Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Burkini Controversy

Once again, France is giving free rein to its ongoing psychodrama in regard to Islam. This latest round points up the hypocrisy of the previous episode involving the burqa. Then, in order to avoid censure by the European Court, it was asserted that the burqa ban was a "security" measure. Faces in public places had to be identifiable, and clothing should not permit the easy hiding of weapons of terror. The ban had nothing to do with religion, proponents claimed, at least for legal purposes. In private the prohibition of the burqa was also defended on the grounds that it liberated women from oppression.

With the proliferating burkini bans, the liberation of women argument has again been raised, but now it is supplemented by the allegation that the body-hiding bathing outfit is "l’uniforme d’un mouvement contre lequel nous sommes en guerre," as the mayor of Cannes put it. Much of the rest of the world finds this position shocking, as documented by the Libé article linked above. Some in France will of course invoke, yet again, the uniqueness of laïcité. In a radio debate broadcast the other day on the subject of "Qu'est-ce qu'être Français," the inevitable Alain Finkielkraut insisted that France's extreme sensitive to the apparel choices of Muslim women stems from its "civilisation féminine." Seriously. And this was greeted with much applause from the audience.

Le Bal des Aspirants

Benoît Hamon is in. Arnaud Montebourg will soon be in. About Emmanuel Macron, only his hairdresser knows for sure. Gérard Filoche and Marie-Noëlle Lienemann are in. The Socialist primary will be a crowded affair. The tone of the future debate was signaled by Hamon's announcement on France2 last night. The candidates purporting to represent the party's left will accuse Hollande of treacherous betrayal. Macron, if he runs, will say he didn't go far enough. Hollande, if he runs, will say he got it just right. And the divisions that have beset the PS throughout its existence will once again be aired in the place where they are least likely to be discussed thoughtfully, let alone resolved: a presidential primary.