Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sarkozy and the Burqa

French president Nicolas Sarkozy's recent controversial statements about the status of the burqa or niqab have divided the French blogosphere (according to a news article I read somewhere). No big surprise there. The complete veiling of Muslim women has always been something of a controversial issue in the West, so it's no surprise that such a strong stance against it, in a country with the largest Muslim population in western Europe, would draw considerable comment. Especially since the small number of veiled Muslim women in France is growing.

In a statement from Verseilles on Monday, M. Sarkozy said that to veil or not to veil was not a religious issue, but one that dealt with the subjugation of Muslim women, and finally that "la burqa n'est pas la bienvenue sur le territoire de la République française," (the burqa is not welcome in the French Republic).
"In our country, we cannot accept women imprisoned behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all
identity. That is not our idea of dignity for a woman."

- Nicolas Sarkozy, translation by me from this article

It isn't, or often isn't, a strictly religious issue -- I'll give M. Sarkozy that. But his comments betray an enormous ethnocentrism on his part. Westerners tend to view the niqab, the burqa, and even the hijab as a restraint forcably imposed on Muslim women by their misogynist or mistrustful male relatives, garments that keep women in their subjugated place. However, Muslim women tend to have a very different view of the role of veils. Ladies, how many of you have noticed a marked increase in wolf-whistles, creepy compliments, and other generally pervy behaviour on the parts of strange men (frequently on public transit or at stoplights for some reason) during shorts-and-t-shirt weather? Muslim women have figured this out, and they've realized that shapeless clothing makes you invisible to creepy pervs. For them, being veiled is not about being subjugated or objectified -- rather the opposite. And they have different standards of what is considered appropriate. In the same way that you wouldn't wear short-shorts or a tube top to your job at the bank, Muslim women don't want to go around with their necks and hair hanging out there for just anyone to see.

That being said, M. Sarkozy has a badly-phrased point. The burqa "issue" is one that goes back -- last summer, a veiled Muslim woman was denied French citizenship. Although the report made little mention of her niqab, the media made much mention of it, suggesting that the xenophobic immigration officials just wanted to keep Muslims out of the country. However, the real reasons for citizenship denial were rather more alarming.
A report from a French government commissioner submitted to the council said the woman told officials she was unaware of her right to vote, and would only remove her veil after men left the room. "She lives in total submission to the men in her family ... and the idea of contesting this submission doesn't even occur to her," the government report said.

There is nothing wrong with denying citizenship to someone who is unaware of their right to vote. Citizenship is far more involved than merely living in a country. Citizenship requires civic, social, and cultural education. To become a citizen of a new country implies a willingness to learn about and fit into it. Not being aware of your right to vote could not be phoning it in more. If this woman wanted to be a French citizen, she could have at least glanced at the workbook.

Bearing in mind that citizenship means accepting and integrating into a new culture (not necessarily abandoning your old culture, but not just taking advantage of the economy and living standards of a new country), a case can be made for abandoning veils. Eye contact is extremely important in Western culture, and we become unnerved and a bit weirded out when we are speaking face-to-face with someone we can't identify visually. And yes, women who choose to wear the veil must understand that it is perceived very differently in the West and that there are some who are going to feel pity and assume that it is a sign of subjugation, no matter the actual reasoning behind it. Perhaps those who criticize M. Sarkozy for stigmatizing and marginalizing Muslims in France should consider that, by choosing to dress differently from the traditional garb of the country in which they have chosen to live, these women are marginalizing themselves.

5 comments:

Kerguidou said...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jun/23/sarkozy-burka-french-parliament

Barry Bones said...

Most scholars believe that the burqa emerged a couple hundred years ago when an Afghan king was upset about people looking at his wives. The garment eventually became a sign of decadence--not only because the kings wives wore it, but also because it showed that wearer so rich that she could walk around ridiculously constrained and still afford to eat.

There is also the interesting phenomenon of women going niqabi as a sign of rebellion. For many women in the West, the niqab is the Muslim version of spiked hair: it shocks people, so they do it.
Of course, I only know this second hand, because niqabis also believe that no woman may speak with a man who is not in her family. I find that rule to be more alien to my values than any debate about dress code.

Zheng said...

It also may produce curl, straighten and Oakley Sunglasses flip styles.Let's encounter it we almost certainly will not demand a couple of or three spare pairs, together with a faulty arranged of GHD's isn't any use to anybody. Its famed to be a life-style name due to the classy and classy motorbike North Face jackets Ray Ban Sunglasses sale.We would that is amazing most guys are fairly particular about mens North Face coats, in phrases valueable, size, colors etc.
Childhood may very well be secretly slid feet high heel shoes when her mother, or possibly dressed in white gauze, the hand loaded with the benefits from the moment with family and friends .aSometimes ita?s quiet because I played well. Lots of people sure that north of manchester Face coat covers the whole your body length of your pet dog.In the event the dust free of charge operate done completely then it's absorbed inside of a soften drench with the metal covering.Acquire furniture by mail purchase or on the web.In greater, high top quality binoculars well over 95 percent with the mild reaches the ocular lens whilst your eyes Chanel Sunglasses.If the most contemporary offense occurred above seven a long time soon after an earlier conviction, you'll cough up as being a very first-time offender Ray Ban Sunglasses.Identify the wants for ones specific floors, that is many of the subsequent:1.For illustration, North of manchester Face Heckler backpack will include a few compartments.

Lili Li said...

That's right. That's good.
baltimore ravens jerseys
baltimore ravens jerseys on sale
cheap baltimore ravens jerseys
Nike NFL jerseys
buffalo bills jerseys
cheap buffalo bills jerseys
buffalo bills jerseys for sale
Nike NFL jerseys

Lili Li said...

Really? I will download and check it.
Cheap NFL Jerseys
Nike NFL Jerseys
Wholesale NFL Jerseys