.

oby said...

countrygirl has a point....

Can you imagine if a bus driver refused to pick up someone because they wear hijab? (now THAT I would call racist)Evidently it is so bad that they had to take it up in the House of Lords????

Say what you will but this animosity against Muslims does not exist in a vacuum. They , in many ways, are inviting it upon themselves. It is NOT racist to refuse a job to someone who will not follow the laws of the country and do the job they must.

Chiara said...

Susanne, Oby, and Country Girl--thanks for the followup comments. I will answer specifics shortly.

Some general comments.

I don't say this ban is racist per se, I say that the way it is being used politically and by whom reinforces the power of political groups who are.

The ban is against France's own values, and Constitution, which makes it different than simply asking people to conform.

Maghrebi Muslims in France are French speaking, French educated, and proudly French. It is a certain significant sector of the French population who doesn't see them that way. They obey the laws, go for the job interviews, perform at work the way every other French person does...but they have a harder time getting hired, promoted, and retaining positions in a downturn due to systemic racism.

The threat of death for apostates is exaggerated for the most part. Even in conservative Islamic countries there are legal safeguards in place to allow the apostate (if anyone bothers arresting them) to "repent", be deported, and go along their merry apostatic way. Most apostates just quietly convert in a country where no one cares. Some--like an extended family member--converted but doesn't throw it in his family's face. He lets them think he did it for marriage--not out of fear for his life but to spare their feelings, and the Noahide laws tell all in the Abrahamic faiths to do "Honour thy father and thy mother".

Suzanne, more on St Paul to come, and yes forgiveness is important in all religions and should be foregrounded more often.

Thanks again, and I will get back with specifics anon.

All are welcome to keep commenting and re-commenting.

Perhaps Shafiq will address the British issues.

Don't forget the camel crisis and the Afghanistan War though! :)

Qusay said...

This is a very interesting post and the comments are no less than thought provoking.

I find myself wanting to add something to the discussion but I think most of the good points have been made.

I just have to add, that the reasons France is doing what is doing, is different than what the Syrians are doing and is different than other places in the world.
I do however find it contradictory to say that a woman can work in prostitution (most studies show that they are forced into it) while she does not have the choice to cover or uncover her face (yes she could also be forced into that).

Tough economic times bring out the survival instinct, even before the 1900 there were discriminations against Chinese immigrants in Australia when times were rough, and now against Indians, since they are the “other” the closer other that came to this land, in Europe it is North Africans, in the US it is Mexicans, etc etc.

Great post :)

Countrygirl said...

Chiara you said " Even in conservative Islamic countries there are legal safeguards in place to allow the apostate (if anyone bothers arresting them) to "repent", be deported, and go along their merry apostatic way"

In Egypt a country that for sure (at least at the present) isn't a conservative you have to put you religion in your ID card BUT you can't change there's the struggle of a man and is daughter that can't live peacefully since they dared to change religion. Recentely a pastor in Indonesia was murdered along one converted. In KSA whoevere change religion is simply put in asylum since it is considered crazy, in Afghanista a converted escaped death only because of the international outcry...I could continue but I would take too long to say that converted really face death in their home countries.

I'm puzzled by your word "to "repent", be deported, and go along their merry apostatic way" I mean you were able to change religion without fear, why shouldn't a muslim be able to do the same thing? why did you use the word merry?

Susanne said...

Qusay, I'm glad you found some things to add because I found your comment interesting. Since you brought it up, I'm curious why you think the Syrians banned niqab. I also believe there are mostly differences in why France and Syria banned it (or want to.) For Syria it's only in universities so it's fine to walk to the store wearing one. The Yahoo article I read mentioned the gov't seeing a rise in more conservative Islamic activity and that makes them nervous.

Interesting point about tough economic times bringing out the survival extinct and how that contributes to blaming immigrants. Makes much sense!

Ugh...prostitution. It's mostly illegal in the US, however, I know it happens and the sex slave trafficking....double ugh. :-/

Susanne said...

Chiara, I didn't finish replying to you yesterday because I had to leave suddenly.

