Sunday, January 04, 2004

The French War on Islam

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi,

A French king once said: France is me and I am France. The French Revolution came to liberate France and the French from such tyranny. Imagine, then, our shock as admirers of the revolutionary principles when the hijab issue came up.
In order to defend secularism, France decided to prohibit the wearing of headscarves in schools and public institutions. The law also bans Jewish skullcaps and oversized crosses. French officials say they want to liberate women from social pressure to wear the hijab and protect the sensitive feelings of those who don’t like to see religious symbols. (This time it is headscarves and skullcaps; who knows what will be next: beards and turbans?)
Now, let me get this straight, Mr. Chirac: It is OK for women to “uncover” but not to “cover”, to undress, but not to dress? So if someone dresses in a way that some people don’t like then they are breaking the law? When a Muslim girl covers her head with a scarf, it is forbidden, but a Christian nun, a Gallic peasant or anyone else covering his or her head with a hat, fur, silk or any other sort of material is not a problem? Isn’t that interesting?
The amusement doesn’t stop there, because the law says you can wear a small cross, but not an “oversized” one. I wonder what size schoolgirl would wear a super-sized cross around her neck.
The law forbids both the skullcap and the scarf because both are regarded as offensive religious symbols, but not the hats worn by Christian priests, even though headscarves for women are an Islamic requirement, while the rest are an optional (mostly ceremonial) dress code.
As for the liberation part, the law replaces the people accused of influencing their daughters’ dress choice with strangers who “undress” girls against their choice. According to this logic, a girl was not free when she was free to wear hijab. But now, thanks to this law, she has been liberated because she can’t wear what she chooses.
The biggest double standard in all this is calling Muslim protests outside France interference in internal affairs. So, it is OK for the “civilized” French to intervene in Muslim countries on behalf of women against hijab (like in Afghanistan), but not OK for us, the “savage”, to defend the choice of French women to wear it? My head is spinning already, is yours?
My best explanation to this twisted logic is: racism and Islamophobia. Muslims everywhere, please take note: France, our champion at the UN, has finally joined the Anglo-Saxon crusade.

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