Oppression through the policing of clothing

France’s lower house of parliament recently approved a bill to ban the wearing of a burqa or niqab in public. People caught wearing garments “that hide the face” will be fined 150 euro and those who force women to cover up could be fined up to 30,000 euro and face a one-year jail term.

Some of those in favour of the ban say it stems from the French concept of laïcité, a model of secularism which upholds freedom of and freedom from religion so that religious practice is a strictly private matter for each individual. Others say it is an attempt to liberate and protect Muslim women from an oppressive practice, or that the wearing of the burqa prevents integration of immigrant communities, that veils are intimidating and that they present safety or security risks.

This ban will only impact on a tiny minority of people; those Muslim women who wear either the niqab or burqa. Many of these women are from immigrant communities and many are disadvantaged socially, politically and economically.

Is the clothing worn by these marginalised women really more of a tool in their oppression than all the other forces against them; sexism, Islamaphobia, racism, classism? If a woman is forced to wear the garments under duress, how will the ban help her?

It is likely that anyone with enough power over another to dictate her dress will be able to decide on her freedom of movement too. The punishment of women for their appearance is itself oppressive whether it is forcing them to cover or expose themselves.

This law would severely limit the freedom of Muslim women from the minority, highly conservative practices of Islam to go out and about and interact with others. For those women who choose this form of dress, the negative perceptions and reactions of other people is what is oppressive and divisive, not a thin piece of material.

What is important here is not so much the reasons why women wear the burqa or the effect of religion on their lives, but the decision by European state to impose a dress code on women in their public life. Safety and security concerns are meaningless. Are over-sized sunglasses to be banned too?

What about the wearing of surgical masks in public, or wigs and caps pulled low to cover the face? In one debate a clever chap from Northern Ireland asked if it would be OK for him to walk around Belfast wearing a full face black balaclava; bless him for not recognising the difference.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s has expressed his view on the burqa; “It will not be welcome on French soil. We cannot accept, in our country, women imprisoned behind a mesh, cut off from society, deprived of all identity. That is not the French republic’s idea of women’s dignity.”

How is the French republic’s idea of women’s dignity upheld by forcing her by law not to wear certain clothes? Sarkozy speaks in the guise of women’s rights, but ignores the voices of the women who would be affected by this law. Neither do I understand how policing women’s clothing choices could in any way serve to promote social and cultural cohesion in France or elsewhere.

Conservative MP Philip Hollobone hopes to ban the burqa and niqab in the UK. Thankfully he has little chance of success; immigration minister Damian Green has said banning the full Islamic veil in public would be “at odds with the UK’s tolerant society”. Hollobone has also said he will refuse to meet his constituents who wear face coverings, when he’d be better off ensuring he is representing them and their needs as best as possible.

I’m not a Muslim woman and don’t claim to speak for them. Instead I credit them with the ability to fight their own battles while I would ally myself with their efforts to wear what they want when they want, free from coercion from state or family.

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  • Rory Carr

    Since you articulate my own views on this matter rather eloquently, Sharon, there is little for me to add.

    This has less to do with liberating women than an attempt to eradicate a practice with which white secualrists (from a Christian tradition) choose to feel uncomfortable. It is the discomfort caused by their own prejudice that is being addressed not any supposed oppression of those women who choose to dress as their culture and religion dictates.

    Live and let live should be foremost in the minds of those who propose such reforms (though this legislation reeks more of reaction than reform).

  • Christy Walsh

    “If a woman is forced to wear the garments under duress, how will the ban help her?” I think you answer your own qustion in your opening paragraph. The different fines appear to recognise that Muslim women might wear such oppressive garments because of family/religious coercion. I would also imagine that if the higher end penalty is invoked, which I think it is aimed at, ie, “those who force women to cover up could be fined up to 30,000 euro and face a one-year jail term.” Then the women would not be liable for the fine because she was acting under duress.

    I think the whole purpose is to attack these outdated practices and not the person who suffers them. It is not so long ago that every Irish woman and girl also had to keep their heads covered in public.

    Although I would agree that this is but clothe and there are more serious issues that should be tackled like forced arranged marriages and femal genital mutilation, ie, circumcision.

  • no offence but….

    I personally find it very difficult to talk with a woman whose face is covered; so much of our communication is based on non-verbal signals and eye-contact. Most main-stream Islamic scholars would agree that wearing the burka is non-koranic and pre-dates the teachings of The Profit, going back to tribal customs.

    Having said that, were going down a dangerous road when an EU Country bans an item of clothing and I find this particularly worrying. People should be free to wear whatever they want for whatever reason as long as it does not harm the greater community. How long before wearing the cross or Jewish scull cap is similarly banned from public display for other dubious reasons?

    We don’t have to pretend that we understand, like or accept certain practices like wearing the Burka but in a fair and free society we MUST always tolerate others differences, as they must (at least) tolerate ours.

  • Rory Carr

    Christy Walsh,

    If you care to pop over to Luton, Bradford or London you might be surprised to find that the wearing of these garments in not in the least “outdated”. Many, many young white women who marry Muslim men are quite militant in wearing these garments as an outward sign of their newfound religious and cultural allegiences. You may not like it, you may think that they are mistaken but, if so, they are as entitled as you or I or anyone else to make their own mistakes and grow from them.

    Apparently it is now outdated for men to tuck their shirts inside their waistband but rather to wear them with the tails over the trouser waist – rather in the fashion of male Muslim garb. Do you practice the “outdated” habit of tucking in your shirt-tails by any chance or do you prefer to “go Muslim”?

  • Christy Walsh

    I do not think that skin colour (which is a predominant feature in your two contrubutions) makes it a modern practice –maybe I drift between the ages –sometimes my shirt is tucked in and other times it not –whatever, It is not a racial for me, and if you read what I wrote then you would know my primary concerns would be over more serious issues than about clothing.

  • pippakin

    I see the wearing of the veil in three ways

    1) it is quite possibly, depending on the type of veil, one of the best disguises ever invented. It does for example beat the balaclava by a mile.

    2) far from liberating women I find it anti female, the reason for wearing it sexist and degrading.

    3) it goes from the extreme of a woman wearing it because her family insist, to someone wearing it as a political statement.

    Women should be free to wear what they like but it would help them if they were at ease with their feminity. Its hard to find a religious reason for wearing it since no where in the Koran does it say they must.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Pippakin

    I would go further and say that no-one has the right to disguise their identity. The so-called ban on wearing it is in fact the lifting of an appressive ban, that is on women wearing whatever the hell they like, as modestly or otherwise as they care to, without stigma, without judgment, without disapproval or without anyone caring very much.

    This is a long overdue minimal challenge to the sinister thinking of deepy misogenist, sectarian, homophobic, racist, stone-aged sexually repressed dangerous idiots who we should oppose at every turn in their attempts to sneak sharia into democratic states. Anyone arguing that it’s the women’s free choice to wear it ergo there’s nothing wrong with it either has their tongue in their cheek or their head up their ass.

    Well done, France. Britian and Ireland should get their act together and stop wallowing in this mushy multi-cultural diversity guit-trip con that extreme muslims are laying onto tolerant democratic societies.

  • Rory Carr

    You can’t lift “an appressive ban, that is on women wearing whatever the hell they like” by telling them that they cannot wear whatever the hell they like just because you don’t like them wearing it.

    Further it ill-behoves non-Muslims to start pontificating to Muslims how correct or incorrect they are in Muslim practice – that is for them to determine.

