Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sarkozy, the burqa, and insanity

So Sarkozy, president of France, says the burqa is not welcome in French territory. I find it interesting to note the reactions around the world, from the BBC to Feministing.

Not all of them make a whole lot of sense. So let's look at it.

First, there's the white American feminist argument that Sarkozy is actually restricting women by telling them what they can't wear, in outlawing the burqa. That he is in fact acting as the anti-feminist. Many feminists have been quick to defend Islam, and its religious practices that dictate the wearing of the burqa. They say that his outlawing of the burqa amounts to telling these women they can't practice their religion, and this restricts them.

BUT WAIT...the burqa is not actually part of Islam. Rather like cliterodectomies, the burqa is not mentioned anywhere in the Qu'ran, but is actually an Afghanistani Taliban practice to restrict and oppress women, which has then spread to other countries. In short, it's a tribal practice that has been used by mullahs to oppress women. In the Qu'ran there are sayings that women should cover their hair and breasts so as not to tempt men (for implied here is that men cannot control themselves, so women have to help them out). But the burqa itself is not mentioned, nor is it written that women must cover themselves from head to toe. That is a tribal practice that gained foothold, and in the eyes of some naive western feminists, now, legitmacy. Interesting that feminists would choose to see it this way, but it is more likely that they haven't done their religious studies homework. In alignment with their uninformed argument, some Muslim women will indeed defend their right to wear the burqa as part of their religion, but this is because they now believe it is part of their religion. In short, they've bought the brainwashing that it is part of Islam.

Score one for Sarkozy...

BUT WAIT...isn't France a secular country? Doesn't that mean that they don't care about religion, and should be tolerant of it? Uh, no, that's an American idea. France is indeed secular, but their idea is not separation of church and state so that religion is left to do as it pleases without interference from the government. Their idea is to restrict religion to not meddle with the state - a rather different stance. And since the large Muslim immigration has come into France, leaving them with now 5 million Muslims, they've had to make accommodations all over the place. France is French, and if you don't like their ways, let me suggest you not go there, and certainly as an American, try to resist impinging your notions of how it ought to work on them. One would think after Vietnam, El Salvador, Afganistan, Iraq, and Somalia, Americans might wake up to the notion that the rest of the world isn't all that welcome to American notions of how it ought to be working. So if Muslims want to emigrate to France, then they must do as the French do, or find some other more suitable place to emigrate. It's only Americans, and to a lesser extent, Brits, that have decided to accommodate everything and anything in the name of tolerance and freedom. Not everyone is that way, and the French have the right to run their country in the manner they see fit, as long as they don't do something crazy, like invade Poland or something. Dictating what they will and won't tolerate in terms of religious practices and laws IS their prerogative. For the record, they've had problems with Muslims stoning women to death in French neighborhoods, against French law, because the girl was raped, which is Islamic law (again, not really. Mohummed was particularly aghast at the notion of Arabs burying infant daughters alive. It's hard to imagine he'd be gung-ho for stoning of women). The French also do not permit wearing of religious iconery in schools, and they don't care which religion. They're secular, remember? That's not embracing of religion. Secular means religion does not interfere with the business of the state. The French have probably been too tolerant for too long, and are now putting their foot down.

Score two for Sarkozy...

BUT WAIT...isn't telling women what they can't wear just as sexist / oppressive as telling them what they MUST wear? In outlawing the burqa, hasn't Sarkozy taken up the same sword, albeit on the opposite side of the field, as the mullahs who dictate women must wear the burqa? Well, you can choose to frame it that way, just as you can choose to say that American women are required to dress sexy to get jobs in entertainment, and isn't this the same thing? Sarkozy has said he sees that burqa as a sign of repression, and he's not standing for it in France. Now if he wants to stop models wearing underwear to sell perfume, I think he'd be in for a tougher fight.

BUT WAIT...didn't he do this to appease the French Nationalists, who are right-leaning, anti-immigrant, while he's got a somewhat low popularity rating? Isn't this pandering? Probably. In that regard, the feminist argument above disappears and is replaced by a racist / nationalist one. But even so, it's still their country, and he's still their elected leader. Look at it like this: would you go to Saudi Arabia and demand to not wear a hair scarf, as a woman? If this affronts you, and it's the law of their land, then don't go there. But don't show up and start telling them how to run things.

BUT more. I am glad Sarkozy made this move. I think it took chutzpah, frankly. And it's about time someone started standing up for Muslim women, even if feminists don't see it that way.

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