Who Is Going To Dictate What Muslim Women Shall Wear?

Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France, is starting a crusade of his own. Unlike his predecessors from dark ages he’s not going to send an army of warrior monks to conquer some holy site or to fight the unfaithful. He’s going to do his battle on the field of fashion by attacking the rights of muslim women.

Recently, Sarkozy proposed a ban of niqabs and burkas, traditional veils of muslim women:

We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity. The burka is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience. It will not be welcome on the territory of the French republic.

Which might be OK if it was for the benefit of the women. But it’s not.

If he was aiming for the benefit of the women he would fight for women’s right to choose whether she wants to wear veiling or not. But there’s no such a thing in his speech. Mr. Sarkozy made himself clear: He wants veils banned. So, instead of one oppression he proposes another. Instead of “you must” he says “you must not”.

Is that a way to fight for one’s freedom? No it isn’t. His only problem with those subservient women is that it’s not him they are subservient to. It’s not him who tell them what they have to wear.

Muslim Woman

photo by Rikie Rizza

Of course there is a deeper story behind all this. Two of them, actually.

First, France (and many other European countries) have problem with islam. Muslim groups are living in those countries but hardly integrate. Same as the Swiss ban of minarets, this is a (not so) subtle move against muslims in Europe. Despite Sarkozy’s words, this IS against religion. But we’re open-minded and politically correct Europeans so we can’t say that.

Second, some of the muslim women are oppressed. Yes, they are forced by their families and community to be covered from top of the head to toes. And while I am all against that, banning it won’t free those women. Even if the ban pass the parliament, those women won’t get in a better position. They just will be out of sight. Which seems to be a quite acceptable solution for many.

There is one word that sums these two: hypocrisy. We won’t tell that we’re fighting religious war, nor we’ll offer opportunity for oppressed women to free themselves and integrate into society. We’ll tell them what to wear so they don’t poke our sensitive eyes and remind us of the problems we have. If due to impossibility to go out in their clothing they become forced never to leave their homes, we’ll say we are sorry but at least we won’t see them to be reminded about them. If they all get annoyed by this and go away, even the better.

But doing this, existing problems just gets one more layer. And beneath that layer things will only boil for a while. Until the hell breaks loose.

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  • Actually, it's not just Islam France has a problem with. They have a problem with religion. I don't see this as hypocritical at all – in general they don't allow religious symbols, so adding another one to the ban list isn't hypocritical – it's right in-line with the rest of what they believe.
    Actually, you could probably argue that saying they shouldn't ban burkas, but not acknowledging the other religious symbols they "shouldn't" ban either is hypocritical. Have a care about the words you choose – it makes a difference in how what you say is perceived.

  • It seems there are two forces in the game. One is christian, that wants to ban islam, and the other is atheist that wants to ban all religions all together. Weirdly enough, those two make silent coalition and use secularism as an excuse. 

    What is hypocritical in the case of burkas is that the excuse for the ban is freedom of women. But that freedom is to be achieved by forbidding them to wear something. One oppression is made instead of the other, so it's hard to see how that is supposed to liberate anybody. 

    BTW, secular state should guarantee the freedom of thought and expression. And choosing own wardrobe is part of that freedom. It's a tough position but the aim is high and worth it.

  • I completely agree with most of what you have said. Nice Blog, I have read most of it. I personally consider we need to look at the EU seriously.

  • Yeah, especially because one country is following another. It's not only France anymore.

    Oddly enough, here catholic authorities defend islamists point of view in many cases, i guess its just the fear of facing a banning of religious symbols in schools and moreover a general ban of religion teaching in public schools (wich I would support totally, I would like  to have public schools teaching the history of religions, not  preaching moral doctrines) 

  • I've heard more than once that catholic nuns look just as creepy as the veiled women and that both are victims of their religions. So there's where the compassion comes from. 
    And yes, history of religion is an important subject that should be in the schools while preaching is for churches.

  • So well, I do want preaching out of public schools, and religion morals set to private and individual (public institutions and laws should have a ethics, not a moral); despite of it i do agree with you that banning these clothes is just a way of hiding a problem, I wonder if they will include preconciliar nuns and hare khrishna followers since they are also forced to dress like that by their religions

  • probably not, at least for a while. Dirty trick is that veil banning is partly explained by security reasons, so people who don't cover their faces are safe for now. Though, if I remember right,  there was an initiative to ban religious related jewelry from public schools. 

  • Oh i would agree banning religious symbols hanging on the walls of schools, mandatory preaching  ( i had to do that when child every day before lessons begin )and such… about people wearing religious symbols I have no problems with that

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