French Muslim women arrested for defying ban on head garb.

French Muslim women arrested for defying ban on head garb. Should the ban be lifted or stay?

As France officially began the launch of a new law which prohibits the wearing of head veils/garbs in public- aimed as many see it as those practicing the Muslim faith, consternation has begun as to the supposed fairness of such a law.

That said, with the new law in place, today 2 protesters in Paris chose to defy the ban and were subsequently arrested. To date it is unclear whether they were fined the $215 penalty.

abcThere are some 5 million Muslims living in France, but only about 2,000 women are estimated to wear the now outlawed veils. Many of those women have vowed to defy the ban.

“On Monday morning, I will go shopping, to the post office and city hall if necessary,” said Kenza Drider, a mother of four who has become the veiled face of women opposing the new law. “I will under no circumstances stop wearing my veil.”

At the heart of the matter France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy argues such a physical countenance poses a public danger and a form of ‘enslavement’ while Muslim women who feel the new law is targeted specifically for them as a threat to their ability to practice their faith and see it as an attack on their rights of freedom of expression. At worse many Muslim women argue the new law serves to stigmatize them and isolate them as pariah figures.

Many opponents of the ban say it violates the country’s religious freedom statutes.

“I think we need to respect the opinions of the people who want to cover their faces because of religious beliefs,” an unidentified Muslim woman who does not wear a full veil told ABC News. “That is part of being a secular society.”

Which begs the question; how ironic is it that the new law seeks to ban people from covering their faces should they choose to, which in itself one could argue is a type of enslavement- even if it is a voluntary one?

Perhaps at the heart of the matter is a deep mistrust between 2 groups – a secular government seeking to maintain its aesthetics, even by the threat of the law and another group, a fundamentalist sect of Muslim that believes in its right to express itself as it sees fit- even if it offends or confuses the usually fashion forward French. One has to wonder how this would all be received if one day in the future Paris haute couture begins to throw tribute to such physical manifestations- assuming the catwalk models don’t get fined as they strut the planks…

For now we’re willing to bet that many French muslim women will stay indoors, in order to avoid being fined, a kind of perverse and perhaps natural reaction to a law that has perversely affected what it sees as perverse behavior…

  • nik

    Just do what the Romans do when your are in Rome

  • V

    Aligning himself with Pope Innocent III’s decree of 1215, Vienna council of 1267 and its Spanish, German and Italian neighbors, Louis IX passes a law in 1269 forcing Jews over 14 to wear distinctive yellow signs over their garments whenever seen in public, so as to be easily identified as such and to allegedly prevent interfaith marriages. This mirrors various compulsory public markings in effect all over Europe in the Middle Ages, consisting of special clothes, armbands, headgarb or hats. By the XVIth century, it has disappeared everywhere but in Venice.
    In spring of 1942, occupied France, Belgium and Holland join Poland and Germany in enforcing the “yellow star” law. Failure to comply led to fines, imprisonment, deportation. As we well know, willingness to comply led to similar demises, minus the official fine perhaps. It would have been temporarily replaced by public alienation, abuse, harassment and violence before the rest of Aryan World Domination Plan followed its tragic course.
    So let’s say that part of the European psyche considers outwards sign of religious identity as a dangerous allowance altogether – even if it originally entails danger for the wearer himself. This, by definition, is an avowal of what must be considered a racist environment. If you are clearly identified as an outsider to the main community you expose yourself to unjust punitive retaliation. So we protect you by forcing you to blend in. Of course this line of reasoning has been obscured by the French’s belief in “laicite”, a concept derived from the separation of Church and State, professing religious invisibility in the public square. But still, not something to be so terribly proud of, and it’s not like nuns are being fined either.
    Here matters are complicated by the fact that it is the wearer that insists on the outward signaling and that it emotionally points to aspects of a community where abuse on women has been often tolerated, to say the least. So the scared French moralist jumps up and down and says : “you don’t really want to wear this, you are being forced to wear this by your persecutors, so they can inflict more punishment onto you, you only pretend you want to wear it in order to avoid further retaliation from your real enemy, the Muslim Man. We cannot possibly condone this state of affairs (the way we have had to condone the Aryan Man) and we will not let you be isolated, alienated and ill-treated. By passing this law, we give you an excuse – you live in France, the country of “Laicite” – to stop abiding by this abusive law and embrace your new freedom and opportunity to finally live as an equal rights citizen. We are really saving you from your own community”.
    All so very well-meaning, yes? Bringing freedom to Muslims, sounds familiar? Haven’t the Irakis been leaping with joy?
    And then you have the far-right extremists from the Front National, led by the more personable figure of Marine Le Pen (a slightly diluted version of “ Give back France to the French” than her scarecrow father had been) rising to 14% at the last elections out of a 44% participation rate… To this brand of little French screamers, this law is heartily welcomed: “we don’t have to watch this spectacle anymore, just forbid them to do whatever they might want, and if they’re not happy, they can just go home and good riddance.”
    A slightly different take on freedom.
    The debate on the topic of the veil in France isn’t new, it’s been raging on and off since the late eighties. Tolerance vs. racism is not the tip of the iceberg, it’s not the name of the issue at all, as each warring party can easily claim both titles.
    Community preservation vs. assimilation, globalization and immigration, religion vs. state, perceived religion vs. race, civic liberties vs. human rights, the many tentacles of the subject assure us of one thing: a fine per headgarb worn isn’t going to solve it one bit.
    Let the onslaught begin.