Sunday, January 11, 2004

Not in the Republic’s Name!

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi,

When warned about possible angry reactions to his writings, an Indian philosopher explained that the problem wasn’t what he wrote but that others added the meaning to the words he had coined.
While I try my best to be clear, I do fail — miserably, sometimes — in presenting my ideas and opinions. Judging from the flood of angry e-mails, my last article about the banning of the Muslim hijab in France must have been one of my failures. Please, let me explain. Arab and Muslim governments should be criticized for their human rights abuses as much as any other government should. I don’t defend their “crimes” because I want to be accused of double standards. In fact, I have always criticized similar denials of women rights in Muslim and Arab countries as well as in my own. We are not angels and our societies are no better than any — and may well be worse.
But, ladies and gentlemen, two wrongs never make a right. Women have been the subject of abuse and discrimination everywhere, throughout history. We shouldn’t, as free citizens of the world, do the same by hesitating to speak out for women’s rights regardless of religion, race and culture.
France claims that it went to war to liberate Afghani women. Why can’t we use more civilized methods of defending the liberty of French women? If a female decides to obey God and cover her head, why is it a problem for anyone except Satan? Anyway, why is it safe or right for females to entice males with their nudity but too offensive for them to cover up? How is it that only Islamic or Jewish head coverings threaten the French Republic? What connection is there between the hijab and terrorism and how can banning hijab make the world a safer place?
When Hitler tested our humanity and resolve by denying Jews their basic rights, the rest of us thought it wasn’t our business and some accused the Jews of being “the problem.” Why wouldn’t they “skip” their dress code and religious symbols to “look alike” and fit in and be accepted? The principle, ladies and gentlemen, is the same. Once accepted, you lose control over the evolution and growth of the action. Your objections and arguments, when the fire finally reaches your door, lose credibility. And the rest of us might choose to be stupid, selfish and immoral and ignore your call for help. That is just what the civilized world is NOT about. I hope and pray that this time we are wiser.

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