    As to no-one having the right to disguise their identity – what on earth planet are you on? People disguise their identity all the time, western women in particular, that’s why cosmetic outlets go into business, beauty parlours, hairdressers, tattoo parlours and wig-shops (not to mention cosmetic surgeons) go into business.

    We must not assume that because a practise is demanded by Muslim fathers and husbands that it is not also demanded by their wives and daughters – but even if it were not, they ought to be allowed the freedom to simply respect the demands of their fathers and husbands just as much as you demand that they be allowed to disrespect them. Freedom is a two way street – they must also be allowed the freedom to reject our notion of freedom, they must be free to say, “No!” to the the way that we demand that they do or do not dress.

    And most of all we must remind ourselves that not everyone thinks as we do and that they are entitled to think and believe otherwise – we must be tolerant in order that, by example, we may invite tolerance to be given by others to our strange ways and customs.

  • Turgon

    Very nicely written article Sharon. Difficult to find much fault with it.

    I would not want the burka banned here as it seems fundamentally illiberal and agree that a woman forced to wear a given garment by an individual is very likely to have her freedom of movement also constrained.

    I suppose one of the few arguments which can be mustered in favour of the ban is that is might affect some people at the edges. Some people (probably men) who might otherwise try to pressurise women into wearing a burka but are not utterly committed to the idea might be less keen on the burka if it were banned. That might be beneficial to some Muslim women.

    It is interesting that the religious rules on clothing almost always seem disproportionally to affect women rather than men which is a sad reflection on religion’s views of women generally.

  • “I credit them with the ability to fight their own battles”.

    I believe that the burqa is an expression of a wider religious culture which holds that men have ownership of women. I believe that the world will be a better place when women everywhere are free of control by their male relatives.
    I do not believe that it is up to western secularists to liberate Muslim women by law, but neither do I take comfort in the fantasy that women in such cultures are able to do it for themselves. They are not yet.

    We are stuck with an unpleasant reality that some forms of oppression can not be legislated against.

    Still, we do not have to pretend we see the enbagment of women by their men as anything other than an atrocity.

    Muslims tell us about their absolute values; we should tell them about ours, and one of them is the rights of women not to be controlled by men.

    Nor should we take the lead in how we understand Islamic sexism from new modern Muslim women who are wearing the Burqa as a reaction to western secularism and frame the argument for it in terms of fashion and individual rights.

  • DC

    Yes sure do nothing about women walking around blacked out with slit eyes on street and let the right wing groups fester all the hatred they want – while the posher and more proper politicians do nothing other than make statements about how terrrible it all is, all this intolerance. You are right it will likely be men either behind making the woman wear the burqa in the first instance and men behind any discriminatory violence.

    Still what is to be done – tolerate and do nothing but in doing so give all that political space over to the right wing extremists so they can capitalise and ruin things the way they do best – using criminality anyway?

    On a more serious slant, I suppose it’s a form of social regulation that Sarkozy is implementing – based on what the French authorities think run against their mores, the nation’s value consensus formers, its democrats albeit conservative ones have decided to fashion a society that attempts to preserves the social norms. They should I guess live it and adhere to it in French style? Conform or be confronted? I guess much like all the other laws the rest of society has to conform to. A good lot don’t and are forced to take the responsibility and punishment that comes with not doing so.

    It seems like pesky social regulation with a religious element to it. But all things being equal you can’t say the government doesn’t do social regulation!

    There is a counter-argument in that it will be impossible to enforce the measures against all women wearing it – that is true. But it is impossible to enforce the law in its entirety say for all those car drivers doing 50 MPH in a 40 zone. Goodness I should have lost my licence countless times over for that! There are many other similar situations which ought to be enforced but limited policing resources stop it from happening.

    I know at a personal level conforming can be such a pain – how dare the government – tedious all this regulation out there – I’m in favour of a de-legislating a lot of stuff myself, there is a hell of a lot of ‘indency’ regulation out there. But hey, I don’t live in France. C’est la vie.

    The law’s an ass.

  • jojo

    The only way we’ll ever be free of all this nonsense is when people wake up to the oppression of all religions – Christian, Muslim, whatever. I see no difference in any of them

  • spige

    For those Muslim women who, unfortunately, have problem skin and are hideously ugly; the burqa is a godsend.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Very good article.

    I could only add some background that may provide some context.

    President Sarkozy had a reputation for a hardline approach from his time as Interior Minister before 2007. It allowed him to get enough Front National votes to take the presidency, but put him at odds with deprived areas and the left and centre generally.

    He launched a debate on national identity just before this, though it didn’t help with his decreasing approval rates and was roundly criticised.

    The Front National made something of a return in the most recent elections, which were a disaster for Sarkozy’s party and saw the opposition PS win almost every single region.

    The ban on full veils is accompanied by a variety of other security measures which seek to distinguish ‘good, traditional’ French from ‘bad, new’ French. Brice Hortefeux, who is now in Sarkozy’s old position, was recently convicted relating to a statement like “when there’s one of them it’s ok, it’s when there’s a group…”

    During Algeria’s war for independence, the French authorities attempted to ban the veil, or on-duty soldiers would simply tear them off. The process was called ‘dévoilement’ and all French citizens whose parents were/are Algerian would be aware of it.

    The alternative being proposed with regard to the approx. 1500 women who wear the full veil, the majority French-born and by choice, is to take female participation and empowerment more seriously in general. This avoids stigmatisation, is cheaper and more effective, and has the advantage of being entirely constitutional.

    You can see this argument advanced by an academic, Amel Boubekeur here:

    http://www.france24.com/en/20100121-law-ban-full-face-veil-france

    Also, my understanding is that the argument for wearing the veil is not drawn from a Koranic obligation, but rather that the Koran equates the intention to sin with sin, much like the Bible. So, in social solidarity, women can wear the veil to make it easier for men, or anyone else attracted by them, to get on with being faithful and good citizens. A short skirt, by comparison, is seen as a selfish or undividualistic choice. The question for Islam is rather, given we know that women aren’t just passive creatures, why don’t men and women both wear either the same veil or no veil?

    And to the person who noted the decrease in wearing of veils/headscarves in Ireland, I think it was participation and a degree of empowerment that was to thank.

  • What bothers me is that most of the Muslim women who immigrate to these islands are from countries where they do not have a choice. It is ok to say we should respect each others different ways, that sounds fine, does such respect extend to female circumcision I wonder?

    In addition respect is a two way street. It might be a good idea if those who feel their modesty is threatened by being seen in public remembered or are taught that in these islands women marched, starved and died for equality. It is not a gift it is a hard won right. It must not be threatened or abused in the name of religion or pc politics.

  • And if women have to be covered so that men are not driven to extremes of sexual frenzy by the sight of them, then maybe women should have the same protection against the sight of men.

  • Rory Carr

    “does such respect extend to female circumcision I wonder?”

    Wonder no longer, Pippakin, the mutilation of female genatlia (erroneously described as “female circumcision”) is of course illegal as it should be. Indeed many, including those from cultures where it is the norm (and myself), are also opposed to the mutilation of male genatlia by circumsion except in those cases of medical necessity but then infant males are incapable of organised protest and they don’t vote.

    As for women having the right of protection against the sight of men, Malachi, while I assume that you are merely being facetious in order to highlight what you see as an absurdity in the necessity for women to cover up, it remains, that to whatever extremes of lust a woman may be driven to by the mere sight of your naked visage, she is unlikely, Joyce McKinney notwithstanding, to be driven to rape.Rest easy.

  • DC

    Well you are not allowed to wear Rangers and Celtic tops at work for religious/political reasons along with other football shirts and of course other such emblems – so illiberal things are being done in NI. And done via social regulation. Albeit in the workplace.

    In Germany Nazi signs are banned and so too display of them in public. Social regulation is out there.

    See here for that form of social regulation:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strafgesetzbuch_section_86a

    It is possible to argue that fundamental following of and support for Sharia law might be viewed unconstitutional in France. As such the extreme symbols such as top-to-tail burqa wearing could merit similar legislation.

  • David

    I find this whole issue an non argument, its simple, please try and look at it like this. I acknowledge that SOME Muslim women DO want to wear the burka for their own reasons but, would you not agree that at least one women in England is forced to wear it? (Obviously its allot more than only one but one is still too many for this great country that has worked very hard to abolish sexual oppression in the last 50-100 years) How would you feel if you were forced to spend your whole life hidden away from everybody else? never being able to go to the beach and enjoy yourself like everybody else (nothing worse then seeing a muslim family at the beach with the man in nothing but shorts and the woman covered from head to toe, I feel so sorry for her).
    Before you reply please try and put yourself in the position of the poor woman forced to wear a burka? Please try and work out how it would make you feel, day after day, year after year, being locked away from society?
    I just feel that to stop the oppression of one single person (again, the number is much higher than one) far outweighs the argument that if a woman wants to wear it she should be allowed to, at least those women have a choice and IF it is that important to them maybe they should move to a muslim country where the wearing of the burka is acceptable.

  • Rory Carr

    Of course female circumcision is illegal and since it is rarely carried out by a doctor in a nice safe hospital environment, what has that got to do with the price of eggs.

    It happens, as does the shameful and hidden way some ‘communities; prevent their women from learning English. Never talked about it still happens. The evil of forced marriages and ;honour’ murders are only now getting some, but nothing like enough, attention.

    Education is vital and it long past time the various governments ensured all newcomers are introduced and made fully aware of what is expected from them.

    Sorry for leaning toward whataboutery but the subjects are interconnected and have everything to do with full and proper education.

    The veil is fine if a silly woman wants to wear it, just as long as is fully aware of the lifestyle choices available to her.

  • It’s called a beard, Malachi 🙂

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    The whole burqa/headscarf thing is depressing.
    Freedom of and from Religion is all very well as a concept.

    Its the lot of liberals to be full of angst on issues that are frankly esoteric.Unfortunately Im a liberal. When I visit London the burqa tends to depress me.
    Do women really have the right NOT to be liberated?
    Can we excuse the burqa on the grounds of culture……liberals have unfortunately dodged Islamic culture……cultural attitudes to say financing business, ritual inhumane animal slaughter or we get ourselves off a hook by saying that arranged marriages are ok (culturally acceptable) but forced marriages are downright illegal.

    Britain goes to war so that apparently young Afghan women have more choices but a strand of liberalism backs a culture which is not so different in Britain. Or if not backing it…wont confront it.
    When lunatics like the BNP get involved or Polly Toynbee (obviously NOT a lunatic in some liberal eyes) and the Guardian womens page gets worked up into frenzy.

    Where should a liberal go? A feminist go? Are the majority of Muslim women constrained or liberated?
    Can integration be forced when in “Northern Ireland” for example the Peace Process was based on a form of seperation of cultures?
    I have no idea.
    Yet it strikes me that the law is unworkable.
    It divides people for often the best of liberal reasons.
    And if (and it wont) happen in London it would simply be unenforcable. Impossible to arrest women on a mass scale for having their faces covered.
    Is it illegal to walk down a street wearing a crash helmet?
    Banks say you must take it off before going in.
    But quite simply….a ba would engender enough liberal support so that there would be mass “arrest me” protests.

    Good, well intentioned ideas are great….until legislation steps in.

  • magnus

    http://www.understandfrance.org/

    The following is a frenchman’s view taken from his website. He is married to an american and they both offer insights into french life. The website is well worth reading. Read also his biographical details and you’ll understand where’s he’s coming from eg he’s paternalistic. Easily the best site of its kind I’ve come across and a great guide to France. I’d say this piece was written about five years ago.

    It used to be that when you talked about French women and scarves, the reference was clear : how beautiful their scarves are, how well they wear them. Who, other than a French woman, could tie a scarf with such grace and elegance ?

    These days when you talk about scarves in France, it’s a very different matter. The head scarf in the news is hardly Hermès. No, it’s the hijab, a scarf worn by some Muslim women as an expression of religious devotion and modesty. Important note : not all Muslim women wear the hijab and nowhere in the Koran is it written that women are required either to wear a scarf or cover themselves entirely.

    In France, it’s not unusual to see Muslim women wearing scarves of varying forms and shapes and colors. It is however rare to see Muslim women covered from head to foot à la Saudia Arabia or Afghanistan but you do see that from time to time as well depending on where you live. As a tourist, you won’t see it unless you stray from the Champs-Elysées and the Latin Quarter into the more multicolored districts of eastern Paris.

    Recent problems with Muslim schoolgirls wearing the scarf to school are creating havoc with France’s self-image. France stands at a crossroads for although it is a mutlicultural and multiethnic nation, it remains and is proud of being – a secular society.

    Fierce battles were waged in the beginning of the 20th century to remove religion and religious signs from French schools. The huge crosses that hung over blackboards were torn down and students were told that they would not be allowed to wear ” ostentatious ” signs of their faith, be it Jewish, Catholic, or Muslim. Practically speaking, that means that a student in France can go to school with a small cross or Star of David or a discreet head scarf but the buck stops there.

    Over the past years some Muslim schoolgirls have challenged this rule by wearing scarves that go so far beyond the definition of ” discreet ” that they head right down the road to ” ostentatious “. This vociferous and obstreperous minority (there are only about ten cases a year of problems caused by ” aggressive head scarves “), has made the head scarf the worm in the apple of French secular society and especially French education.

    And France obviously doesn’t know what to do about the problem. Most of these challenges are solved away from the limelight on a case by case basis by the principal of the establishment. Most of the times the Muslim schoolgirls and the school administration reach a compromise agreement and nothing more is said.

    That’s the best case scenario.

    The worst case scenario was exemplied recently with Alma and Lila, two young French sisters and recent coverts to Islam who insisted on covering themselves entirely. When the teachers and the administration tried to discuss the matter and negotiate a compromise, they stood their ground and were expelled.

    Some say ” shame on the French Republic and its schools ” to reject two young girls who may just be going through an adolescent crisis. (Neither of their parents, incidentally, is Muslim). Others say ” why break a law that’s been around for a hundred years and has worked ? ” If the French had wanted religion in their schools, they wouldn’t have taken down the cross in the classroom. (And, come to think about it, how would the fully-covered Muslim schoolgirls react to studying in a classroom with a huge cross on the wall ?)

    If only it stopped in the classroom These young women don’t confine their religious requirements to the wearing of the hijab. They also refuse to participate in gym classes with boys and want special women only swimming privileges. In American, you would say : ” Fine ! We’re a multicultural society and we tolerate and welcome all ethnic groups. A Kosher meal here, a hijab there, no problem. It’s a big smorgasbord and there’s something for everyone. ” That’s the U.S. which is not only a multicultural society but one based on ” communities ”

    France has also been a highly centralized society whose aspiration is for everyone, black, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, to be French first and ” community ” second. In the French Republican ideal, the French school should represent and strive toward that goal. People can ” do their ethnic, religious thing ” as they wish as long as it’s not done in a French school or a French public administration. This idea of a non-religious society and of a centralized nation in which the concept of being French is more important than being black or Jewish or Buddhist is an idea now being brought into question by minority of French Muslims.

    A recent case in which a Paris municipal employee, a female Muslim social worker, refused to take off her veil at work and refused to shake the hands of men has got the Paris City Hall in a tizzy. Did they kick her out ? No. Negotiations been going on for two years in an attempt to come to some kind of mutually acceptable agreement.
    Explaining the school’s decision to expel Alma and Lila, Philippe Darriulat, a professor of history and geography, wrote in Le Monde : ” For us, it’s really the question of secularityin a public school, should we apply the rules which apply to all the people working there or should we accept that each person adopts behavior dictated by his personal convictions and encouraged by outside influences ? ” Like most teachers, Darriulat’s first priority is to explain why the school, in the name of a secular society and in the name of women’s rights, opposes the scarf. Generally, he says, a compromise is reached. Sometimes it’s not.

    It is clear that the French may have to reconsider the old laws or at the very least define a new and clear policy reinstating the rules of a secular society. A commission has been set up to study the problem and President Jacques Chirac has promised he will address the nation on this important issue before the end of the year.

    Meanwhile, I have a question : if I were a devout Catholic or Jew and lived in a Muslim country, could I go to an Islamic school wearing a cross or a kipa ? I don’t think so. Correct me if I’m wrong. It’s for that reason I don’t think the French should go on a huge guilt trip. It’s not France’s problem if these particular Muslim women need to cover themselves or have separate swimming pools or gym classes to be treated with respect by Muslim men. French men and women have always gotten along fine together. It’s up to the minority group to conform to the majority, not vice versa. When in Rome.

    Does this mean intolerance or lack of generosity ? Absolutely not. Just as two-year-olds do everything they can to try their parents’ patience, these young and sometimes very young Muslim girls and their families are doing the same to the authority figure which in this case is the French Republic. And like the father or mother of the two-year-old, the Republic must point out the rules and insist on their enforcement.

    A multicultural school with different ethnic groups in a secular setting, yes. A school composed of totally different communities, each only interested in itself and insisting on its rights, no.

    In the International Herald Tribune, Catherine Field, whose thesis is that France’s secular society is no longer adapted to the times, writes that ” Religious tolerance comes from integration, and integration itself comes from mutual respect, fairness, open-mindedness and female empowerment. ”

    Female empowerment ? I’m sorry. I don’t see how the veiled women of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan or any other Muslim country are in any way, shape or form empowered. But that’s their culture. So be it. When we go to their mosques, including their mosques in France, we take off our shoes at the door to respect their tradition. When they to school in France, they must take off their scarves to respect the tradition of the society in whcih they live.
    It’s called, simply, mutual respect. And since the great majority of France’s Muslims exercise respect and tolerance, you’ve got to wonder about those who don’t and who’s behind them. The scarf, I fear, is just the top of the iceberg.

  • magnus

    http://www.understandfrance.org/

    The following is a frenchman’s view taken from his website. He is married to an american and they both offer insights into french life. The website is well worth reading. Read also his biographical details and you’ll understand where’s he’s coming from eg he’s paternalistic. Easily the best site of its kind I’ve come across and a great guide to France. I’d say this piece was written about five years ago.

    It used to be that when you talked about French women and scarves, the reference was clear : how beautiful their scarves are, how well they wear them. Who, other than a French woman, could tie a scarf with such grace and elegance ?

    These days when you talk about scarves in France, it’s a very different matter. The head scarf in the news is hardly Hermès. No, it’s the hijab, a scarf worn by some Muslim women as an expression of religious devotion and modesty. Important note : not all Muslim women wear the hijab and nowhere in the Koran is it written that women are required either to wear a scarf or cover themselves entirely.

    In France, it’s not unusual to see Muslim women wearing scarves of varying forms and shapes and colors. It is however rare to see Muslim women covered from head to foot à la Saudia Arabia or Afghanistan but you do see that from time to time as well depending on where you live. As a tourist, you won’t see it unless you stray from the Champs-Elysées and the Latin Quarter into the more multicolored districts of eastern Paris.

    Recent problems with Muslim schoolgirls wearing the scarf to school are creating havoc with France’s self-image. France stands at a crossroads for although it is a mutlicultural and multiethnic nation, it remains and is proud of being – a secular society.

    Fierce battles were waged in the beginning of the 20th century to remove religion and religious signs from French schools. The huge crosses that hung over blackboards were torn down and students were told that they would not be allowed to wear ” ostentatious ” signs of their faith, be it Jewish, Catholic, or Muslim. Practically speaking, that means that a student in France can go to school with a small cross or Star of David or a discreet head scarf but the buck stops there.

    Over the past years some Muslim schoolgirls have challenged this rule by wearing scarves that go so far beyond the definition of ” discreet ” that they head right down the road to ” ostentatious “. This vociferous and obstreperous minority (there are only about ten cases a year of problems caused by ” aggressive head scarves “), has made the head scarf the worm in the apple of French secular society and especially French education.

    And France obviously doesn’t know what to do about the problem. Most of these challenges are solved away from the limelight on a case by case basis by the principal of the establishment. Most of the times the Muslim schoolgirls and the school administration reach a compromise agreement and nothing more is said.

    That’s the best case scenario.

    The worst case scenario was exemplied recently with Alma and Lila, two young French sisters and recent coverts to Islam who insisted on covering themselves entirely. When the teachers and the administration tried to discuss the matter and negotiate a compromise, they stood their ground and were expelled.

    Some say ” shame on the French Republic and its schools ” to reject two young girls who may just be going through an adolescent crisis. (Neither of their parents, incidentally, is Muslim). Others say ” why break a law that’s been around for a hundred years and has worked ? ” If the French had wanted religion in their schools, they wouldn’t have taken down the cross in the classroom. (And, come to think about it, how would the fully-covered Muslim schoolgirls react to studying in a classroom with a huge cross on the wall ?)

    If only it stopped in the classroom These young women don’t confine their religious requirements to the wearing of the hijab. They also refuse to participate in gym classes with boys and want special women only swimming privileges. In American, you would say : ” Fine ! We’re a multicultural society and we tolerate and welcome all ethnic groups. A Kosher meal here, a hijab there, no problem. It’s a big smorgasbord and there’s something for everyone. ” That’s the U.S. which is not only a multicultural society but one based on ” communities ”

    France has also been a highly centralized society whose aspiration is for everyone, black, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, to be French first and ” community ” second. In the French Republican ideal, the French school should represent and strive toward that goal. People can ” do their ethnic, religious thing ” as they wish as long as it’s not done in a French school or a French public administration. This idea of a non-religious society and of a centralized nation in which the concept of being French is more important than being black or Jewish or Buddhist is an idea now being brought into question by minority of French Muslims.

    A recent case in which a Paris municipal employee, a female Muslim social worker, refused to take off her veil at work and refused to shake the hands of men has got the Paris City Hall in a tizzy. Did they kick her out ? No. Negotiations been going on for two years in an attempt to come to some kind of mutually acceptable agreement.
    Explaining the school’s decision to expel Alma and Lila, Philippe Darriulat, a professor of history and geography, wrote in Le Monde : ” For us, it’s really the question of secularityin a public school, should we apply the rules which apply to all the people working there or should we accept that each person adopts behavior dictated by his personal convictions and encouraged by outside influences ? ” Like most teachers, Darriulat’s first priority is to explain why the school, in the name of a secular society and in the name of women’s rights, opposes the scarf. Generally, he says, a compromise is reached. Sometimes it’s not.

    It is clear that the French may have to reconsider the old laws or at the very least define a new and clear policy reinstating the rules of a secular society. A commission has been set up to study the problem and President Jacques Chirac has promised he will address the nation on this important issue before the end of the year.

    Meanwhile, I have a question : if I were a devout Catholic or Jew and lived in a Muslim country, could I go to an Islamic school wearing a cross or a kipa ? I don’t think so. Correct me if I’m wrong. It’s for that reason I don’t think the French should go on a huge guilt trip. It’s not France’s problem if these particular Muslim women need to cover themselves or have separate swimming pools or gym classes to be treated with respect by Muslim men. French men and women have always gotten along fine together. It’s up to the minority group to conform to the majority, not vice versa. When in Rome.

    Does this mean intolerance or lack of generosity ? Absolutely not. Just as two-year-olds do everything they can to try their parents’ patience, these young and sometimes very young Muslim girls and their families are doing the same to the authority figure which in this case is the French Republic. And like the father or mother of the two-year-old, the Republic must point out the rules and insist on their enforcement.

    A multicultural school with different ethnic groups in a secular setting, yes. A school composed of totally different communities, each only interested in itself and insisting on its rights, no.

    In the International Herald Tribune, Catherine Field, whose thesis is that France’s secular society is no longer adapted to the times, writes that ” Religious tolerance comes from integration, and integration itself comes from mutual respect, fairness, open-mindedness and female empowerment. ”

    Female empowerment ? I’m sorry. I don’t see how the veiled women of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan or any other Muslim country are in any way, shape or form empowered. But that’s their culture. So be it. When we go to their mosques, including their mosques in France, we take off our shoes at the door to respect their tradition. When they to school in France, they must take off their scarves to respect the tradition of the society in whcih they live.
    It’s called, simply, mutual respect. And since the great majority of France’s Muslims exercise respect and tolerance, you’ve got to wonder about those who don’t and who’s behind them. The scarf, I fear, is just the top of the iceberg.

  • Magnus

    I agree completely with your comment.

  • DC

    This secular approach if adopted in NI could be more transformative than any constitutional switch. Secular schools in particular. With perhaps only a few religious ones kept on as an exception to the rule.

  • alley cat

    I hate people who try to blog
    without taking stands on one side or
    tT’other. Why bother?

  • Nunoftheabove

    There is a difference between make up and concealing the entirety of your identity, let’s get real here.

    Muslims, like everyone else, can interpret their own beliefs, customs and superstitions whatever way they want but they can’t do what they want in democracies.

    Out of sincere religious conviction, would you grant the right of a 40 year old man to wed his own under-age daughter ? Nah, me neither. You can esteem his right to believe it, or admire his faith, and even if I granted you that I would have the right to withhold that. And would withhold it.

    Freedom of expression, of assembly and of private belief is not the same thing as tolerance for people doing whatever they want just because there’s a religious warrant for it.
    If they reject the notion of freedoms in general (which some do as a matter of principle) and can’t tolerate them and the ‘decadent’ behavior of others in their imemdiate surroundings whether they were born there or emigrated to there – then they can feel free to go live in a totalitarian paradise of their choosing where they will, in the process, forfeit the right to ever complain about anything without risking imprisonment, torture, death by stoning and chattelhood in the case of women. I’d prefer strongly that it were otherwise in any country anywhere but that’s the way it is for now. Please just don’t expect us to esteem those beliefs or tolerate certain behaviours that go with them in a democracy on account of some mushy white-guilt liberal bullshit definition of cultural diversity.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    And this should be forced?
    Who is going to vote for the legislators to pass those laws?
    Or should a liberal elite enforce the change…….for the good of the people.?

  • Nunoftheabove

    jojo

    Spot on – differing degrees of the same sinister lies and false consolation. We need to stay on our guard against them all, in whatever guise (or indeed disguise) they come at us in.

  • Oracle

    The greatest pile of Horseshit ever to be blogged on Slugger

    Women wearing Burka’s or for that matter any non medical facial covering is a full frontal attack on women’s independence full bloody stop.

    If it’s okay for the wearing of Burka’s then why stop there, let’s keep women off the streets after 8pm, just like the good old days.
    Let’s make them wear full length bathing costumes on the beach and hats in the street, in fact lets keep them in the house out of the way.

    Actually while we’re at it lets get those yellow stars back on the Jews as an expression of cultural difference!
    What muppet decided that the binding of women’s feet was wrong? And worse still that they shouldn’t be raped through marriage at the age of 12?

    And who was the clown that came up with the idea to take the chains and shackles of the niggers?

  • Christy Walsh

    Female circumcision is only illegal in certian jurisdictions. And Pippa rightly points out that even in those regions where it is illegal it is still carried out. One can only conclude that very few if any girls escape it. Many girls undergo the procedure with no anesthetic whatso ever. There is one form of the practice that is so barbaric that it is considered as a form of torture as the girls legs need to be tied together for 40 days and some children ultimately die from the trauma of the owunds inflicted. I think the Burka is the mild end of much more serious issues that should be addressed.

    I think Sharon Fennell’s article is completely one sided and no regard is reasonbably given to the burka itself being a form of oppression through clothing just as the stars were sown onto jews clothing in NAZI Germany.

    For those women who voluntarily embrace the wearing of such a prison are they not insulting men by insinuating that the sight of their nose would cause them to commit rape or other obhorences?

  • Nunoftheabove

    fitzjameshorse1745

    A liberal elite, as opposed to a sectarian cartel you mean ? No contest, mate.

    Yes, it should be forced. It’s anomalous that it’s been allowed for so long already and day in and day out it’s helping to deepen young people’s sense of separateness from one another societally; it’s a plain interference in public life that we wouldn’t tolerate in other aspects of society and it must end. If parents are so nuts about the relgious ethos then that’s a private matter, they can mess with their own kids’ brains sin their non-school time, they should not have the choice of sending their kids to denominational schools on any portion of my tax dollar. Frankly I would outlaw private religious schooling (private schooling in general, to be clear) too but that’s one for another post.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Alas nunoftheabove….the sectarian cartel has been inconveniently elected. And the liberal elite and Overclass hasnt been elected.
    Wouldnt life be grand if very intelligent people like you and I ran the World without those pesky stupid people voting?

  • Christy Walsh

    I would agree with you and claims that women are empowered in Muslim countries by wearing a veil constantly in public is to say that these choose not to have acid thrown in their faces.

  • joeCanuck

    There’s that but surely more. A simple pandering to the right wing in the hope of garnering their votes come the next elections.

  • joeCanuck

    Yes and social mores / customs change all the time. We don’t wear those silly wigs anymore except for some members of our favourite profession.

  • Nunoftheabove

    fitjameshorsebox

    ‘course ! Let’s be fair, any such decision wouldn’t be within the competence (legally or in other definition of competence that I can stretch to) of said cartel anyway and as such a hames is being made of education in the tax-spunking enlarged borough council hovel on the hill Home of Democracy already anyway, I for one would just this once concede on a little overlord interference from the thankin’-you-very-kindly-sir masters in London. Anyways, I for one would admire the cartel for taking the issue on and not sure of the basis upon which the lame duck opposition might electorally punish them – unionism wouldn’t much mind as in effect they’re on the, so to say, right side of this eductaionally (albeit with a lot of sniffling to be done in the gold club about the prospect of sharing ‘their’ nice clean school corridors with unwashed taigs) and have the advantage of not being, for the most part, the educational ‘separatists’ here and I doubt if the SDLP would have it in them to take on the provos on this one if they were for it whatever about what cardinal might think or say. On a cost basis alone a case could be made for it and I would really like to see persuasive any persuasive evidence that it couldn’t make a contribution to a less sectarian society in blanket-introduced and the transition well managed.

    And yeah, I am dreaming on already…. 🙁

  • magnus

    As an aside If you want some revelaing insights into Saudi Arabian culture and their treatment of women read Zoe Ferraris’ two novels “the city of veils” and “the night of the miraj” . Superb. By the way they are crime novels.

  • Nunoftheabove

    The skull cap isn’t concealing the entirerty of your identity, the burka is. I do wish some muslims would stop pretending that this is all about oppressing them for what they believe in – enough already. If my religion dictated to me in good conscience that i had to force-wed my under-age cousin who I’d never met, and I liked the idea and/or thought it my religious duty to do so, then yeah, I’d probably feel bad about being told I couldn’t by ‘the state’, probably all the more so if I was born there.

    That being the case, I could either:

    (i) suck it up and desist;

    (ii) waste my time trying to have my belief of choice legalized; or

    (iii) get my sorry arse to a stone-age totalitarian country where this was allowed (indeed probably mandatory) and stay there.

    Self-pitying bloody whiners these opportunist fanatics, honestly.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Turgon

    No I think it says more about how religion’s MEN view women. And not just on clothing issues either.

  • DC

    Usually in a progressive way than regressive.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Correct; if I go a muslim’s house, as I do often as a matter of fact, I of course remove my shoes before entering. For one thing it’s required social etiquette, for another it’s house rules, for another it’s entirely harmless and comes at no costs to me. Now if one of my muslim friends comes over to my house and takes his shoes off of his own volition that’s fine. Again, no harm is done, his choice doesn’t demand anything from me. The moment he starts telling me I have to take my own shoes off in my own house because of what some illiterate peasant schizophrenic may have delusionally experienced more than a thousand years ago though, that is, I’m afraid, the moment he’ll be told to fuck right off out of the house and not to return.

  • ordinary joe

    In 2004 President Niyazov banned beards and long hair for young men in Turkmenistan. And in 2009 Pakistan International Airlines banned beards on its employees. Though they’re compulsory for French Foreign Legion sapeurs.

  • Christy Walsh

    I completely agree.

    Forty years ago many of these ‘liberal’ thinking women would have been burning their bras and demanding equality. Today they are demanding women must have the ‘right’ to wear something that must be uncomfortable.

    No doubt some will say its perfectly comfortable, so I suggest men try breathing through a mask and walking around fully covered in shroud with a net for to see through in eighty odd degrees or the pelting rain.

    Ludicrous and sinister argument.

  • Sidewinder

    Workplace is entirely a different situation since it is a two sided contract with an employer. You are entering a private space, just like a pub, and you only do so by mutual consent.

  • Alias

    “…I would ally myself with their efforts to wear what they want when they want, free from coercion from state or family.”

    Why bother? There isn’t any principle to defend, so your ‘alignment’ is simply contrariness. If there was a right to decide how you dress then it would include the right to decide not to dress at all. The state regulates that you wear clothing that covers specific areas of your anatomy, so that it a determination by the state that you dress and about how you should dress. Personally, I’m all in favour of the state making a regulation that forbids fat women from wearing bikinis on public beaches…

    The EU’s projections show that it will be 20% Muslim by 2050. However, as the median age of EU citizens will be 47 in the same year, it’s rather obvious that the EU will have to import labour to support its aging population. As the only source of this labour is from Muslim regions, the EU will more likely be circa 40% Muslim by 2050. All France is doing is pretending to its nationals that it can control the growth of Islam when it can do nothing of the sort…

  • David

    I completely agree.

  • USA

    The French discourage groups from behaving in a way that separates themselves from wider French society. They frown upon separate identities and prefer integration. It is a philosophical approach and applies to all residents, it is not an attack on islam or women; although I can certainly see how this move could be interpreted that way.

  • Rory Carr

    The moral indignation of those who support Sarkozy’s appeasement of the Front National in this ban would be almost amusing were it not so couched in pomposity.

    You are outraged, you claim, by the very idea that any man should dictate to women how and how not they should dress. And your solution is? Why, we shall decide how women will dress instead. We know better.

    Not only do we know better than any Muslim men, whose religion and culture is strange (and therefore inferior) to ours but we also know better than the women themselves. No good them protesting that they wish to wear the garb that you say they cannot wear – what would they know, they are only women after all. And, what’s more, Muslim women to boot and therefore incapable of making a reasoned choice.

    It’s only but a small step from this attitude to the one that justified another action in another time in another country, “We destroyed the village in order to save it.”

    But, never mind, lads, as Barnabas in Christopher Marlowe’s play The Jew of Malta replied in his defence when accused of fornication: “But that was in another country and besides, rhe wench is dead.”

  • Big Maggie

    Anybody here on Slugger who thinks it’s okay for a woman to wear (or be forced to wear) a burkha should do the following.

    Book a flight to Yemen for next June or July, taking with you several metres of black cotton or similar material.

    On arrival, sew yourself into those metres of black fabric and go for a long long walk in the 40ºC heat. (The men you see during your stroll will all be dressed in cool white BTW, go figure why.)

    If you survive that with your sanity intact, come back here and tell us about your experience—and why the burkha is so wonderful and affirming.

  • Big Maggie

    Don’t forget the net, the one that looks so much like prison bars, artfully placed between the forehead and the nose, just enough to see through, not enough to breath through. A disgrace that anyone in these islands would support the demotion of women.

  • tacapall

    With all due respect Rory but unfortunetly the world we now live in means its impossible for that type of culture to continue, especially in countries that are not muslim. When most buisnesses, security services and government agencies are rightly investigating and screening potential employees and clients and possible eniimies, it becomes essential that identity is known, how is this possible with burka’s.

  • tacapall

    By the way Pip, replied to your post on Tony Blairs thread this morning but it seems Slugger is still moderating public knowledge published in the Guirdian.

  • tacapall

    My word it must be exciting! Click on the link to the little blog.

  • Finbar

    If they want to wear Burqas they should have stayed in whatever country they come from, where much of civiliization is stuck in a 8th century mindset

  • JAH

    Working in one the hotbeds of islamic fundamentalism (Croydon believe it or not) one does begin to notice shifting sands on dress.

    Five years ago I would say the atmosphere amongst younger moslems was very hot, not dissimilar to what I remember from Belfast in the Seventies. Consequently there were a lot of girls wearing the hijab with such bizarre combinations as girls attending some of the ‘better’ Schools (who insist on skirts) wearing the hijab and er miniskirts.

    Whilst I have no scientific evidence, the amount of hijab wearing has decreased as tensions went down. Amongst moslems there seems to less of the segregationist nonsense that besmirches Christianity. There is not that holier than thou attitude the ‘I cannot break bread with you’ mindset of the Plymouth Brethern. Consequently most women wearing a niquab are invariably accompanied by other women. some wearing the hijab, some not and mostly in western dress.

    In other words the Moslem community seems to be pretty relaxed about those who interpret the Koran strictly and those who don’t and quite happliy get on. Maybe we should do the same.

  • JAH

    No I do not think we should do the same! I think we should concentrate on educating young girls and more importantly their families of the equality and opportunity that is available to them.

    I was in another ‘hotbed’ Newham when a young man assured me that hundreds of young men in his community had gone off to assist the Taliban etc.

    A young womans life is too important to gloss over the differences.

  • DC

    Rory,

    There are plenty of ‘indecency’ laws out there which say men and women for that matter ought not to be seen naked in such and such a place. It is possible to argue that it isn’t indecent much like the burqa may or may not appear to be.

    But in terms of the law you can’t say government doesn’t do social regulation and all things being equal we all must roll with it – or take responsibility for the consequences i guess?

    Also, am I not correct in saying that Speedos have been banned in Alton Towers because of men wearing them around the poolside. I appreciate this banning isn’t as heavily regulated as the burqa proposal in France via law, but still you catch my drift.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/aug/10/alton-towers-speedo-ban

    C’est la vie Rory, c’est la vie.

    – Oh, in one of your earlier posts you mentioned ‘live and let live’ unfortunately as mentioned above in my own post and in my others, the notion of ‘free will’ is really only a theoretical concept – as in practice many things are prohibited and curtailed as a result of legislation etc.

  • Rory Carr

    No matter how you try to justify it. No matter how, if you will forgive me, you try to dress it up, the fact remains that those of you who argue in support of this ban have awarded yourselves the right to determine how women should or should not dress, thereby adopting the very same dictatorial stance as those men from the Muslim community whose values you purport to despise.

    You, of course, give yourself the noblest of reasons for your infringement of another’s rights – you wish to save the women and children, much like those earnest Christians of 19th century USA wished to save the women and children of the native tribes by ensuring that the young were taken into Christian schools, that the young boys had their hair shorn and they were all forced to wear Western garb and educated in Christian values so that the “savagery” could be bred out of them. This, as I have said, was the attitude that decades later resulted in a senior US military commander declaring with fervent reasonablness that his men, “Had destroyed the village in order to save it.”

    God spare us all from do-gooders, there’s always an ulterior motive to which even they have blinded themselves for the sake of moral comfort.

  • Rory Carr

    Anyway, I’m off to the seaside for a few days so I can let you all get on with your moral crusade.

  • spige

    It’s pishing today, hope you packed your burqa.

  • Big Maggie

    LOL! I believe Rory’s going to the Red Seaside :^)

  • Rory Carr

    Actually, Maggie, I was in the far east – Steeple Bay in Essex to be precise, which is about as far east as I intend to travel for comfort and relaxation these days.

  • RepublicanStones

    As Muslims are the bogey men du jour this is obviously a fashionable bigotry, but the belief that this practice applies solely to muslims is wide off the mark. Not only do orthodox jewish women cover their bodies, some even taking the veil, but jewish men have been known to cover their faces lest they lay their eye on some scantily clad minx. And this is before we even get to beards…I mean how the hell do we know its not fake – no to beards as well, and Groucho glasses !

  • RS

    No, I can honestly say I don’t care who is doing it, they should stop. It is anti female. It is also a very good disguise, one would be terrorist tried to get out of England wearing a burkha, pity he was so tall.

    I understand some women in Israel have started to wear the veil in an excess of religious zeal. I think the Knesset are going to ban it…

  • RepublicanStones

    Pippakin the ridiculous excuse of ‘it might be used for a disguise’ opens the way for banning beards and the like. If your offended by the sight of a women in a burka, remember she may well be offended at the sight of you in a minidress. And the bill proposed in the Knesset is more aimed at the Israeli arab women, who choose to wear it. The difference being France seeks for immigrants to assimilate to its vision of society, whereas in Israel its the natives who will be targeted. Also many hassidic women have to cut their hair and wear wigs, you’ll disagree im sure, but i doubt you’ll demand inspections of their headwear round Golders Green to prevent such ‘anti-female’ practices. There was no clamour for this before 9/11, we need something new to fear and Islam is as good a target as any, dig up McCarthy because we have muzzies in the basement.

  • RS

    I know some Hasidic women choose to wear a wig to keep their hair covered, that is their choice and it does not detract from their independence or give the impression of subservience, some wear scarves, and again it is not subservient to do so.

    The veil has become political but what it seems to me is often overlooked in the debate is the fight women in the west had to gain what equality they have. i would not see that threatened.

    The veil does not mean a poor, meek woman. I have watched a veiled woman having a slanging match on a bus, something to do with being squashed, and I have known veiled women who were prostitutes. The thing is it is a very effective disguise. A veiled woman does not mean a Muslim woman, it does not even have to mean it’s a woman in there!

    And no I would not ban it. I don’t see how that would help those women who are being abused. I keep saying I believe it is about education. It should be banned in schools which is not the same as banning it altogether.

    I cant speak for anyone else but I have always felt the same way about the veil, certainly long before 9/11.

  • Big Maggie

    “Also many hassidic women have to cut their hair and wear wigs.”

    Where would we be without religion, eh? Life would be so lacking in idiocy and farce.

  • It’s true though and some of those wigs are flash!

    I remember a conversation with a young Muslim man. He was from Kashmir, an assistant hotel manager. He was asking about the veil and I mentioned, in an aside that Muslims were not the only ones who covered up. Since we were close to a Hasidic community I told him about the wigs, he was so shocked! lol indeed.

  • RepublicanStones

    The inference in your argument pip is that you automatically assume Jewish women choose to wear their religious dress, and ergo muslim women must therefore all be forced to wear theirs. There is absolutely no evidence to declare either assertion factual. In fact you will find coercion and choice in both religions. You claim a vieled woman does not automatically mean a muslim woman. The same could be said for a man dressed in full hassidic gear, or a woman in a habit, or a fella in a dog collar. You declared the burka ‘anti-female’, but in a glorious exemption, having to shave your head and wear a wig is not anti-female either. But this is where we are at. Bigotry against muslims has reached such levels that the term is saddled as a ‘phobia’ instead of an ‘anti-‘, we see people using their own definitions to determine whether or not religious dress is ‘anti-female’, we hear lots about the horrid forced female circumcision (not even islamic) but as Rory highlights, nary a word spoken against the forced circumcision of male infants. We hear lots about the inhumane halal slaughter, rarely is kosher mentioned in the same breath.

  • RS

    I did not intend to suggest that Muslim women are the only ones facing abuse or that abuse does not happen in Hasidic or any other household, of course it can and probably does! does that make abuse of Muslim women more acceptable? No, not all Muslim women are forced to wear the veil or the burkha but some are and that is wrong.

    The Burkha is anti female in the way it conceals and imprisons the female form. A wig does not do that nor does a scarf worn over the head and not concealing the face.

    Male circumcision is horrible but it is neither as painful or as dangerous as female circumcision, being against both does not alter the facts.

    As for Halal food, which I had not mentioned, whilst I dislike the idea of any animal suffering I have purchased and eaten both Kosher and Halal meat, does that make me a hypocrite, possibly but Im not sure buying factory farmed animals is any better.

    Enough, this debate is going in circles. I say education is even more important than tolerance, and when a Muslim woman asks why you should care if she is beaten (which she was) you can tell me its about individual choice. If the couple had been English I would not have hesitated to call the police to lock the bastard up but I was being tolerant. Instead I called their immigration worker and persuaded him they needed more space! Who says violence doesn’t work, and perhaps they did need more space. It must be traumatic to be in a strange country and in a small bedsit.

  • RepublicanStones

    <>>

    Then the logical extension of that is that you must also call for religious dress for women from other denominations to be banned.

    <<>>

    But the argument practioners of the burka would argue is that little or immodest dress is ‘anti-female’. If you do not think cutting/shaving your hair and having to wear a wig (as well as dresses below the ankle and long sleeves) is also anti-female, you are simply using your own definitions to justify the singling out of one religion/culture. Furthermore, by banning one form of religious dress, you cannot realistically expect it to stop there. Once the ban of the burka is achieved, the Pam Gellers and Robert Spencers of the world will move onto the niqab, and then onto etc etc etc !

    <<>>

    But how often do you hear people condemn male infant circumcision? And it is painful, very painful, and as evidence suggests, has long term effects on the victims.

    http://epublications.bond.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1036&context=hss_pubs

    <<>>

    What on earth are you talking about? that sentence makes no sense.

    <<>>

    There we have it, all the pretense is laid bare and you get down to the nuts, or at least what you presume to be the nuts of the issue.Tthe image in your head of Muslim immigrants is that of an abused wife and a domineering husband drowning in a tiny bedsit. I rest my case !

  • RepublicanStones

    “No, not all Muslim women are forced to wear the veil or the burkha but some are and that is wrong.”

    Then the logical extension of that is that you must also call for religious dress for women from other denominations to be banned.

    “The Burkha is anti female in the way it conceals and imprisons the female form. A wig does not do that nor does a scarf worn over the head and not concealing the face”

    But the argument practioners of the burka would argue is that little or immodest dress is ‘anti-female’. If you do not think cutting/shaving your hair and having to wear a wig (as well as dresses below the ankle and long sleeves) is also anti-female, you are simply using your own definitions to justify the singling out of one religion/culture. Furthermore, by banning one form of religious dress, you cannot realistically expect it to stop there. Once the ban of the burka is achieved, the Pam Gellers and Robert Spencers of the world will move onto the niqab, and then onto etc etc etc !

    “Male circumcision is horrible but it is neither as painful or as dangerous as female circumcision, being against both does not alter the facts.”

    But how often do you hear people condemn male infant circumcision? And it is painful, very painful, and as evidence suggests, has long term effects on the victims.

    http://epublications.bond.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1036&context=hss_pubs

    “and when a Muslim woman asks why you should care if she is beaten (which she was) you can tell me its about individual choice.”

    What on earth are you talking about? that sentence makes no sense.

    “It must be traumatic to be in a strange country and in a small bedsit.”

    There we have it, all the pretense is laid bare and you get down to the nuts, or at least what you presume to be the nuts of the issue.Tthe image in your head of Muslim immigrants is that of an abused wife and a domineering husband drowning in a tiny bedsit. I rest my case !

  • RS

    “It must be traumatic to be in a strange country and in a small bedsit.”

    There we have it, all the pretense is laid bare and you get down to the nuts, or at least what you presume to be the nuts of the issue.Tthe image in your head of Muslim immigrants is that of an abused wife and a domineering husband drowning in a tiny bedsit. I rest my case !

    How on earth do you reach that conclusion from the one case I mentioned? It was one couple and BTW I treated them in exactly the same way as I would have treated any foreign couple who would obviously be unfamiliar with the law and customs of a new country! And that as I keep saying is what it is about. I have not said Im in favour of banning the veil. I keep saying its about education and yes I am concerned that all women entering this or any western country are made fully aware of their rights.

    Before you decide I must be racist. The couple were white, the social worker was Asian. I did not get around to asking him which particular country they or he were from.

    Im not convinced those who favour the burkha are concerned with womens rights and womens equality. I think they are more concerned with politically correct views taking precedence over the facts. After all who is going to know if women in a small community are being abused.

    For the rest, male circumcision is safer and easier, which is not to suggest it is better. I don’t think it is and no, a woman does not need to shave her hair to wear a wig.

  • RepublicanStones

    “”Before you decide I must be racist.””

    pip, Islam is not a race. And apologies but i did not read about your treating that couple in your earlier replies.

    “””I think they are more concerned with politically correct views taking precedence over the facts.”””

    And what pray tell are these facts?

    “””After all who is going to know if women in a small community are being abused.””””

    So lets just assume she is…right?

    “””For the rest, male circumcision is safer and easier, which is not to suggest it is better. I don’t think it is and no, a woman does not need to shave her hair to wear a wig.”””

    So you must have a ‘painometer’ upon which you decide which religious/cultural practices are acceptable and which are not. If you accept something is wrong, ignoring it, whilst crying loud about a similar practice in another culture is simple bigotry. And some women cut their hair, others shave it (as i mentioned above), but according to you such a requirement is not ‘anti-female’. It’s nice to have your own definitions isn’t it?

  • RS

    My definition of an abused woman is one who is forced to do something she does not want to.

    Oh there are enough facts out there RS. You need to check honour killings, forced marriages, refusal to allow wives to learn English. In some northern towns in England it is impossible for a girl to get a cab without the entire community knowing about it. She cannot leave. There was a Labour MP who worked tirelessly for her constituency who were largely immigrant. I wish I could remember her name.

    Honour killings and forced marriages happen to men as well but less often and with even less understanding. A bit like those men who are beaten by their wives. Who would believe it.

    It is not about race or religion. It is about womens rights, and yet again you are accusing me of wanting to ban the veil. I don’t want that. Not because I agree with it, but because I believe that unless the women are educated and independent it would do more harm than good.

  • RS

    I almost missed it! I know what Islam is, but since the subject is about those whose first language is not English, yet and since I was referring to recent immigrants I made the situation and my opinion clear.

  • RepublicanStones

    “My definition of an abused woman is one who is forced to do something she does not want to.”

    Indeed.

    “Oh there are enough facts out there RS. You need to check honour killings, forced marriages, refusal to allow wives to learn English.”

    Im well aware of such instances. But such abuse happens in other religions and cultures as well. As i said above, their is both coercion and choice involved in the burka. There is absolutely no evidence to claim its all one way or the other, just like in other religions. Much as you’d like to pretend other wise. Any attempt to ban religious dress on the pretext that the wearers are all forced is patently absurd and disingenuous. Any attempt to ban such dress because it ‘makes a good disguise’ is also ridiculous. You brought up the issue of abuse and you also brought up the ridiculous ‘good disguise’ excuse. Which is strange given you claim you do not wish to see a ban. The point you miss is this – if the Pamela Gellers of this world score a victory with such a ban, it will not stop there. Next will be the head scarf, then minarets, then who knows what next.

    “but since the subject is about those whose first language is not English”

    Not the subject is about banning religious dress.

    “I made the situation and my opinion clear.”

    No…you didn’t !

  • RS

    How many times do I have to say Im not in favour of banning the burkha or any other form of clothing!

    It’s about education! The veil is not a religious requirement, it’s a cultural ‘nicety’. Honour killings etc are not part of the Quran they are cultural and they are unacceptable!

    Sharia law is not acceptable.

    Education is the key and it should start when people arrive. The British government have now started teaching new arrivals and this will help women to be aware of their rights. It will also help men know they must leave certain aspects of their culture in the old country and that applies to everyone of whatever colour or religious persuasion.

    I hope that is clear enough.

  • The Crazy Cat Lady

    Pippakin can i just say that i think your no nonsence,comon-sence aproach to everyday isues is refreshing in these modern times in which we live.Keep up the good work.

  • Crazy Cat Lady???

    I thought I was she!!!

    Ah stop! You’ll have people think Im talking to myself! and quite possibly being sarcastic with it!!!

    Blessings

  • Secret Squirrel

    Where would we be without religion, eh?

    We’d no doubt conjure idiocy and farce from other sources Maggie.

  • F Mc

    Certainly a difficult decision as to either ban or not ban the burqa in public but I would agree with those calling for a ban of ALL religious clothing otherwise the French law could be viewed as discriminatory.An interesting and well balanced presentation nonetheless.

    Frances Mc