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 monks to conquer some holy site or to fight the unfaithful. He's going to do his battle on the field of fashion. Sarkozy proposed banning 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 possibility to choose whether one wants to wear veiling or not. But there's not such a thing in his speech. Mr. Sarkozy made himself clear: He wants veils banned. So, instead of one way of 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.
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, 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 to 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 be 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 hell breaks loose.