You wrote:

"on Syria and Syrians (LOL :). Thanks for sharing these insights, and Samer's rationale for his differential attitudes on the German ban and the Syrian, as well as your knowledge of the dynamic in Syria. Indeed Islamism is a greater potential threat in Muslim majority countries, especially because of the high numbers of young unemployed men in many (too much time on their hands, discouraged about the status quo), and the proximity geographically and culturally to movements like the Muslim brotherhood. "

Well, what Samer tells me is that the mostly-secular Alawaites are in control there and they are a small portion of the population...yet they rule with a police state and culture of fear. I was talking to both Louai and Samer yesterday on Skype and the guys were discussing this very issue as one thing they will greatly miss about living in Europe. Samer said, "Louai, don't you remember all those times we would talk and you'd say, 'Shhhhh! You don't know who will hear you!'" So Samer says movements like the Muslim Brotherhood are very much supported by the average people on the street including his friends and family. He claims they aren't as radical as the segments that tend to make the news, however. And he says the Alawaites have to rule with an iron fist because they know if the people got their way, Assad and Co. would be ousted. And there is that whole vengeance thing due to Hama Massacre. He dislikes every Arab leader. Calls them all dictators and/or corrupt and is humiliated that Arabs have such bad leaders. (Their only source of pride somewhat is Nasrallah and he isn't exactly the leader of a country.) So, yeah, I think the Arab population is "discouraged about the status quo" and are ready for change.

Susanne said...

Now on to Oby who wants to take away my guns! ;-P

"What is wrong with defining your culture and saying “we will go this far and no farther?” I have almost a grudging respect for them for that."

Me, too, unless we want our "melting pot" culture to keep changing "flavor" as more cultures are introduced. I guess we have to decide when enough is enough. Do we like our present culture enough to preserve it (Saudi style) or do we want it to be like a river where it flows and changes and moves along with changing times? Well maybe we could be more in the middle and give a great measure of freedom though we DO draw a line somewhere and say "no farther" as you mentioned. I guess coming up with that line could be a bit controversial. It'd be interesting to see if that times ever comes here.

I enjoyed your comments. And really it's fine that you want tougher gun laws. I don't have any guns. I'm not a hunter, but i know a lot of people who would be angry if such a thing happened. You know us Southerners we are quite like those bitter small-town Pennsylvanians and cling to our guns and our religion. ;-)

Susanne said...

Countrygirl, I think the reaction to apostates varies from family to family. I remember a year or so ago reading about a young Saudi who was killed by her brother for converting to Christianity. Hopefully this isn't the norm, but I don't know. Samer said in his area (Damascus) he thinks no one would kill a person, but they would shun them if their "please convert back" efforts didn't work. I remember when I read the Quran a few weeks ago and was discussing the story about Noah and his son who drowned in the Flood. (Differs from the Bible's account.) Then God basically told Noah that this wasn't really his son. One Muslim explained this to me as an example given by God about how to treat apostate children...basically cutting them off from the family and disowning them. Sounds like the Amish in that. They won't kill children who leave the faith, but they won't associate much with them. I guess they don't want the corrupting influence on the rest of the family/community. Maybe Muslims feel the same way and want to keep their religious community "pure." Then again Muslim men are allowed to marry nonMuslims so I don't know. Maybe they think women are controllable in ways that apostate children are not. Interesting topic anyway.

Wendy said...

Oby I really like what you say. I agree that banning a burka or niqab is not 'racist'. France is not saying that Muslims can't practice their religion. You are also correct when you say there is no major outrage when a predominately Muslim country bans the niqab. Keeping the face uncovered has nothing to do with being against Islam.
I do believe that numbers of niqab-wearing women might be small now but will increase. I saw this in Sudan. 2 years ago we were surprised when we saw a woman wearing a niqab. This year we saw many and it's being encouraged by the government that is becoming more and more conservative (much to the dismay of the majority I might add)in order to maintain control over the population.
Chiara I'm sorry if I accused you of searching for right wing stuff. Maybe if you could post some news coming from the 'left' to balance??? :)

oby said...


I just wanted to share something I heard on National Public Radio today concerning Islam. It was in one report but divided to reflect two different stories. The first one was about Islam in China and more specifically about WOMEN in islam in china. It seems that there are about 25 million Muslims in this country and they have a very gentle and sweet form of Islam with a bit of a Chinese twist(they didn’t say what that was) They were talking about how in China there is "separate but equal" practice where women have their own mosques and pray and women become imams and ARE TAUGHT by male imams in some cases. The woman imam being interviewed said that there is a very strong tradition of the female imams having and being given by the people, the same respect and honor as male imams. They are revered and not thought of as second class citizens. Additionally, women are afforded all the same rights as the male imams except for being able to perform funerary rights, but the women can carry the body to the place internment. The chanting was lovely, and while listening I got such a beautiful and peaceful feeling come over me thinking about how these women are experiencing Islam in such an equal and easy way. They absolutely felt equal to the men in all ways because the Islam was practicd like that. The imam felt that they could so this because they were practicing their faith in a secular society. It was a great story and I found myself smiling wide from the good feeling I got. It put me in mind of how I hear Muslims say how in early Islam women were equal, had rights etc.

Juxtaposed against that was a program in Malaysia about a contest/reality show to find the best Imam. It is a reality TV concept because the target audience is young. They are trying to attract more people to Mosques. At first, I thought “Oh that is an interesting concept.” Seems a bit of an odd way to find a man who feels his calling is to God, but, hey, God calls us all in different ways so who knows? This might help someone fulfill their dream. The contestants face challenges and different things that they must go through to qualify and the last man standing is the winner. I was thinking about this interesting approach when they announced that the winner will go to Saudi Arabia for four years to study…that is where the whole thing collapsed for me. I thought “oh too bad because they will come back with such a Salafi approach to Islam and impose that on Malaysia” It will be strict, intolerant, who knows what they will read in their books about non Muslims, and it really brought me down tremendously.

It made me marvel that on the one hand the people of China were able to maintain their way of Islam and the women and other imams were taught by Imams WITHIN their own culture. On the other hand Malaysia has chosen to fashion itself after the strictest form of Islam available…and I, in that moment, became really worried about the tolerant and peaceful Islam that Malaysians have practiced. WHY have they decided to fashion themselves after Saudi (Arab) Islam rather than any number of other more tolerant versions of Islam in the world? They are not Arabs. I would love to know if Saudi’s have their hands all over the program…and Wahabbism/Salafism is spreading more and more. And suddenly I felt very sad again…I knew women were never going to be able to preach in Malaysia if they follow Saudi Islam and though I was happy for the chance the Chinese women have, I suddenly felt very heavy hearted for the women who are choosing or born into this very strict Islam who will never have a chance to experience Islam the way the Chinese are.

And then I thought it is sad that the Chinese Muslims would most likely be tolerant of the Salafis/Wahabbis, but the Salafis/Wahabbis won't be tolerant of the Chinese most likely. And they will view them as "not really true Muslims" and not following the righteous path. It's a shame.

My apologies to any Saudis who might be offended by my post.

Susanne said...

Oby, I am glad you shared that about the Chinese and Malaysian Muslims. What you wrote about the Malay going to KSA to study reminded me of "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson which I read last year. Are you familiar with him? His life work now is building schools in remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan...places where NGOs don't usually go. I did a review of his book on my blog.

but the part of what you wrote that reminded me of Greg is this:

"Greg told about the Gulf Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar financing madrassas in these poor regions and how they often would take some of the best students back to those countries to indoctrinate them in Wahhabi Islam, return them to their home villages where they were instructed to marry four women, "breed like rabbits" and produce generation after generation of intolerant Muslims. (These people are thinking long term!) Greg wanted his schools to counter these intolerant brainwashing schools by not teaching any fundamentalist Islam (e.g. Wahhabi). "

The curriculum in "his" schools has to not be anything like this. Maybe that is one reason there are fatwas against him. Or perhaps it's because he requires the people to allow girls to attend the schools his organization finances.

I'm reading his second book now and it's fantastic! If you've not read his books, I think you'd enjoy them.

countrygirl said...

@Susanne 3 cups of tea is part of the growing piles of books that I want to read sooner or later..the root of the problems IMHO is that Saudi financed mosque are spreading around the western world and their iman are preaching the most intollerant islam possible...step by step they are brainwashing women to wear the nijab...Just yesterday i've read an article about one of those moque in the US where the new iman and his followers kept on harassing women who didn't wear the nijab.

I think the increase of the women wearing the nijab is due also to those saudi financed mosques....KSA is saying that is fighting terrorism but on the other hand is financing the radical mosques around the globe where the seed of terrorism is planted

Shafiq said...


I have been following'parts of the discussion but can't comment in much detail as I'm in Tunisia. It's hot, very, very hot.

Just if anyone's interested, I've only seen one Burqa wearer here in five days and I'm pretty sure she was Algerian rather than Tunisian.


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