Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Majesty of the State

A president badly in need of a victory has decided to apply the full majesty of the state to a menace feared by a majority of its citizens: the burqa (and the niqab). The Conseil d'État be damned. So here we go. One has to imagine the scene in advance. Who will be the first target? Will a surveillance team stake out the Gare du Nord or the Sunday market at Cergy? Will Eric Besson and Brice Hortefeux accompany the flics as they lay hands on the offending "agent of Islamism?" Will she be taken for a garde à vue and, in the name of equality of women and public security, be stripped of her robes and headgear, searched, photographed, and displayed on the evening news? Will she be hauled into court and required to appear with face uncovered before her ermine-clad judges? Will she then express gratitude to the state for emancipating her from her oppressive culture?

And Belgium will do the same. Then all eyes will turn to the European Court of Justice. But no matter what the learned judges decide, to many the behavior of these two states will resemble bullying: all the might of the state will be brought to bear on the weakest member of the community, whose offense consists only in firing the fantasies of her persecutors.


James Conran said...

Sad indeed.

Boz said...

Don't worry. In 50 years we'll learn that all of France resisted [it].

CJWilly said...

There is long history of using feminism as a pretext to oppress Muslims. See during the Algerian War:

FRANCIS said...

Art, I feel very concerned about you and your readers not willing to understand the importance of the issue.

Mrs Wassyla Tamzali, Algerian feminist lawyer, ex UNESCO director : "Il y a des écoles et des universités, des lieux, en Algérie, où l'on ne peut plus être dévoilée. En arabe algérien on dit qu'une femme dévoilée est nue, ce qui en dit long. C'est un rempart illusoire ; dans mon livre je montre l'escalade de la violence dans les rues arabes où il y a de plus en plus de femmes voilées."

And regarding "Les Indigènes de la République", a suggested reading "La "lepénisation des esprits" des Indigènes de la République"

Unknown said...

The link to gaucherepublicaine doesn't work. I believe that I do understand the importance of the issue, but I do not believe that a universal ban by statute is the best way to deal with it. And this is not a matter of Franco-American incomprehension: the Conseil d'État and Dominique de Villepin share my misgivings, to name just two French dissenters.

FRANCIS said...

The Conseil d'Etat was already responsible for the deplorable confusion about the veil which prevailed between 1989 and the Loi Stasi in 2004.

At that time there were also "prophètes de malheur" but today the situation is much quieter in France than it is in Belgium where there is no similar law.

You might consider not only the positions from the veil or the burqa advocates (mainly men, curiously), but also from women from "muslim culture" such as Leila Babes , Wassyla Tamzali, Nadia Tamiri, Fatimata Sidibe. And there are others.

DavidinParis said...

Despite the storms in the banlieus we witnessed several years ago, there has been little to no 'Islamic' violence for quite some time. I a willing to suggest that the banlieu were in flames, not because of deep Islamic extremism, but due to high unemployment and a general feeling of not being accepted. As such, this group seeks their 'roots'. Would it not be better for all involved that resources be used to improve schools, sponsor better public announcements, offer opportunities, specially to the women (veiled or not) and lure them into the Republic?
Whatever the philosophical conundrums raised by this move by Sarkozy, it has the flavor of pure politics and no real concern for the women involved who will only be punished, first by the state, and then by their men.

FrédéricLN said...

Yes, Francis, but what about the opinion of women who actually wear a veil? Are their opinions of lower value? Aren't they the first ones to be listened to, about the way they should be dressed?

Not the only ones, for sure. But let's not forget there are real people and citizens under the veil. If we pretend, as many do, to act "for their best interest" let's take into account their own sense of where their best interest is.

Dick Sindall said...

I find your asking us to picture the scene in advance very helpful, Art, as I do also the reply from David in Paris. We need to ask what we are willing to do to particular people in our zeal for a cause, a "greater good," especially when we engage the power of the state and when those particular people are particularly vulnerable.

Anonymous said...

David, why can't we do both?

Dick, should we be especially willing to "engage the power of the state" when helping the helpless and vulnerable?

Anonymous said...


MYOS said...

My problem with Sarkozy's law is that I see burqas as a real problem like all clothing that covers the face (balaclavas included here) and therefore passing a law that targets niqab and burqas everywhere displeases me for two reasons: 1) the key element here is dressing in a manner that prevents identification. Niqab erases the person's individuality, on purpose. But so do other clothes. If one targets the burqa, one says the problem is the person's religious belief, not the clothes in relation to social convention, and we move from a social norm (like: you can't go to church in a swimsuit, you have to wear shoes to be served) to a religious imposition 2) the law is so encompassing that it is worthy of an oppressive regime thus will not pass and so if face-coverings are a problem to you, then you can't like the law since it'll actually ridicule itself and will empower those it endeavors to stop.

