Friday, July 11, 2008

France and the Burqa: Idea of Freedom Gets Reality Check

Stress tests people, and ideas. When exposed to stress, some people make themselves up to look like corpses, and lie down in front of news cameras. Others find the courage to drive fanatic invaders from their homeland.

I've written before, about how I think today's world has put a great deal of stress on an ancient and fairly isolated culture.

Face to Burqa: France, Freedom and Foreigners

It looks like coming face to face with a foreign culture has stressed at least one western nation, too.

Technically, I should say "face to burqa."

The French government has decided that a woman who wears a burqa is too submissive, and can't be a French citizen.

The French government also says that individual freedom is important, and that individuals should be free to choose their own religion, and how it should be practiced.

The French ideal of freedom seems to have worked just fine, as long as everybody in France lived about the same way. Now, this outsider has shown up, and wants to be a French citizen.

Problem is, she dresses funny: and doesn't treat her husband the way that the French government thinks she should.

It's Not Just France

I'll grant, freely, that I'm making the French position look about as bad as possible here. I think that a case can be made for immigrants living up to some standards before becoming citizens of another country: being able to use the local language, understanding the laws and customs well enough to keep out of trouble, maybe even being able to hold down a job.

There are two questions here:
  1. Is it okay for a country to ban the burqa? Or the babushka, for that matter?
  2. Should a country say that it supports freedom of religion, but refuse citizenship to people who practice their religion the 'wrong' way?
The 'natives' of exotic lands in the mysterious orient aren't the only ones going through culture shock these days. France - and every western nation - is being forced to take a hard look at what, exactly, ideas like "freedom" mean.

In the long run, I think the exercise will be good for us. Meanwhile, it's going to be a bumpy road.

The French national dress code, and how the proper French woman is expected to act, in the news:
  • "Muslim woman deemed too submissive to be French"
    Reuters (July 11, 2008)
    • "PARIS (Reuters) - France has denied citizenship to a veiled Moroccan woman on the grounds that her 'radical' practice of Islam is incompatible with basic French values such as equality of the sexes, a legal ruling showed on Friday.
    • "The case will reignite debate about how to reconcile freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by the French constitution, and other fundamental rights, which many in France feel are being challenged by the way of life of some Muslims.
    • "Le Monde newspaper said it was the first time a Muslim applicant had been rejected for reasons to do with personal religious practice...."
  • "Burka-wearing woman denied citizenship for being 'submissive'"
    The Scotsman (July 12, 2008)
    • "A MOROCCAN woman who wears a black burka has been denied French citizenship on the grounds she is too submissive.
    • "The Council of State ruled that the woman, who is married to a French national, speaks good French and has three children, all born in France, should be denied citizenship because her 'radical' practice of Islam is incompatible with French values such as equality of the sexes.
    • "The 32-year-old woman, named only as Faiza M, has lived in France since 2000. She wears a burka that covers her body from head to foot, leaving a narrow slit for her eyes. According to social services, she lives in "total submission" to her husband and male relatives including her father and brother-in-law...."
  • "Opinion: France Gets it Right" (July 11, 2008)
    • "France's Council of State has made a choice which requires assimilation into French society to become a French citizen. They recently denied citizenship to a Muslim woman based on her radical religious practices.
    • "France got this one right, in my opinion: A woman married to a French national was denied citizenship in France despite having lived there for eight years and giving birth to three children.
    • "The reason? She is totally submissive to her husband and her male relatives in all areas. The woman in question wears a black burqa which covers her from head to toes with the exception of her eyes ( although she must not wear it 24/7 since she has three children.)..."
Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.