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
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?
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