On another level, I think, "seriously"? a president, supposedly upholding the law, and a government, are about to pass an ANTICONSTITUtIONAL LAW on purpose, due to a very small number of people who wear clothes UMP know their constituents find scary. Apparently the UMP is ready to go to a referendum like the Swiss and their minarets, which tells you all you need to know about this law's inspiration.

DavidinParis said...

These words are from the Daily Telegragh:

"Jean-Marie Le Pen, the veteran leader of the far-Right National Front, said a ban was unnecessary as it is already "forbidden to walk the streets and public spaces with a mask on".
Interior ministry figures suggest that around 2,000 women in France wear full Muslim dress in public."

So...we have more than 2000 children mistreated in France, more than 2000 adults that are illiterate, more than 2000 teenagers who will get AIDS, more than 2000...shall I go on? And the absurdity of this discussion is that Le Pen actually got this argument right.

MYOS said...

Worse and worse:
- a woman was fined for driving with a niqab -- this, I understand: you mustn't be able to see anything in that garb -- and she, or her husband, decided that it was discrimination. She thus went on the news about it, suing the State.
- Brice Hortefeux commissioned an inquiry, which promptly revealed that 1° the man is polygamous 2° he's an Algerian who's acquired French citizenship 3° his 4 wives are declared as "single mothers" so that he can cash welfare checks for the 12 children he sired (like what fathers do in these Utah polygamous compounds) - images of the black-clad woman with her glowering husband were produced.
- that information was immediately plastered and broadcast everywhere, leaving a sour taste in my mouth. The equation "islam= scary bearded guy + polygamy + fraud" has been neatly established in a manner that must have made Le Pen's day.
- some already cast doubt upon the Interieur statement - but it's broadcast everywhere nevertheless!

Is it possible? Of course.
(Why would a muslim fundamentalist be any different from a Christian fundamentalist? cf, again, the polygamist compounds.)
Yet journalistic ethics seem to be amiss when such a neat equation is proffered by a State willing to pass a law through an "emergency process" whereas there's no credible emergency, yet journalists take it at face value, broadcasting it as if they were the State's mouthpieces. As if its coming from the State made it more palatable, whereas it'd be unspeakable if it came from Le Pen - the same wording, the same process, with the same distateful associations.

DavidinParis said... are 100% correct. I used LePen ironically (you did understand that, no?). As a law already exists, it becomes more apparent that Sarkozy is simply posturing and couldn't really care less about the underlying feminist issues (however misplaced). If 2000 women in all of France are a problem, then we have a case of misplaced priorities. Yes, worse and worse...this issue is a red herring. There are so many others here that are more important. Sticking to a feminist vent, how about the lack of representation by women in academia, industry, high paying jobs? How about the increasing alcohol abuse among French teenagers? The issues are endless and once again, politics here (as well as in the US) are more about packaging than content.

MYOS said...

@DavidinParis: yup I'd understood you were speaking ironically.
But hearing the news do what is described above... ewww

I totally agree with you: this is a red herring if there ever was one.
Don't get me wrong: I do think the burqa is a terrible "sign", erasing a person's identity and turning her into a walking ad for fundamentalist thought.
But it's neither an emergency nor a priority, and, as you said, there are plenty more issues that would be more pressing to further women's causes in France.
To top it off, this scurrilous story about the polygamous-criminal-Algerian-born-fundamentalist....

MYOS said...

Expressing dissent = threat

See below:

MYOS said...

More on the islam-polygamist-Algerian-criminal story, from acrimed:

Boz said...

You've got to love a guy who calls it like he sees it:

"If we are stripped of nationality, for having mistresses...there would be a lot of French people stripped of nationality."

MYOS said...

The worst of it: he's right.
This article is titled "Scandal! the polygamous husband gave interviews!"
Here for the general legality of it all:

Boz said...

Thanks. Good legal overview.

David Scott said...

Although, I personally am so far to the left that even the democrats appear to me to be "right-wing," I consider myself to be a strict constitutionalist. It is my opinion that since its inception there has been an organized and systematic assault by the conservatives in the United States (and in the other industrialized nations) on the civil liberties written into the US Constitution. The “War on Drugs”; “War on Terror”; “War on Communism” and a host of other wars waged by the right wing are really nothing more than a War on People--an excuse to erode civil rights to the point of non-existence. I invite you to my website devoted to raising awareness on this puritan attack on freedom: