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"We'll do to you what we did to the Jews."
September 19, 2011 5:26 PM   Subscribe

Just over five months after the ban came into force, the Guardian reports on the impact of France's so-called burqa ban on niqab-wearing women.
posted by hoyland (194 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Voir aussi Les Niqabitches.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:39 PM on September 19, 2011


"When [the Jews] went out in the street they were identified, singled out, they were vilified. Now that's happening to us."

Did it ever stop against the Jews?
posted by holterbarbour at 5:42 PM on September 19, 2011


It's a bit less overt, n'est-ce pas?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:50 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


As soon as a fine is imposed, there will be an appeal right up to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg, which could rule against the law and expose the French state as a laughing stock.

Yes please!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:56 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


"When [the Jews] went out in the street they were identified, singled out, they were vilified. Now that's happening to us."

Yeah, that's a dumb comparison. The Jews were singled out by the state as being Jews. These women are going about as far out of their way as they can go to identify themselves as Muslim. This law is at least defensible as an attempt (however misguided) to prevent the oppression of women by a deeply misogynistic culture that treats their bodies as shameful objects, holds them responsible for sexual violence perpetrated by men (hence not allowing them to tempt men with their flesh) and forces them to wear clothing so oppressive they develop vitamin deficiencies because their faces never touch the sun. Laws forcing Jews to wear stars were, rather obviously, not borne out of any egalitarian impulse.

Having said all that, making religious communities feel under attack is hardly the way to get them to open up. I wish I could say that time and generational change will make that happen all on its own, but on the other hand Britain has seen a generation of Muslim youth more religious and radical than its parents, so...I don't know.
posted by Dasein at 5:59 PM on September 19, 2011 [23 favorites]


One politician who backed the law said that women still going out in niqab were simply being "provocative".

Yeah, seriously! Did you see all that eyelash? Total slut.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:03 PM on September 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


despite having a degree in theology, she can't find a job

OK, that part was funny!
posted by gonna get a dog at 6:06 PM on September 19, 2011 [28 favorites]


despite having a degree in theology, she can't find a job

I know this is completely orthogonal to the actual topic, but I can't help but imagine this exact same sentence referring to a 22-year-old being quoted in a New York Times piece, regarding the reasons she's still living at home.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:22 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


My mom, Professor Ann Althouse of the University of Wisconsin Law School, wrote this when the law was passed:
Under the new French law, there's a fine of $216 for wearing a full-face veil, and a $43,000 fine and 1-year jail sentence for forcing someone else to wear one.

The fine is doubled for forcing a minor to cover up. You can see from the structure of the punishment that the government's intent is to protect women from subordination by private citizens. The premise — is it proved? — is that a woman is highly unlikely to freely choose this form of religious garb for herself. The freedom of women who choose the veil is counted at nothing compared to the supposed great evil in coercing women to wear it. If the coercion involved is so terrible, why not only outlaw coercion?

But is intrafamily coercion really that bad when what we're talking about is clothing? Would you be willing to accept a generally applicable law that imposed a 1-year jail sentence for forcing someone to wear clothing they don't like? Don't parents and spouses do that all the time? Would you double the sentence — on a generally applicable law — for parents who force their daughters to wear something other than what they want to wear?

Once you start asking questions like this, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the French law is anti-Muslim.
posted by John Cohen at 6:22 PM on September 19, 2011 [32 favorites]


Once again, I find myself not having sympathy for any parties involved. This French approach is simply antithetical to my American sensibilities. On the other hand, I just can't relate at all to these women, and I can see why French people don't like the niqab.
posted by Edgewise at 6:23 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


One politician who backed the law said that women still going out in niqab were simply being "provocative".

The currency of the New Economy won't be money, but attention.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:24 PM on September 19, 2011


This is interesting. Under what circumstances is it ok to tell someone they cannot wear an article of clothing because it is opressive. There are many cultures where men wear nothing but loincloths. Would it be ok for such a culture to decided that pants are opressive an pass pass a law against them? Similarly, could a region where women sunbathe topless pass a law against bikini tops?
posted by Ad hominem at 6:34 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's the fine for wearing a Halloween mask?
posted by uosuaq at 6:34 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the women who wear niqab are being oppressed, then why are they opposed to a law that makes it illegal? Does it empower a woman when a law tells her she must wear less clothing? This veiled bride is no longer OK in public? This, wearing a veil while burying your spouse, is outrageous because of the clothing choice? Is this next to be outlawed -- funny clothes, worn by a subset of a religion based on an interpretation of religious texts, by women who were probably told to wear it by a man?
posted by Houstonian at 6:35 PM on September 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


John Cohen, yo momma is so phat, her words makes sense.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:41 PM on September 19, 2011


I was in an engineering program at the turn of the millenium that was about one third Muslim in religion, mostly from Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. The split was about 50/50 female/male, and most of the women wore hijabs with two or three niqabs sprinkled in (I remember being very impressed by how impeccable the sneakers of the Niqab wearers were, probably because that was all that was visible). The computer science department had its own computer lab, so most majors spent lots of time in that hot, windowless room working on homework, grad students and undergraduates mixed together.

I had maybe one or two friends out of the Muslim group, but they mostly seemed to stick together. Then 9/11 happened and suddenly, over the course of a week the veils disappeared entirely. Families were worried about the outpouring of anti-muslim sentiment and were concerned about safety. Suddenly, all of the women who were computer lab regulars started hanging out together, like we'd been swept up in a big lady-nerd katamari. I ended up with many good friends and a few mentors out of that group.

But. Until now, I would tell that story and say "So-and-so's personality just opened up after she stopped wearing her hijab!" Now, after reading that article, I realize it was me. I felt like I was trying to make friends with someone behind a lace curtain, and it was just easier and felt less off-putting to look for coding pals elsewhere. With the veils gone I suddenly noticed the fine ladies all around me and made friends. I was my fault that we were not friends before that; the people around me just changed their headgear.

So, I can kind of understand where the French Bureaucrats are coming from, though I think they are very, very wrong. They want the distancing pieces of fabric to go away so their Muslim community will become more French and everyone can be buddies. But that will never happen unless people get to choose freely, and you can't control what people want. C'est la vie!

The people who probably should change are the insult hurlers. Confronting civil disobedience really brings out the jerk in some people.
posted by Alison at 6:42 PM on September 19, 2011 [40 favorites]


Is it possible that the French Government are trying to start a riot of angry Muslims to justify some sort of crackdown? Because I honestly can't see the sense of the way they've been acting recently otherwise.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:46 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Until now, I would tell that story and say "So-and-so's personality just opened up after she stopped wearing her hijab!" Now, after reading that article, I realize it was me.

Couldn't both be true? The niqab strikes me as a very explicit way of distancing oneself from the world at large.
posted by Edgewise at 6:52 PM on September 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


These women are going about as far out of their way as they can go to identify themselves as Muslim. This law is at least defensible as an attempt (however misguided) to prevent the oppression of women..

Because being told how you are supposed to display your body by a different body of men from a different misogynistic culture is heaps better!

Alternately it could be part of the ongoing opposition to Islam inside a traditionally very Catholic party of the world, but that has less of a quaint paternalistic charm, doesn't it?
posted by Jilder at 6:53 PM on September 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


You have to wonder whether organized oppression of woman is even really recognized by many of the woman it oppresses because of lifelong socialization that such oppression is fine and normal. Case in point: I used to really like Orthodox Jewish services. The old tunes , the chanting, the bobbing up and down - something about all that ritual really appealed to some part of me somehow.

Then I changed sex.
And I was forced to sit behind a curtain out of sight from all the men.
And the Rabbi.
And there wasn't much chanting or old tunes or much of anything going on on that side of the curtain. In fact there were not very many women relative to the rest of the congregation.
Because it wasn't a woman's responsibility to pray. We belonged at home. And going up to the podium and reading a prayer before the torah portion? Well forget about that too. The women there didn't seem to mind at all really because that;s the way it's been done their whole life and that;s the way they've been raised to do it. I'll bet that most of them would argue very strongly for the need to sit behind a screen as second class citizens of the congregation.

Well . Fuck. That. Shit.

I suspect a whole lot of that is going on with the burqua wearing as well. You want to force your wife or daughter to wear that shit inside your own house. Do it. But preventing such men from oppressing women outside of the house I think gives women at least a fighting chance to experience life in the real world and maybe thinking about the merits of the idea a bit more.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:54 PM on September 19, 2011 [30 favorites]


I ended up with many good friends and a few mentors out of that group... They want the distancing pieces of fabric to go away so their Muslim community will become more French and everyone can be buddies.

I think you may be projecting your own personal experiences onto a pretty complex socio-political situation here.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:59 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


If there was an all powerful omniscient being in the sky who would actually cast women into eternal hellfire and torment for daring to show your face on a public street. Under that circumstance I'd feel sympathetic. While we are on the subject can we also bam socks with sandals, utilikilts and berets.
posted by humanfont at 7:01 PM on September 19, 2011


But preventing such men from oppressing women outside of the house I think gives women at least a fighting chance to experience life in the real world and maybe thinking about the merits of the idea a bit more.

There's a pattern noted in the article (insert appropriate disclaimers about Guardian selection bias or something) that many of the niqab-wearing women are divorced and have children. None of them (that I recall from reading the article) had parents that encouraged that they covered their faces. Some of the women interviewed were converts (one had parents who later converted). Basically, it seems like a pretty decent bet that this is a choice these women made on their own. It's not even the prevailing trend in the community and they definitely weren't coerced by their husbands because they're not married. (Or only one was. I might be getting this article mixed up with another one. There was a woman profiled who was a convert and whose in-laws were of North African descent, but she was more conservative than her husband and in-laws.)
posted by hoyland at 7:04 PM on September 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


But preventing such men from oppressing women outside of the house I think gives women at least a fighting chance to experience life in the real world and maybe thinking about the merits of the idea a bit more.

But that isn't what is happening. The men who force their wives and daughter to wear niqabs will just force them to remain indoors all the time.

If the intent is to help women to escape oppressive and abusive relationships, this law doesn't do that.

Ultimately, you would need (1) the women in such relationships to want to leave (2) support to help them leave if they wanted to so, including emergency housing, protection from angry abusive former spouses...etc. But it's much easier to just ban the things you disagree with rather than actually identify problems and try to solve them.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:05 PM on September 19, 2011 [16 favorites]


The men who force their wives and daughter to wear niqabs will just force them to remain indoors all the time.

Ack - this isn't what I meant. I meant, the women who are forced to wear niqabs will just be forced to stay indoors all the time.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:06 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Poet_Lariat, it took having a sex change for you to realize that Orthodox Judaism was a bit sexist? And now you think everyone else with a taste for conservative religious expression is necessarily brainwashed or at best, habituated, despite the numerous examples of women adopting niqab as converts or in opposition to parental disapproval? Sounds like you skipped reading the article.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:10 PM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


The elephant in the room that no one is discussing here is this can be used as a disguise.

Very recent trial in Australia where it got "thrown out" due to the Muslim lady defendant being in disguise the whole time of the police videotape / eyewitness testimonies.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:11 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Personally I wouldn't be comfortable telling women what they aren't allowed to wear based on my own uncharitable reading of a practice that is foreign to me and appears to be widely misunderstood.
posted by Hoopo at 7:11 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Is France really banning public prayer?
posted by grobstein at 7:11 PM on September 19, 2011


But preventing such men from oppressing women outside of the house I think gives women at least a fighting chance to experience life in the real world and maybe thinking about the merits of the idea a bit more.

I see where you're coming from, but I think you're confused about how many women are FORCED to wear it vs. how many PREFER to wear it.

This legislation will do more harm to those who PREFER to wear it than it will EVER EVER EVER do good for those who are FORCED to wear it.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:15 PM on September 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


Is France really banning public prayer?

Short answer, no. Longer answer, we need to get out of the middle of the road first.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:15 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Let's see what the Muslim women themselves have to say about wearing a burqua.

From the article: Ahmas, 32, French, a divorced single mother: "The politicians claimed they were liberating us; what they've done is to exclude us from the social sphere.... One politician in favour of the ban said niqabs were 'walking prisons'. Well, that's exactly where we've been stuck by this law." ...She put on the niqab six years ago as an educated single woman who once wore mini-skirts and liked partying, but then rediscovered her faith. She says her now ex-husband had nothing to do with her choice.

Stéphanie, 31...former law student and convert to Islam...She converted at 17 and put on the niqab several years later, long before meeting her husband....She told the prosecutor it was her choice and refused to stop wearing niqab.

Kenza Drider, a 32-year-old mother of three, was famously bold enough to appear on French television to oppose the law before it came into force. She refuses to take off her niqab – "My husband doesn't dictate what I do, much less the government"


These women make their own choices to wear a full veil. Can we stop pretending that Muslim men are all mostrous wife beaters and acknowledge that Muslim women do in fact have their own agency and their own reasons for wearing their veils?
posted by Jilder at 7:17 PM on September 19, 2011 [26 favorites]


If the women who wear niqab are being oppressed, then why are they opposed to a law that makes it illegal?

Stockholm syndrome.
posted by dibblda at 7:17 PM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


I suspect a whole lot of that is going on with the burqua wearing as well.

Yeah, but you don't really know, do you? And given that, surely, it's better to assume that the women know what they want and have a right to express that?

Uncanny Hengman, if this is the case you're thinking of, you're really not summarising it at all correctly.
posted by smoke at 7:18 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Short answer, no. Longer answer, we need to get out of the middle of the road first.

I REALLY REALLY laughed out loud at that one.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:21 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


There is a well intentioned and designed law against wearing ostentatious religious symbols in schools that France passed because the school teachers wanted it to help desegregate their students. In fact, Muslim women support that ban by a 6% margin. Such a law makes good sense because (a) kids are naturally evil little shits but (b) kids learn as they grow up and (c) kids have their whole lives ahead of them.

I'd also agree with punishing men, or religious leaders, who force women to wear the veil, that's a sound addition. Yet, there isn't any good served by punishing adult women who want to wear the veil, that serves no purpose, well except helping Sarkozy woo Front National supporters.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:24 PM on September 19, 2011


Until now, I would tell that story and say "So-and-so's personality just opened up after she stopped wearing her hijab!" Now, after reading that article, I realize it was me. I felt like I was trying to make friends with someone behind a lace curtain, and it was just easier and felt less off-putting to look for coding pals elsewhere ... my fault that we were not friends before that; the people around me just changed their headgear.

Blaming yourself is ridiculous, but it makes for a nice "Hug a Rainbow" moral. Assuming that this class was in a western nation, where the general practice is to keep one's face uncovered, you shouldn't be expected to look past someone's decision to intentionally obscure their face.

Imagine that you were in regular contact through work or school with a man who insisted on wearing a ski mask. He's not hiding disfigurement; he thinks there's a supernatural force ordering him to wear a ski mask because he was born male. Is it your fault if you don't connect with him?

If the women were wearing just hijabs and you could see their faces, then part of it was you. But it sounds like you just blamed yourself for not connecting with people who were intentionally placing up a barrier. There's a reason that close interaction is referred to as "face to face."
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:26 PM on September 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


it took having a sex change for you to realize that Orthodox Judaism was a bit sexist?

Pretty much , yeah. And it opened my eyes to how even someone such as I, who imagined myself to be oh so progressive and {gasp} even a feminist could be so very blind to organized oppression that is going on all about me. So very blind. So yeah, it pretty much took that.

The burka is just one of many forms of oppression to women in just one of many cultures. It does not surprise me in the least that some women mentioned in the article continued the practice on their own without a husband. Religious socialization blinds you to the oppression of others and even the oppression that waged against you. Sometimes it takes something really radical to break you out of either pattern.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 7:28 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Can we stop pretending that Muslim men are all mostrous wife beaters and acknowledge that Muslim women do in fact have their own agency and their own reasons for wearing their veils?

Preaching to the choir. Pity the French Government isn't listening.

If we're banning clothing, can we at least start with sideways baseball caps?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:31 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


on the other hand Britain has seen a generation of Muslim youth more religious and radical than its parents, so...I don't know.

To play devil's advocate for a moment (I pretty much believe this, but I don't have evidence offhand), is it not possible that this generation of Muslim youth in Britain radicalise more easily 1) because there are more people out there trying to radicalise them and 2) they're more socially excluded than their parents (either objectively or they feel they are), so they're easier to radicalise? I don't think the correct conclusion to draw is that the Muslim youth of Britain are somehow defective or that Islam is somehow defective.

I'm actually not entirely sure this generation of British Muslim youth are more religious or more conservative than their parents. I can't find numbers either way, as it's a hard thing to google. British Muslims do seem to be objectively worse off than other religious groups, but they're also the youngest group (which has to do with having children, not observance, as far as I can tell*), which is apparently a contributing factor. On the other hand, the youth now are going to face different pressures than their parents regarding their practice of religion, so perhaps it is easier for them to be observant than it was for their parents.

*Though the Christians are the oldest, I think, and that has to do with people quitting Christianity in droves, generation on generation. So retaining the youth would also help the Muslims be younger than other groups.
posted by hoyland at 7:32 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stockholm syndrome.

So, what, Muslim women have no agency? Muslim women can't have agency, because of course everything they do and say is the result of their oppression? I'm sorry, but if you can't even listen to what an actual Muslim woman is saying without dismissing her like this, I don't see what exactly you can contribute to this discussion or any discussion about women and Islam. I personally don't like veiling. But I sure as shit am not going to deride and dismiss the choices of Muslim women like those quoted in this article because of that dislike. There are undoubtedly women who are forced to wear the veil. But according to their own words and actions, these are not those women.
posted by yasaman at 7:36 PM on September 19, 2011 [26 favorites]


You mean, "The burka can be one of many forms of oppression", Poet_Lariat. It's just a piece of material, there is nothing inherently oppressive about either it, or its use, and I would argue that for many women around the world - including those quoted in the article - it is indeed not oppressive.

This point touches into to what I think are some of the most interesting and productive critiques of second wave feminism by third wave feminists. Namely, that many "old-school" notions of feminism are predicated on what feminism and freedoms looks like to white, western, bourgeois feminists and milieus. However, as feminism continues to grow and expand and contain evermore multitudes those models grow strained.

For many Muslim women - including but not limited to those quoted in the piece - wearing a burka and niqab is feminism (and empowering) to them. That is part of what feminism can look like in a different culture and setting - and it's not necessarily nor contradictory to other models of emanicipation etc.

I really think some cultural relativism - far from evil - is a prerequisite for understanding the context in these discussions, and giving respect and autonomy to opposing viewpoints.
posted by smoke at 7:38 PM on September 19, 2011 [15 favorites]


Today I learned that a niqab is just like a ski mask.

For fucks sake
posted by Blasdelb at 7:42 PM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


I remember watching an interview with a Middle-Eastern politician a few years ago about voting rights for women. He stated that women in the country didn't want to vote, that they too saw politics as a man's domain, and that the country was just respecting that choice.

The interviewer then suggested that giving women the vote wouldn't force them to vote if they didn't want to. Make it a personal choice and trust them to choose what's right for them. This politician replied, without dropping a beat, "well, they don't know what they want."

There's a lot of "they don't know what they want" in this debate, and I'm not buying it.
posted by Paragon at 7:49 PM on September 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


-- funny clothes, worn by a subset of a religion based on an interpretation of religious texts, by women who were probably told to wear it by a man?

This is delicious. Nuns. LOL - brilliant irony. How easy it is to point fingers at the other religious group, instead of looking at ourselves.

And ... *France* (speaking of hypocrisy) -- the very epicenter of the authoritarian fashion industry (mostly men) -- the one that orders women to wear all kind of oppressive and humiliating (not to mention unhealthy) clothing!



I am old enough to have lived through the era when women were *not allowed* in public places wearing pants; had to own at least one painful girdle; ignored older women with deformed toes and took on wearing the same tight pointed shoes; and are now dealing with permanent back problems from toddling around in high heels. Protective laws? Hah! Women would have stomped and rioted in those spikey shoes if anyone had *dared* tell them what not to wear! Maybe all women have 'Stockholm Syndrome'?
posted by Surfurrus at 7:55 PM on September 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


I dunno it seems like the (possibly non-representative yada yada) women interviewed for the article know precisely what they want, and are articulating it fairly clearly.
posted by silby at 7:55 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


(I remember being very impressed by how impeccable the sneakers of the Niqab wearers were, probably because that was all that was visible).

I've recently come back from Malaysia. Niqab wearers have the most amazing shoes, painted toenails, eye makeup, eyelashes, and manicured fingernails I've ever seen.

Especially the eyes. They absolutely nail the eyes. Just beautiful.

But… erm… kinda defeats the purpose, dontcha think? But yeah, whatever your invisible imaginary omnipotent omnipresent friend tells you, ladies.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:06 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The burka is just one of many forms of oppression to women in just one of many cultures. It does not surprise me in the least that some women mentioned in the article continued the practice on their own without a husband. Religious socialization blinds you to the oppression of others and even the oppression that waged against you. Sometimes it takes something really radical to break you out of either pattern

Exactly. Just look at how the oppression of women, especially poor and uneducated women, continues, worldwide, often with the seeming cooperation of women, themselves!

The burqua is first and foremost a statement about men "owning" the right to prevent their women from being seen in a way that might tempt other men, because those men are *afraid* of the "competition" (other men). This is what's behind the abhorrent custom of female circumcision.

As for the forced "acceptance" of these practices; practices that lead to the continuing marginalization and poverty of women - I say "to hell with that!".

How many male cultures on earth require this kind of covering up? Heck, in many parts of Muslim India, the restrictions against herterosexual males consorting with females are so strong that a significant minority, or maybe even a majority of men, have their first sexual experiences with menGet a clue from that. Yes, the Muslim world needs a jolt or two about letting women have a real chance to succeed in its respective cultures. For instance, as a 2008 Human Rights Watch report put it, women in Saudi Arabia are treated as "perpetual minors," kept under the thumb throughout their lives by one or other male guardian – grandfather, father, brother, cousin, husband, son, or even grandson. This means that women of all ages must usually obtain permission from the guardian (known as wali al-amr) to study, work, travel, marry, or undergo certain medical procedures. This includes clothing and dress standards.

If I'm not being "culturally relativistic" enough, then fuck the sickening utopian version of "multiculturalism without limits" values that have somehow crept into developed Western cultures; too many of those "values" have kept people ignorant and inferior to others within their adopted cultures. Nobody - NOBODY - should have to grow up having to have "permission" granted to do whatever the hell they want to do to better themselves, or having to cover their bodies in ways that keep them as nothing more than walking shadows, for life. The burqua is *barbaric*, folks - so is the idea that women are somehow the property of men, no matter the BS "rules" that have been established by men to control women (for instance, there is NOTHING in the Koran about female circumcision).

At the same time I feel sorry for the Muslim women who are put in difficult situations because they are forced to wear the burqua. As for those who "choose" to wear the burqua, would they "choose" to do so if they had not been habituated to do so in the first place? They are under a lot of pressure from their women-owning husbands, and others who are brainwashed into this woman-demeaning practice. There is a conflict here because the French government is trying to legislate cultural mores. What needs to happen is that the French government has to better communicate what is expected of French citizens, if they want to belong to French society. Keep the pressure up.
posted by Vibrissae at 8:07 PM on September 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


This law is at least defensible as an attempt (however misguided) to prevent the oppression of women by a deeply misogynistic culture that treats their bodies as shameful objects

yeah, 'cause the catholic church or christianity or judaism arent the same. i mean, why doesnt this law extend to catholic nuns or hassidic women too?
posted by liza at 8:12 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


When I was a freshman, having heard too many stories about roommate sexcapades and with my own prudish inclinations, I signed up for a no-men-allowed section of a women's dorm. The other sections of the dorm would whisper that we were all a bunch of lesbians, but in truth it was mainly Middle Eastern and African women, either Catholic or Muslim. Some of the Muslim girls wore Hijabs, others didn't, but they all got along with each other.

They were ALL engineers or computer science majors. It's quite fascinating that some American women claim that there aren't enough women in those fields because of normative gender roles, but here were women from extremely patriarchal religious cultures and they made up the majority of women in many CS classes.

I got the impression that they chose those majors because they were relentlessly practical. We all spent Friday nights studying.
posted by melissam at 8:15 PM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


OMFG DASEIN

and forces them to wear clothing so oppressive they develop vitamin deficiencies because their faces never touch the sun.

seriously?!?! you think all niqabis are "forced" and have vitamin deficiencies. what kind of condescending "first world" paternalistic crap is this?

this is islamophobia, plain and simple.
posted by liza at 8:15 PM on September 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


As for those who "choose" to wear the burqua, would they "choose" to do so if they had not been habituated to do so in the first place?
That's not some special for-Muslims-only question, though. I don't know that I would wear high heels or eyeliner had I not been habituated to do so, but I'm going to wear high heels and eyeliner tomorrow, and I'd be really pissed if someone decided to save me from myself by fining me $150 for wearing makeup and my super-cute shoes, even though there's a case to be made that both things are oppressive. We are all products of socialization. If you are going to legislate away people's choices to save them from their socialization, there's no particular reason to single out the niqab.
posted by craichead at 8:16 PM on September 19, 2011 [27 favorites]


For instance, as a 2008 Human Rights Watch report put it, women in Saudi Arabia are treated as "perpetual minors," kept under the thumb throughout their lives by one or other male guardian – grandfather, father, brother, cousin, husband, son, or even grandson.

Population of Saudi Arabia: 25.39 million.

Global Muslim population: 1.25 billion.

I hope you plan on baking a pie with all those cherries.
posted by smoke at 8:16 PM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Everything about this makes me confused and weary.

I wouldn't dare presume to tell someone what they can and cannot wear.

But as a secularist and humanist I also dislike the historical context and sexist oppression of these sort of things, the same exact sexist oppression that kept women from voting, owning property, not being entirely owned slaves and chattel, or daring to show an ankle, or go swimming or go to school, or daring to not show a painfully corseted waist - or, today, not being thin, buxom, hairless or artificially tanned enough.

Which is why I still can't fault a women for wanting to wear a niqab to escape the sexual pressure and objectification of what is still a male dominated culture whether it's also religiously motivated or not.

And then full face coverings in public are provocative and somewhat alarming. I can somewhat understand the "ski mask" analogy, and just because the person with the face covering is presumably female I'm not sure if I feel any less uneasy even if I set aside my dislike for the history and symbology.

There's something very primal and instinctive being triggered being around someone who is covering their face entirely and going about their business. I think it's a different thing during set-aside rituals like weddings or funerals or prayers. There's a context. A lot of cultures do it, not just Christianity or the West.

But all day, every day is curiously unsettling with or without religion - again, even after discarding my own secularist issues with the history and practice.
posted by loquacious at 8:26 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]




Eaxctly. Saudi Arabia is only the tip of the iceberg!


I don't know that I would wear high heels or eyeliner had I not been habituated to do so, but I'm going to wear high heels and eyeliner tomorrow, and I'd be really pissed if someone decided to save me from myself by fining me $150 for wearing makeup and my super-cute shoes, even though there's a case to be made that both things are oppressive. We are all products of socialization. If you are going to legislate away people's choices to save them from their socialization, there's no particular reason to single out the niqab.

There is a BIG difference between your *choice* to wear these things, or not. Yes, some women choose to wear the burqua, but most don't. Also, we could take your argument and to the absurd and say that if we weren't socialized to wear *any* clothing, we'd all be running around stark naked.

The irony here, from your perspective (as I assume you are a woman) is that Western women are not *compelled* to wear high heels. High heels, in fact, are bad for your feet, your knees, and your hips - not to mention a hazard of you're trying to get somewhere really fast, on foot. But again, women in developed countries generally have choice in these matters.

What surprises me, coming from a Western woman, that one could in any way defend a cultural
*requirement* (for the most part) that is so oppressive. Let's face it, in most of Muslim culture - with exceptions for those places where moderate Islam has taken hold - women are chattel, derided, and owned. The burqua is a symbol of the latter, and the sooner that this fucked up "fashion statement" is erased as a cultural artifact, within the borders of Western cultures, who graciously accommodate Islamic culture in other ways, the better.

Women deserve better than being confined to a burqua for a lifetime! Screw that!
posted by Vibrissae at 8:33 PM on September 19, 2011


Today I learned that a niqab is just like a ski mask

For fucks sake


Today I learned that if you want to be lazily dismissive, you reference someone else's thought but strip out the context.

That's not true, actually. I've known that's a popular tactic here and expected someone to do it as soon as I typed it.

If someone earnestly believed that a ski mask in public was prescribed by a higher power for one gender, it would indeed be the same as a niqab-- it would obscure one's face.

You might feel that a fictional analogy is absurd and/or distasteful. Sorry, but there's no way to say "all theistic practices are stupid, and ostentatious displays of one's beliefs do not obligate me to act reverential" without offending someone.

I realize that muslims are often treated predudicially in western society and I am opposed to it. However, if someone elects to advertise that they are very religious through their dress, it is only fair that I can decide how to react to said advertisement. I don't care if it's a cross pendant worn outside clothing or a veil or a pentagram t-shirt. I believe that "overtly religious" equals "insane." This is as least as rational as believing that a being powerful enough to create the universe and everything in it might give women hair and faces and then take exception to their display.

Everyone is entitled to their religious beliefs and it's no one else's business. Until those beliefs are made public. Religious tolerance is a two way street, and if everyone was quiet about religion in public we wouldn't have any problems. No one is obligated to do that, just as I am not obligated to think it's beautiful or even above judgement.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:34 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mmmm, as a former baggy-clothes-wearing adolescent lesbian-feminist, who would have done much more than change my drag for men to leave me alone, I can understand a number of reasons a woman might *choose* of her own initiative not just a veil, but a loose burqa. As long as men feel entitled to interactions with women, regardless of the women's consent, some women will choose different ways of removing or lessening those undesired invasions of their social, emotional, or physical selves. A burqa is very effective as a disguise from public gaze; the veil, further leeching of the wearer's emotional privacy.
No one's mentioned Zoroastian *men* wear veils while officiating at their ceremonies, nor Jains of all genders who wear veils to prevent accidentally killing even tiny beings. While there are relatively few Zoroastrians or Jains in France, does the law apply to them as well - men, women, and others, alike?
So, while folks performing French public service need to avoid overt religious items due to French historical reasons, it's inappropriate for primarily male French legislators to decree what women should wear - as a way of getting back at other men they don't like. Or to force women to literally disrobe, because we are really talking about a law requiring women to strip against their will.
Makes me glad to put on my enormous traditional wool Jewish prayer shawl every morning. Unless I'm in Israel, where it can get me beaten (by civilians) and arrested (by the cops). Hmmmmm.
posted by Dreidl at 8:37 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Let's face it, in most of Muslim culture - with exceptions for those places where moderate Islam has taken hold - women are chattel, derided, and owned.

Are you some kind of authority on "Muslim culture"? If so, where does France fit into this dichotomy of yours?
posted by Hoopo at 8:37 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, some women choose to wear the burqua, but most don't.

What the slack-jawed Dickens?!? How could anyone, possibly, know that?

Further, I'm not really sure what the Saudi Arabia et al has to do with a ban in France. Real women in the actual article talking about the imposed legislation are saying that it's making their lives a lot harder and they chose to wear a niqab or burka. I'm gonna go with them, I think.

But all day, every day is curiously unsettling with or without religion

Well, I guess it comes down to your right not to be unsettled, versus their right to wear what they want, Loquacious. Personally speaking, I don't really feel I have a right not to be unsettled - plenty of things unsettle me like climate skeptics, southern cross tattoos (australian thing, don't ask), and seeing lots of homeless people on the street, but I can't really mount a cogent case that my preferences deserve to be legislated for.
posted by smoke at 8:38 PM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Which is why I still can't fault a women for wanting to wear a niqab to escape the sexual pressure and objectification of what is still a male dominated culture whether it's also religiously motivated or not.

This reminds me of something I found disturbing in the article. The women wearing niqab were still subject to sexual slurs and insults, despite and maybe even because they have explicitly removed themselves from being sexually objectified:

"The last time she was attacked in the street a man and woman punched her in front of her daughter, called her a whore and told her to go back to Afghanistan."

"Before the law, Stephanie would often be called names like "Batman, Zorro, or Ninja" in the street – often by pensioners. Now people favour swear words or sexual insults."


Women just can't win, can we? Wear a miniskirt and a revealing top, and you're a slut. Wear a garment that covers practically every single inch of you, and you're still a whore.
posted by yasaman at 8:40 PM on September 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


B-b-but nuns!!!

When is the last time one of you clowns seen a nun walkin' around in a habit? And last time I checked [probably that bit at the start of the The Blues Brothers movie from 30 years ago] they never had their faces covered.

Stupidest analogy. Evarr.

B-b-but Halloween!

Face palm.

posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:41 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Whether or not you are against the niqab in general is (or should be) entirely irrelevant to whether or not you are against the anti-niqab law.

However, I can imagine all possible combinations of opinion there, including perhaps a small group of people who are both in favour of the niqab (as fundamentalist Muslims) and also in favour of the law (for the radicalising consequences it will clearly have in the Muslim community.)

What is very clear from discussion here and elsewhere is that those people who are both against the niqab in general and in favour of the anti-niqab law in particular are not remotely interested in hearing from Muslim women on the subject.
posted by motty at 8:45 PM on September 19, 2011 [20 favorites]


not remotely interested in hearing from Muslim women on the subject.

But just in case they were, they could add Altmuslimah.com and Muslimahmediawatch.org to their rss feeds.
posted by BinGregory at 9:00 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


What is very clear from discussion here and elsewhere is that those people who are both against the niqab in general and in favour of the anti-niqab law in particular are not remotely interested in hearing from Muslim women on the subject.

This, and this a hundred times.
posted by the cydonian at 9:02 PM on September 19, 2011


This is actually a brilliant move by the French government to bring more muslims into the cultural fold.

Ahmas, 32, French, a divorced single mother of a three-year-old daughter, puts her handbag on the table and takes out a pepper spray and attack alarm.

Stephanie... told the prosecutor it was her choice and refused to stop wearing niqab.

Kenza Drider, a 32-year-old mother of three, was famously bold enough to appear on French television to oppose the law before it came into force. She refuses to take off her niqab – "My husband doesn't dictate what I do, much less the government"


These women are defying authority, proclaiming their fuck-you attitude, and willing to give as good as they take - they've become more French!

And the fact that France is setting them up for harassment and marginalization is would be hilariously ironic if it wasn't so sad.

Stephanie would often be called names like "Batman, Zorro, or Ninja" in the street – often by pensioners.

I've heard "Ninja" and "Darth Vader" regularly - from arabs and secular muslims, deriding veiled women. Although not to their face.
posted by jetsetlag at 9:05 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


i went to a catholic school where atop it lay a cloister with nuns who almost never set foot out of the place. when they did though, they were in full veil.

in spanish catholic tradition (which is extremely different from irish, the dominant form of catholicism in the us), tradition dictates women wear veils for almost every religious event. sure, it isnt practiced as much anymore, but i grew up wearing a mantilla for church --and since i went to a catholic school, i ended up wearing a mantilla at least my first few years in school. later on i chucked it but not before my communion and confirmation where my school used these as a kind of intro for the eventual "bride of god" recruitment spiel we got when we turned 15.

so i really, truly invite people here saying that niqabis are oppressed women with no agency, to take a moment and ponder on the many ways christian (and in my former case, catholic) women are pushed to dress and conform in certain ways by "the patriarchy".

fwiw, am an atheist now.
posted by liza at 9:18 PM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm actually pretty astonished that anyone is arguing that this is a good law that somehow helps women.

We'll begin with the fact that requiring women to wear an requiring them not to wear a particular thing are not very different from each other. In both cases there are largely male authorities directing women how to clothe themselves.

We'll continue with the observation - already made a few times in the thread - that the notion that it's to "help oppressed women" simply does not make any sense. As we can see from the article, it's certainly given a bunch of people an excuse to harass certain women in public. It has further made it more difficult for, for example, a pious muslim woman in a physically abusive relationship to get any help or escape.

A woman in such a situation already faces an almost impossibly herculean task, and the French government has made it harder.

I am so down with fighting against misogyny.
This law does not do that. It pretty much just hurts women.
posted by kavasa at 9:27 PM on September 19, 2011 [9 favorites]


Further, passing laws that criminalize certain aspects of a culture's behavior is truly an awful way to change that culture. Immigrants in a foreign culture already feel isolated, and with good reason. They band together in their own neighborhoods and share community events with each other because that's the safest way to do it. A sincerely welcoming "host" culture will tend to absorb immigrant populations, while laws like the French one simply erect walls around it.
posted by kavasa at 9:30 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


What's the fine for wearing a Halloween mask?

In Virginia 1-5 years in prison for wearing a mask when it is not Halloween or another reason such as a play or masquerade ball.. FreeLance Star
posted by SuzySmith at 9:32 PM on September 19, 2011


The burqua is first and foremost a statement about men "owning" the right to prevent their women from being seen in a way that might tempt other men, because those men are *afraid* of the "competition" (other men). This is what's behind the abhorrent custom of female circumcision.

Your westernized sense of culture is showing.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:34 PM on September 19, 2011


When is the last time one of you clowns seen a nun walkin' around in a habit? And last time I checked [probably that bit at the start of the The Blues Brothers movie from 30 years ago] they never had their faces covered.

In Sydney, World Youth Day 2008. There were stacks of them. Just because you don't see a thing, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Nuns do still wear habits. Fewer than before, but they are still around.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:38 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


...and forces them to wear clothing so oppressive they develop vitamin deficiencies because their faces never touch the sun.

Yeah, everyone's a smarty on here who can use words like "postmodern" and "constitutional" and "paternalistic". BUT every so often...the crazy comes out.

I just caught a glimpse of it.

It was glorious!
posted by hal_c_on at 9:39 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


If the women who wear niqab are being oppressed, then why are they opposed to a law that makes it illegal?
posted by Houstonian at 2:35 AM on September 20


If the women who cannot vote are being oppressed, then why are some of them opposed to the Suffragettes?

It's interesting to me that it's apparently okay for The Guardian to call the French government a laughing stock for bluntly trying to oppose grotesque anti-female cultural practices, but those of us who refer to those practices in similar terms are immediately subjected to all manner of soft-liberal condemnation.

Your westernized sense of culture is showing.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:34 AM on September 20


Oh, nasty old western us for daring to suggest that hey, maybe just sometimes, we're fucking well *right* about something.
posted by Decani at 9:41 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's interesting to me that it's apparently okay for The Guardian to call the French government a laughing stock for bluntly trying to oppose grotesque anti-female cultural practices, but those of us who refer to those practices in similar terms are immediately subjected to all manner of soft-liberal condemnation.

I actually think that it's not intended to be anti-female. It's *intended* to be anti-Muslim. The anti-female ramifications are just a bit of bonus constructive prejudice.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:44 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


i mean, why doesnt this law extend to catholic nuns or hassidic women too?

Nuns typically don't wear habits on a day to day basis, in most of the world, now. They wear them for religious services mainly, and very few nuns ever wore the veil.
posted by SuzySmith at 9:44 PM on September 19, 2011


Oh, nasty old western us for daring to suggest that hey, maybe just sometimes, we're fucking well *right* about something.

Well thats based on the choices you make! Make a good decision and you get to be right about it. These prizes aren't just handed out for willy-nilly answers!

Better luck next time, though.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:52 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


One of the reasons given for the original hijab ban in the schools, besides 'laicite', was the movement of more and more young girls to withdraw from the classroom. I don't think anyone objected to headscarves as such, but increasingly 'modest' dress became the norm in rather weird ways.

When I lived in France, 20 years ago, you couldn't identify anyone's faith by their clothing, at least among people in their teens and 20's. Then, probably at the same time as it happened here, young women started covering, and it became a norm for all Muslim girls to wear hajib. Then, of course, those girls who really wanted to demonstrate a true devotion started to cover more -- long skirts and long sleeves, then jibab or robes, then niquab (in the classroom). And each stage becomes the norm, so any 'good Muslim girl' has to dress to match her peer group.

Once niquab becomes the norm the really devout girls, in order to demonstrate their devotion, need to go further. They start to refuse to accept men as teachers, or boys in the classroom. When they have a male teacher, they sit at the back of the class, facing away from him, and they will not speak to him or answer if spoken to. They, and their parents, demand single-sex classrooms, and single-sex campuses. In an environment like this one, any girl who doesn't cover, or who simply wears the hijab with jeans and t-shirts, is going to be called a whore who is ashamed of her heritage -- by other girls, not by the boys.

This was the environment the headscarf law was trying to fight: you could wear anything you wanted, but you took it off to come to class.

All of these actions are choices, but they are taken in a certain context.
posted by jrochest at 10:03 PM on September 19, 2011 [10 favorites]


If the women who cannot vote are being oppressed, then why are some of them opposed to the Suffragettes?

There is a pretty clear difference between "cannot vote" and "choose to wear niqab." Unless you can show that Muslim women in France are being forced to wear niqab, the analogy is flawed.

It seems contradictory to me to pursue feminist ends using something as grossly paternalistic as a law dictating what women should and shouldn't wear. When someone is oppressed and doesn't know it, you don't come along and force them to change for their own good, you give them the tools to liberate themselves. You can dismantle systems of oppression, but you can't force people to be free.
posted by twirlip at 10:07 PM on September 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


>>When is the last time one of you clowns seen a nun walkin' around in a habit?

>In Sydney, World Youth Day 2008. There were stacks of them.


So, at a special celebration for Catholics? Where the young Catholic faithful and their chaperones of the entire world are invited? Where, I dunno, you might expect a bit of a blip in the radar concerning these things. Over 3 years ago? That's the last time you've seen one?

QED
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:09 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, nasty old western us for daring to suggest that hey, maybe just sometimes, we're fucking well *right* about something.

In this case, the western practice of telling women that they should show as much of their bodies as the majority of men around them want, regardless of how comfortable they are with this practice.

From the original article, there are a few hundred women being targeted by this law. A few hundred. But the impact is to further marginalise and remove from view the Islamic population of France. This has nothing at all to do with "liberating" these women, many of whom have spoken out and said that this particular law makes them more oppressed than they were to begin with!

How is it so hard to actually fucking LISTEN to the voices of the women who are impacted by this law?
posted by Jilder at 10:09 PM on September 19, 2011 [12 favorites]


For what it's worth, I see nuns maybe twice a month, just going about, doing nun stuff I guess, in their habits. This type, to be specific.

But the whole nuns/religious dress thing is a false analogy. This is closer to Christian women who wear long dresses for modesty's sake, of which there are many more, and who do on occasion attract the same sort of derision for their non-mainstream choice of clothes. However, no one is afraid of them for a lack of alien, Persian ways, so no one bothers to legislate against them.
posted by Jilder at 10:13 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, at a special celebration for Catholics? Where the young Catholic faithful and their chaperones of the entire world are invited? Where, I dunno, you might expect a bit of a blip in the radar concerning these things. Over 3 years ago? That's the last time you've seen one?

QED


You asked a question. I answered it. My point was, some nuns still do wear that style of habit. I have no idea what your point was supposed to be.

It's been at least 18 months since the last time I saw a woman in a niqab in Sydney. I see Buddhist monks wearing saffron way more often. It's not like there are hordes of women wearing niqabs in France. it's a tiny minority of a minority.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:20 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]



This was the environment the headscarf law was trying to fight: you could wear anything you wanted, but you took it off to come to class.


jrochest, that comment is very long on anecdote, but very short on facts. Do you have any links to substantiate that any of the points in that narrative? Frankly it seems a bit too tidy to me, and - given only a few hundred French people currently wear full veils to the best of our knowledge - it would seem that the movement you outline failed, and spectacularly so.

Moreover, I don't think that slippery slope argument holds a lot of water. How is legislation against niqab going to prevent calls for unisex schools? I think the causal chain is pretty broken there.
posted by smoke at 10:21 PM on September 19, 2011


Stockholm syndrome.

So, what, Muslim women have no agency?


Well people subject to stockholm syndrome arguably do have agency. Do you know what it is or are you just lashing out?
posted by dibblda at 10:34 PM on September 19, 2011


dibblda: So, Muslim men are kidnappers now?
posted by Jilder at 10:40 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


What is very clear from discussion here and elsewhere is that those people who are both against the niqab in general and in favour of the anti-niqab law in particular are not remotely interested in hearing from Muslim women on the subject

Absolutely the most ironic 'beg the question' statement made on this thread, yet. As if Muslim women - at base - have a real voice in these matters. Muslim women in countries identified as having a strong Muslim theocratic presence - with few exceptions.

And, why do you think that women who wear the burqua in France think it will cause them a problem. Might it be the men in their world who think they own the bodies of those women, and who, within the context of their culture keep half their population from reaching their full potential? Do you have any idea what keeping that half of our culture "in their place" means? Any idea about how that contributes to a birth rate that is EIGHT times the birthrate of average non-Muslim French citizens? Any idea how it contributes to the ongoing ignorance that contributes to the perpetuation of these demeaning customs? And so on.

The question about "what Muslim women think" begs another question about whether Muslim women are largely allowed to think at all, within the context of giving Muslim women the power to control their individual destinies, and further within the context of a culture that relegates them to a position where they are from childhood, rewarded for sublimating themselves to men. That there is even a debate about whether or not a Muslim woman who is raped should be stoned to death is indicative of what I'm talking about.

What do Muslim women think? Largely, they think they are second-class citizens; they are captives in their own culture. It's a cultural version of the Stockholm Syndrome, writ large.

How any woman who calls herself liberated (of a feminist) can defend the culturally instituted law of covering one's body, along with all the other bullshit that applies to women in traditional Muslim culture, is beyond me. To do so is to first, pervert the idea of multiculturalism to a reductio ad absurdum, and second, in this case, to deny the multicultural variables that spring from the French desire to end this abhorrent practice ini their culture.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:03 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bowing out now, because clearly no amount of resubmitting the actual words of actual Muslim women can possibly please the allegedly open minded tolerant folk who have so strongly decided that Muslim women can't have a voice that they can't hear it when it's being screamed directly in their ears.

Check your priveledge and shut the fuck up about what Muslim women want when your idea of what they want is drowning out their own words.
posted by Jilder at 11:06 PM on September 19, 2011 [15 favorites]


Check your priveledge and shut the fuck up about what Muslim women want when your idea of what they want is drowning out their own words.

That's the point; they're not they're own words. Words are influenced by experiential context. Psychological captives say they want all kinds of things, so?

How about check your assumption that what Muslim women say about the burqua comes from a position of power and resolution that has *nothing* to do with the cultural conditioning brainwashing that they are subjected to from birth, onward - or from the conflict that they will have to bear within their family units because the custom of wearing the burqua is "all or nothing", or "not up for discussion", period. Also, check your assumption about *why* women who want to continue wearing the burqua, want to do so, and look into that for further clues about why you are helping to defend the further marginalization of women, worldwide. If you can validate those assumptions, I'll give you a listen; until then, I will support an end to the marginalization of women in Muslim culture.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:15 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is it illegal to wear a Zentai suit too?
posted by destrius at 11:20 PM on September 19, 2011


dibblda: So, Muslim men are kidnappers now?

Don't be naive. Connect the dots. If you are raised as a second class citizen, you may come to think it is the way things should be.

It is the abused apologizing for the abuser much like women who blame themselves when they are beat by their husbands.

Not all Muslim women wear a veil, so clearly in some communities these kind of restrictions on women have relaxed.
posted by dibblda at 11:26 PM on September 19, 2011


Is it illegal to wear a Zentai suit too?

Gah! I don't know, but it should be.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:26 PM on September 19, 2011 [4 favorites]




I live in paris,and people don't really care if some wear head scarves and long sleeved dresses, it's covering the face that is a very unsettling political stance to most people - normal muslims included
posted by hopefulmidlifer at 11:27 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


We get it, Vibrissae, you don't like Muslims.

Oh, I'm sorry, did I just completely dismiss all your arguments? (Moi?!)

Seriously, V, as a feminist I find your ranting offensive. There is a big difference between helping women out of patriarchal prisons and simply raving without compassion. What you seem to be doing -- as someone already pointed out -- is actually promoting male power over women (albeit FRENCH power, which ... is 'better'??). And as for your claim to have a unique ability to discern what other women want (while dismissing what they say) ... may I just say ... patronize much?

Words are influenced by experiential context. Well said. What is your "experiential context"?
posted by Surfurrus at 11:29 PM on September 19, 2011 [15 favorites]


Seriously, V, as a feminist I find your ranting offensive

As I find the subtext of your convenient defense of these abhorrent customs as a bolster your opportunity to lash out at someone you disagree with, in the interest of legitimizing your so-called "feminist" position. Tell you what? How about trading your position of relative privilege for a woman in an Afghan village - one-for-one - and then come back and tell me about your "feminist position" re: the suffering of women in those cultures, and the timing of putting an end to said suffering. Further, what makes you so sure that it is only French men that support this ban? That assumption alone puts your entire hypothesis into question.

My experiential context? Growing up in a culture that is actively making progress toward the full emancipation and freedom of women to obtain their full potential.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:39 PM on September 19, 2011


Any idea about how that contributes to a birth rate that is EIGHT times the birthrate of average non-Muslim French citizens?

Wait, was it this thread were this was debunked as racist claptrap or the one from yesterday? I'm way too depressed to check.
posted by BinGregory at 11:47 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


...thread where this, rather. And the answer is it was yesterday's:

That's the sort of nonsense that makes loonies like Breivik feel like they're the righteous ones. People should not repeat this kind of thing unless they have a better source than a YouTube video. Here are some actual figures from an official report from 2011 (in French, page 29). The figures are from the late 1990s but there's no reason to believe they've changed dramatically. If anything, the figures should be lower since North African countries are in Stage 3 of the demographic transition. For instance, Algeria's fertility rate collapsed in the 1980s and is now at European levels. The highest figures cited in the survey are about 3 and that's for women who arrived as teenagers or older. Immigrant women who arrived as children, and second-generation women from foreign origin have the same rates as women from French origin.

posted by BinGregory at 11:51 PM on September 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


How any woman who calls herself liberated (of a feminist) can defend the culturally instituted law of covering one's body, along with all the other bullshit that applies to women in traditional Muslim culture, is beyond me.

Muslim women don't have to love the burqa to be against the ban.

Reuters article: European push to ban burqas appalls Afghan women.
posted by creeky at 12:00 AM on September 20, 2011


As I find the subtext of your convenient defense of these abhorrent customs as a bolster your opportunity to lash out at someone you disagree with, in the interest of legitimizing your so-called "feminist" position. Tell you what? How about trading your position of relative privilege for a woman in an Afghan village - one-for-one - and then come back and tell me about your "feminist position" re: the suffering of women in those cultures, and the timing of putting an end to said suffering. Further, what makes you so sure that it is only French men that support this ban? That assumption alone puts your entire hypothesis into question.

Vibrasse - Surfurrus has not, at any point in this thread, defended the things you name. So what on earth are you talking about?

Re the 'French men', only 12% (ish) of the French Parliament are women. Therefore, the ban on niquabs has effectively been instituted by men.

Therefore, one set of (French) men is forcing Muslim women to not wear niqabs, and (allegedly) another section of (Muslim) men is forcing Muslim women to wear them. Either act is pretty squarely anti-feminist - the women themselves are not given the choice. Surely you can see that.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:01 AM on September 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


At the same time I feel sorry for the Muslim women who are put in difficult situations because they are forced to wear the burqua. As for those who "choose" to wear the burqua, would they "choose" to do so if they had not been habituated to do so in the first place?

How full of shit are you? Everything you're doing, while seemingly lifting up these "oppressed" women that you're so concerned with, is really just denying them agency. As if they lack the ability make decisions on their own. You concede that some choose to wear the veil but then you can't fucking accept the fact that some did it entirely on their own, without any kind of strong external coercion. God, you must be so liberated and free everything you decide to do comes from a place of deep personal actualization. S'up

Did you even read the fucking article? I'm guessing you didn't. Then you go on to rail about relativism and multiculturalism, which you know, is always super easy way to make yourself sound like another idiot pundit.

If we argue against the ban, it isn't because of multiculturalism, it's because we believe that the government telling individuals, free individuals what to wear doesn't convince them of the wrongness of their decision, it just validates it. Beyond that, free peoples have the right, the fucking right, to wear whatever they want. There's not a whole lot of difference between someone protesting to wear a niqba and the recent Slutwalks that happened this summer. The idea isn't that one way of dressing is better than the others, it's that everyone in a free society has the right (not always the ability) but the fucking right to dress however they want.

Obviously some women are coerced. That's obvious. Some women are also coerced by their husbands into wearing what they want them to wear. But you know, some women like that. And that's cool. Whatever.

But ultimately, you cannot force someone to be free. And it's stupid to fucking try. If someone wants to be in (what you think of as) a prison, then fuck, that really sucks, but usually you have to left people make their own bad decisions. You can be there for them if they wise up but you cannot force them to be free.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 12:07 AM on September 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


And accidentally hit post before I was done editing. I apologize for what must come across as rageful incoherency but it pains me to see anti-Muslim rhetoric hiding behind a false veil (pun?) of feminism.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 12:21 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


it pains me to see anti-Muslim rhetoric hiding behind a false veil (pun?) of feminism.

Elephant is still sitting in the room.

B-b-but hoodies!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:32 AM on September 20, 2011


This feminist is against the anti-niquab law. I don't like niquabs, and I think in time Muslim women will choose to leave them behind. But right now, in 2011, French Muslimas have their religious group pressuring them to wear it to prove that they're pure, government groups pressuring them to leave them so that the general public isn't forced to acknowledge differences in culture, and people on both sides who feel entitled to verbally or physically harrass them no matter what they do. An anti-niquab law is just one more type of opression to add to the pile.

I could understand it being a law that under certain circumstances no-one should be allowed to cover their face (court of law? they have closed courts for some witnesses or victims, which might help). And either way I'd love to see "forcing you to wear specific clothing" become an accepted item of physical or emotional abuse, such that a Muslima forced to wear a niquab (or a burqa or pink scrunchies or whatever) by her husband could seek help for it and be supported.

If you want to see the end of niquabs, the best thing you can do is to make Muslim women feel that they will be safe in public without them. A law that gives cover for bigots to mock them, enables standard street harassers to leer and grope at them like they do to any other woman, and provides an excuse for their families to keep them indoors, does the exact opposite. It's so stupid I can't believe people are defending it.
posted by harriet vane at 12:39 AM on September 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


"Surfurrus has not, at any point in this thread, defended the things you name. So what on earth are you talking about"

Surfurrus is using as subtext a straw woman argument that there is a *correct* way of removing patriarchal constraint, leading to a diversion from the real suffering at hand. I do not agree. In fact, the kind of "sensitivity" presented in Surfurrus argument lends to inaction; the kind of inaction that ends up with being "sensitive" to the "cultural strictures" present in many other parts of the world where women suffer, just because they happen to be women born to medieval societies - whether Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, or whatever.

Therefore, one set of (French) men is forcing Muslim women to not wear niqabs, and (allegedly) another section of (Muslim) men is forcing Muslim women to wear them. Either act is pretty squarely anti-feminist - the women themselves are not given the choice. Surely you can see that.

I want to be sure I understand. So, from a *feminist* perspective, you are claiming that because one set of men favors ending the burqua, and that another set of men demand that the burqua be worn, that women are "not given a choice"? I see this as an all-too-utopian vision of multiculturalism-mixed-with-hypothetical-feminist-ideals-of-a-certain-kind that leads to *inaction*. Where does that leave us? What about the women who, from birth, are not given a choice, and brainwashed into servile relationships to Muslim men? Who are we to say "wait, let's be sensitive to the values that their men created to keep them as servile human beings, without potential". I don't accept that as a valid course of action. Thus, my bias.

It's like arguing that that just because some Southern Blacks preferred their "place" in early 20th century America, while others wanted more freedom to enjoy the fruits of egalitarian Democracy - and that because many white legislators argued against against legalized racism in America to the point where racism was legislated out of legal existence, that "blacks really didn't have a choice". A more extreme case, but well within the context of the argument that you are supporting.

And, just how many French women support the action of the representative French legislature? I don't know, but it appears that there is a near-mandate of European citizens supporting the ban. I'm with them.

To be clear. I don't support some of the penalties in this law. For instance, I don't support keeping women from public transportation; keeping Muslim women from other public services; etc, but I DO support *severe* fines for breaking the law. Muslim men will have to pay those fines, because they keep their women powerless to optimally develop economic independence. btw, French citizens that physically strike out against burqua-wearing women should be arrested for assault. Lines of civilized behavior need to be drawn, and enforced.

Also, this law is not the perfect solution, but it's a start; it's drawing a line in the sand; it's multiculturalism that measures the BASIC mores of the dominant culture against what are the disruptive and non-optimal mores of the minority culture (in this case, the subjugation of women). My hope is that the law will be iterated, to create less 'sturm und drang'. That said, I hope the whole of Western culture keeps the pressure up *in Western societies*, so that we may not contribute to the crimes committed against women by Muslim theocracies just because they happen to be women - especially as they live among us!

I'm out of this thread, because I've made my essential point. Send me MeFi mail if you want to discuss further.
posted by Vibrissae at 12:40 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


You... seem to have an idea of Muslims as a single, cohesive, monolithic group that exists only in your head. I feel very sorry for you and your inability to grasp the intricate nuances of this situation.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 12:43 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


What about the women who, from birth, are not given a choice, and brainwashed into servile relationships to Muslim men?

I have yet to see any evidence that an anti-niquab law will help them become more free and independent. Right cause, totally useless "solution".

Any woman in a servile relationship with a man who will not allow her outdoors without a niquab, and who lives in a country where she is banned from wearing that niquab in public, will simply end up staying indoors. Her oppressive husband won't mind, and the general public won't give a damn. What are her chances of independence then?
posted by harriet vane at 12:46 AM on September 20, 2011


Some women cover because they're forced to, and some do it because they want to. Any feminist reading of this situation needs to acknowledge this fact. People should be allowed to be as modest as they want to be, and if they're forced into being more (or less) modest than they want to be, then the law should be invoked.

It's mind boggling that we're arguing whether the French approach is the right approach when it's pretty obvious that (a) nobody has been fined and (b) it has increased anti-islamic feeling.

I'm no fan of men who tell their wives what to dress (and these exist across cultures), but I'm less of a fan of the outright hostility these women are being subjected to as part of their day to day lives.
posted by seanyboy at 12:52 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


And this whole "muslim women are forced to be servile" meme is insulting, damaging, patently false to anyone who knows any muslims, and just plain lazy.
posted by seanyboy at 12:55 AM on September 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


Oh, shoots, I took too long to 'compose' ... and I doubt anyone wants to see this inane circular arguing continue. I do appreciate the interesting and in-depth ideas of so many here. (and I apologize for my "anti-missionary" button going off so loudly) I just think it is important for Western feminists to be careful before taking on the burdens of the "poor brown women" ... it is worse than patronizing.

And ... our 'experiential context' is important.

For V: You were obscure about your 'context'. That culture you talk about -- the one of 'full emancipation' for women? ... I don't believe it is America. I have lived long enough to say American feminists have made little headway-- and certainly not enough to be leading crusades against other cultures' treatment of women. The world is passing us quickly -- and I won't be surprised to see Muslim women (all those engineers, computer scientists, political theorists, etc.) passing us by as well. If nothing else, they seem to know how to 'pick their battles.'
posted by Surfurrus at 1:00 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, that's a dumb comparison. The Jews were singled out by the state as being Jews. These women are going about as far out of their way as they can go to identify themselves as Muslim.

Yeah, and Germans said they weren't assimilating to German society, and resented that. Much of the resentment centered around some Jews keeping their old religious customs; that was part of being Jewish. It wasn't simply a racial thing.

All the talk about the Muslim immigrants not assimilating to [French/Dutch/German/European/Western] sounds an familiar. It's the same nationalist mentality as drives the English-Only movement in the US, drove anti-Semetism in late 19th century Germany, and drives many other such movements. If you read the kinds of things people are saying to these women, it is obvious these are driven by the same mentality (Telling a French women that she's a whore and to "go back to Afghanistan"? What?). It's vile, and needs to repudiated.

French politicians were warned that the this French ban would cause even worse problems for Muslim women, and lo and behold, that's what happened. Why did the warning go unheeded? Because French politicians care more about some abstract idea about what it means to be French, or some abstract idea about "human dignity", to look at how real women are impacted by their policies. It's very sad.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 2:13 AM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wait, was it this thread were this was debunked as racist claptrap or the one from yesterday? I'm way too depressed to check.


Actually, the one from yesterday debunked the notion that muslim families in France had eight children on average, compared to two children per family on average for non-muslim families. What Vibrissa said was that the Muslim birth rate was eight times greater than the non-muslim birthrate:

Any idea about how that contributes to a birth rate that is EIGHT times the birthrate of average non-Muslim French citizens?

That is, the average Muslim family will have around 16 children, compared with a non-Muslim birth rate of about two. For every childless Muslim family, there's another with 32 children. For every Muslim family with two children, there is one with 30 children. And so on.

At that point I think this ceases to be just claptrap, and becomes full-on sci-fi claptrap, since you probably have to start working on the assumption that Muslims reproduce in a totally different way from non-Muslims.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:37 AM on September 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


Well, this is a difficult one. It's clear from the article that these women want to wear the naqib. And it's hard to see a justification for any law which tells people what they can and cannot wear.

And yet..

It seems to me that this is an issue of conforming to society's norms and expectations. Human communication is said to be only 7% verbal. The rest - body language, facial expression, etc is explicitly hidden by the naqib. If I'm interacting with another human in a public space, I would consider hiding behind the naqib rude. There's a social contract here which the naqib is breaking. When it comes to a battle between religious beliefs and societal norms, religion loses every time. So while I don't think there should be a law against wearing a full naqib, I don't see why the rest of us should accept is as a choice any more than we accept farting in a lift as a lifestyle choice.

I have a much less problem with the burqa - the difference in being able to see another person's face is immense. I don't think anybody could seriously ague that the burqa is insufficient to satisfy the Koran's instruction for woment to dress modestly. If these women want to practice an extreme form of religion, that's their problem, not ours.
posted by salmacis at 4:27 AM on September 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


It seems to me that this is an issue of conforming to society's norms and expectations. Human communication is said to be only 7% verbal. The rest - body language, facial expression, etc is explicitly hidden by the naqib. If I'm interacting with another human in a public space, I would consider hiding behind the naqib rude.
That's interesting. I guess I consider it a pretty basic right to determine how and to what extent I communicate with random strangers. One of the shitty things about being a woman in public is that men sometimes demand that we communicate with them in ways which make us uncomfortable. "Why aren't you smiling? You're so pretty! I bet you have such a pretty smile! Why don't you smile, baby? Oh, come on, baby, why are you looking at me like that? You think you're too good to smile, you stuck up bitch?!" I don't think I should have to smile for people or talk to people or reveal my thoughts to people unless I'm inclined to do so. I'm not public property. If I want to limit my communication to the 7% that is verbal, that's kind of my business.
posted by craichead at 5:10 AM on September 20, 2011 [10 favorites]


There's a social contract here which the naqib is breaking. When it comes to a battle between religious beliefs and societal norms, religion loses every time.

Covering your entire body in public gives you the advantages of being in public, but you get to remain effectively anonymous.

This understandably weirds a lot of people out, given that you have zero expectation of privacy while in public.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:16 AM on September 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


i think your terminology is confused, salmacis. The burqa (which is to say, the Afghan burqa, which is what people generally think of) covers the face, head and body. The naqib, to the best of my knowledge, was the holder of a senior position in the Ottoman Empire's colonial administration of Egypt, and more generally a headman or leader. This role is not to be confused with the hajib, the holder of a senior administrative position in Muslim Spain, which is in turn not to be confused with hijab, a word the exact meaning of, in terms of what it involves wearing, is contested, but which defines the things a Muslim woman should be wearing and means "cover" (as in women of...). I think you mean the niqab (which covers the face) and possibly the khimar (which covers the hair and neck).

Which is facetious, but I think relevant: when you say:

I don't think anybody could seriously ague that the burqa khimar/headscarf is insufficient to satisfy the Koran's instruction for woment to dress modestly.

That is manifestly untrue - people do seriously argue that, and act on that argument. That's kind of where we came in. You can disagree, but to be honest I doubt that either of us are in a good place to do much more than repeat bits of Quranic analysis we found in translation on the Internet. Correct me if I'm wrong, there.

Your argument, then, is that, from your perspective, it's rude to cover your face when interacting with other human beings in a social space, and you don't see a valid reason why Muslim women should want to, since you don't think the Quran tells them to. That's fine, although when I see South-East Asian people wearing facemasks when they have colds, I don't parse that as being rude, but polite - context is important. However, your right to find people who wear veils, or who fart in lifts, rude is not at issue. I think people who wear T-shirts with douchy (to me) slogans on them in public are being rude, but I don't think it should be illegal. I get to decide how to feel about the fratboy in the "boob inspector" T-shirt. I guess I could ask him to take the T-shirt off, or tell him that I think it makes him look like a douche - those are my rights. He then has the right to agree with me, or disagree with me. I actively don't want the law to support me in this dispute.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:16 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


sure it's polite to cover your face with a face mask when you've a cold, but it is not a religious, patriarchal thing and IMO has strictly nothing to do with wearing a niqab
posted by hopefulmidlifer at 5:44 AM on September 20, 2011


That is manifestly untrue - people do seriously argue that, and act on that argument. That's kind of where we came in. You can disagree, but to be honest I doubt that either of us are in a good place to do much more than repeat bits of Quranic analysis we found in translation on the Internet. Correct me if I'm wrong, there.

One of these arguments comes from a French anthropologist (sorry can't find a link) who suggested that the full face and body coverage predates and is not prescribed by the Koran and therefore that this is not a religious habit but a cultural one.

And it's hard to see a justification for any law which tells people what they can and cannot wear.

Let's open that up a bit then. Would you be truly comfortable if we were discussing a group of men who insisted on wearing stocking masks in public? Logically, there's no difference between that and the full face and body coverage for women thing, and the French prize nothing if not logic.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:50 AM on September 20, 2011


Sorry, if I confused the correct terminology. I did of course mean "niqab", not "naqib". I did not mean "headscarf" when I said "burqa" though. From wikipedia it appears that jilbab + hajib is correct.

At some logical point, there is a limit to religious expression. If there was a religious sect that considered the wearing of any clothes at all to be sinful, should they be prosecuted under decency laws? And if not, why should anybody else have to follow those laws? Do we allow Rastafarians to openly use cannabis?

If women want to wear the niqab, that is their prerogative. From my perspective I consider keeping a barrier up between me and the person I'm interacting with as trying to have your cake and eat it. You can see me, but I can't see you.

The frat boy in a "boob inspector" t-shirt is a great example. By all means I respect his right to wear that t-shirt, but in equal measure, he must respect my right to judge him on that t-shirt. That's exactly how I feel about the niqab. I think I've already made it clear I don't support a law banning it.
posted by salmacis at 6:11 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


One of these arguments comes from a French anthropologist (sorry can't find a link) who suggested that the full face and body coverage predates and is not prescribed by the Koran

No! Next they'll be suggesting that people made pilgrimages to Mecca before the Prophet showed up! And this in turn is about as earth-shattering as suggesting to a christian that the Last Supper was a Jewish sabbath meal. Where would we be without French anthropologists?
posted by BinGregory at 6:13 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of these arguments comes from a French anthropologist (sorry can't find a link) who suggested that the full face and body coverage predates and is not prescribed by the Koran and therefore that this is not a religious habit but a cultural one.

Oddly enough, that only makes sense if you believe that religions are some kind of special revelation, completely unconnected to the culture they arise in. That is, if you are a religious fundamentalist.

Religion is not separable from culture.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 6:21 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


"...hajib is correct"

? It's hijab. حجاب
posted by HopperFan at 6:22 AM on September 20, 2011


salmacis I think I've already made it clear I don't support a law banning it.

Really? I mean, I guess that what you mean is that for you a niqab is equivalent to a slogan T-shirt - anyone can wear it, and you have the right to judge them for it. Which is fine. Except in the same post you've said:
If there was a religious sect that considered the wearing of any clothes at all to be sinful, should they be prosecuted under decency laws? And if not, why should anybody else have to follow those laws? Do we allow Rastafarians to openly use cannabis?
It might be worth working out whether you believe wearing a veil in public to be equivalent to a) public nudity, b) public consumption of a proscribed substance or c) public wearing of a slogan T-shirt. These are different things, and have different legal and social statuses. For example, somebody whose religion insisted that they wore no clothes would be basically OK in Oregon, as would someone who just didn't like wearing clothes. If you don't think wearing the veil is like either public nudity or public consumption of a proscribed substance, I'm not sure how useful it would be to talk about them, although we certainly could...

IndigoJones: One of these arguments comes from a French anthropologist (sorry can't find a link) who suggested that the full face and body coverage predates and is not prescribed by the Koran and therefore that this is not a religious habit but a cultural one.

So, when I said:
I doubt that either of us are in a good place to do much more than repeat bits of Quranic analysis we found in translation on the Internet.
I did miss one obvious possibility - repeating bits of Quranic or other analysis we found in translation from French on the Internet but cannot find at the moment. My bad.

But that's OK - we can wrap this up pretty easily. There is an ongoing discussion within and without the Muslim community about whether wearing a veil and headscarf is religiously mandatory, religiously encouraged or simply cultural, and analysis of the Quran and the Hadith is a part of this ongoing discussion. It would obviously be super convenient if this was decided conclusively to be cultural, and that everyone agreed that a) it was voluntary as well as cultural and b) they didn't want to do it, but this is not going to happen, whether culturally or structurally (there is no single person who can make this edict, as the Pope made it OK not to eat fish on Fridays).

Regarding:
Would you be truly comfortable if we were discussing a group of men who insisted on wearing stocking masks in public?
Well, there's comfort and there's freedom. When Giuliani wanted to use an unused edict left on the books prohibiting marching in masks to stop the Klan marching in New York, the ACLU had to grit their teeth and go in to bat for the Klan. I think Americans are OK to wear masks in public in most situations, although they generally choose not to.

If you're asking if I'd be comfortable - well, if I were in a bank or a liquor store and a group of men in stocking masks walked in, I'd be uncomfortable, which is one reason why banks tend to refuse entry to people in facemasks, ski masks, motorcycle helmets and the like - which is their right. If a gang of men walk into a bank in stocking masks, the odds are good that they are bank robbers. I am generally not as frightened of Muslim women in public as I am of bank robbers in banks, so that's a different situation.

However, you raise a broader question, which is about comfort, which is where you and salmacis sort of dovetail. salmacis appears to believe that one should not give members of religious groups specific exemption from the law, but that one should also not legislate on the grounds of comfort. Are you saying that one should legislate on the grounds of comfort? And, if so, whose?
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:43 AM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


running order squabble fest, that comment of mine you quoted was merely a rebuttal to an argument further up that we should tolerate the niqab simply because it is religious expression, and everybody should have the right to express their religion.
posted by salmacis at 6:49 AM on September 20, 2011


Ah, OK, salmacis - thanks for the explanation.

I think it's problematic to use either of those examples, though, because whereas there are existing laws about public nudity on most statutes (legal in Oregon if there is no intent to arouse - presumably yourself or anyone else, so a naked Sufi would be OK as long as he wasn't dancing sexy) and likewise laws about cannabis smoking, the law about facial coverings was brought in specifically to address the veil. That's a different situation, I think, than the First Church of Mola Ram setting up in Williamsburg, NY.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:58 AM on September 20, 2011


After Belgium and France
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/02/italy-muslim-burqa-ban_n_916104.html
posted by hopefulmidlifer at 7:05 AM on September 20, 2011


This law and those who attack these women sicken me. Wny do people care so much about what other people do?
posted by agregoli at 7:08 AM on September 20, 2011


"Once again, I find myself not having sympathy for any parties involved. This French approach is simply antithetical to my American sensibilities. On the other hand, I just can't relate at all to these women, and I can see why French people don't like the niqab."

If you really care about freedom and equality, you should move beyond the question of what kind of people you can "relate" too. The test of your principles is whether you can apply them to people you don't even like at all, who are making what you think are bad choices.

(Note: Alizaria = Ann Althouse.)
posted by Alizaria at 7:09 AM on September 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


> Check your priveledge and shut the fuck up about what Muslim women want when your idea of what they want is drowning out their own words.

That's the point; they're not they're own words.


You've gone around to each of these women and done a personal examination of their mental states which would allow you to ascertain the sincerity of all they say?

Wow, you work fast, how are you able to post here?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:03 AM on September 20, 2011


Yesterday, on that other thread, I mentioned that most burqa/niqab-wearing women here are converts, who have freely chosen to cover themselves. It seems to be the same in France, as does the relative number of women. So it has absolutely nothing to do with the situations in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan. Nothing, except that these western women chose through their style of dress to support opressive regimes in other countries. Now, I think that is offensive and stupid. Or, as a former glamour model I once knew put it: that is a kinky lifestyle thing, disguised as religion. Like those quiverfull people. Yuck.
BUT: my basic value system tells me I should defend their right to be obnoxious with my life. So I guess that's what I have to do. (In practice, some smart people here ended our local burqa debate with jokes, much smarter than crusading).
posted by mumimor at 8:40 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Poet_Lariat: " The women there didn't seem to mind at all really because that;s the way it's been done their whole life and that;s the way they've been raised to do it. I'll bet that most of them would argue very strongly for the need to sit behind a screen as second class citizens of the congregation."

As a non-Orthodox Jew who self-identifies as Conservative even though I'm not particularly religious or observant, I used to find the Orthodox segregation and gender role separations appalling and demeaning to women. Then I became friends with a number of Modern Orthodox Jewish couples, many of whom chose to become Orthodox in adulthood. This subject has come up frequently in our discussions, for a lot of reasons.

There is a great deal I don't know about Orthodox communities and lifestyle. But I can tell you that in my experience, the women who choose to become Orthodox as adults do not think of themselves as embracing "second class citizenship." They would not consider themselves indoctrinated, brainwashed or manipulated. They weren't kidnapped. They entered into a specific lifestyle with full awareness. Open eyes, minds and hearts. They knew exactly what they were getting into. They had a choice.

This distinction matters a great deal in how we look at their respective situations.

In discussions, I have been told my friends find comfort in ritual and in tradition. Some Modern Orthodox families maintain a rather conservative structure -- the dad works, the mom stays home with the kids. But for the couples I am friendly with, both the husband and wife work. My understanding is that many of them like the deeper sense of a close-knit family that is created by more sharply-defined structures. They see romance in specified gender roles and in expressions of public modesty. They are happier with what they feel is a more predictable, less chaotic life than that lived by the non-Orthodox. For well or ill, they know their neighbors and trust their friends. They have a genuine sense of community, which to them, carries with it a variety of benefits.

Worth noting that many of these are general reasons why people embrace religion to begin with.

This is not to deny that in some ways the Orthodox lifestyle is offensively sexist. It is. it is absolutely not egalitarian by design. But the question of whether or not it is oppressive to women is a heck of a lot more complex than 'those poor clueless women are brainwashed and don't know any better.'
posted by zarq at 8:44 AM on September 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


To the thread: If you have not been a religious Muslim woman in a traditional environment then ultimately you do not know their lived experiences. If you bothered to read the article, there are religious Muslim women who are explaining themselves to you.

Their words should not be dismissed because you assume you know better.

For many of you, and especially the self-identified feminists here (of which I count myself one!) who are asserting that you know better than they do what is good for them, I strongly suggest that you read the article. If we value them and respect them, do we not have a responsibility to listen?

Your intentions are honorable and good, I'm sure. We all want to protect women from oppression and unjust treatment. But as mentioned throughout this thread by many eloquent people, the right to choose and be respected and treated as equals has been an ongoing battle for a couple of generations now, across many issues. The right to choose is vital for self-sufficiency and equality.

You say they are being forced. Well, there are several women in the article who say they aren't. Do you know for sure how representative they are of the greater female Muslim population?

If not, don't assume.
posted by zarq at 8:45 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sweet blistering Jesus, there's a lot of ignorance going on here. Bottom line, women--and men--should be allowed to wear what they want, regardless of why they want to wear it. I think Amish men are oppressed because they can't wear shorts and always have to wear black pants with suspenders and a hat. If a Muslim woman wants to wear a burqa because she thinks it's the right thing to do because she was brought up that way...who the fuck cares? Yes, she might be oppressed. But maybe she's not. You don't know and shouldn't presume.

However...the Saudis systematic oppression of women is criminal. If they didn't let blacks drive or vote or go about unaccompanied by a family member, we wouldn't do any trade with them and we would be drilling like a maniac up in Alaska for oil instead of buying it from the Royals. But women as second class citizens? Hey, that's ok. BULLSHIT.
posted by Kokopuff at 8:56 AM on September 20, 2011


I look forward to a law banning one-piece swimsuits or forbidding women from wearing long skirts. After all, if culture dictates that you must show your body, then you must--and if you don't like it, you're brainwashed.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:02 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sweet blistering Jesus, there's a lot of ignorance going on here

No, Kokopuff, there's a lot of different opinions. Some of which may be ignorant.
posted by salmacis at 9:08 AM on September 20, 2011


The elephant in the room that no one is discussing here is this can be used as a disguise.

Very recent trial in Australia where it got "thrown out" due to the Muslim lady defendant being in disguise the whole time of the police videotape / eyewitness testimonies.

So, uncanny hengeman, your opinion is that France is only protecting its self-interests in fighting crime? Or that people dressed in niqab commit a lot of crimes that go unpunished?

Methinks your elephant could be housed in a dog carrier. With room to spare.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:22 AM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


One of these arguments comes from a French anthropologist (sorry can't find a link) who suggested that the full face and body coverage predates and is not prescribed by the Koran and therefore that this is not a religious habit but a cultural one.

Here is a video from Ted by, Mustafa Akyol the deputy editor of the Turkish Daily News, that goes into more detail about the cultural vs religious origins of the gender issues in Islam:

Mustafa Akyol: Faith versus tradition in Islam
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:29 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Like others I am torn, I don't think that this law should exist, but then again I don't like speaking to someone who is wearing a veil. I don't know why I don't like it but I feel odd when someone covered in head to toe black wanders by and it irks me. They should be allowed to do that, in an ideal world, but I fear for their own equal access to things in the non-ideal world.

We already allow some government intrusion into what is and isn't allowed to wear, and this law is coming down on the other side than most of the decency laws. I understand that these 4 examples choose to wear the veil and cover their face. Culturally they look at it and are able to see empowerment out of it, but when I look at it all I see is subjugation. In reality we are both right and it can both be empowering and also a tool for subjugation which is why this question is so hard to get to a consensus.

As a society how much room should be made for a minority? Wandering around on the street wearing whatever you want sounds good, but what about being able to testify without proving your identity. Allowing someone to not remove their veil could possibly fall afoul of the sixth amendment of the constitution the confrontation clause.

So just as people should have the right to wear whatever they want, likewise there should be sane limits on those rights where the anonymity bestowed by a skimask, full face shield or a veil has to be broken where it would impinge on someone elses rights. What do those women have on their drivers license or other state ID card? With all the rules I had to follow to send in a passport photo I certainly couldn't be wearing a veil.

So I guess I think that in essence people should be allowed to wear whatever they want, except when they shouldn't be allowed to wear whatever they want. Sounds about as clear as mud to me.
posted by koolkat at 9:46 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


For those saying this is anti-Muslim, you're right! However, what if aliens flew down to Earth wanting to become part of our society. I imagine we'd have plenty of laws that were specific to them and their 'backwards ways'. (District 9)
posted by weezy at 9:47 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a society how much room should be made for a minority?

Isn't it time we give up the idea of 'majority rule' -- taking a vote on things such as this only give a small number of people the rule over the (usually resentful) losers who had valid reason to argue their views in the first place. Reconciliation is a better process. We first have to reconcile ourselves to not getting what WE want all the time. Laws are not about 'comfort' - they are about safely and justly sharing space in society.

Women are oppressed and abused. I support laws against oppressors -- even boycotts and international campaigns ... this law is not against the oppressors. It does not even address anything about abuse against women; it does not address men at all. It is a law against women.

It is not our place to put laws on a woman, "FOR HER OWN GOOD"
posted by Surfurrus at 10:09 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


France is a country where there is separation of state and religion and I don't think you can expect a secular state like France to accept a woman in full Niqab to teach in a public school for example
posted by hopefulmidlifer at 10:32 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're a little behind, hopefulmidlifer. We were stopping women in niqabs teaching in public schools a while back. We're stopping them on the street now.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:36 AM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


My experiential context? Growing up in a culture that is actively making progress toward the full emancipation and freedom of women to obtain their full potential.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:39 PM on September 19 [+] [!]


No. You're wrong. You have grown up in a deeply paternalistic society that believes you belong on the kitchen, or on top of the table shaking your juicy bits.

If you believe anything else, I'm going to say you are a victim to stockholm syndrome. I heard it used once in the press, and now I push that on anybody who doesn't believe things about them self that I believe about them.

Good luck with that.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:42 AM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not advocating for majority rule Surfurrus I am more wondering how far people should go to allow the whims of a minority, a very small minority at that. I don't care what people wear, but if I had a choice to hire someone who was in a veil and refused to show their face it would cross my mind whether they were the correct person for a customer facing role.

It is similar with people not learning the language while living in a foriegn country. It is fine if you want to limit yourself, but don't expect the majority to bend to your will. You will have issues trying to get a job and also probably finding required governmental documents that you will need to use. Should the government provide documents in all of the worlds documented languages? What about when there are only 2 people who speak that language? How far down the rabbit hole of acceptance do you go?

In my mind you should let people do what they want provided it doesn't impact other people and provided thay are allowed to live with the consequences.
posted by koolkat at 10:46 AM on September 20, 2011


so how many women wear full niqab in the US ?
posted by hopefulmidlifer at 10:52 AM on September 20, 2011


What about when there are only 2 people who speak that language? How far down the rabbit hole of acceptance do you go?

Lol. Your hypothetical is absurd. If you're going to scaremonger you're going to have to try harder.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 10:58 AM on September 20, 2011


I used to live in Queens and was surrounded daily by people who wore various forms of traditional clothing, from full veils to those sweatpants with words on the ass. They spoke numerous languages, many of which I did not understand. It did not affect me in the least. I see no reason why it would.

If only two people can speak a language...who cares? Being annoyed by something is not enough of a reason to fine anyone or ban something.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:05 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Newsflash:


Absurd hypothetical situation specifically chosen for its absurdity is absurd.

More at 11.
posted by koolkat at 11:05 AM on September 20, 2011


I am more wondering how far people should go to allow the whims of a minority, a very small minority at that

But they're just walking down the street. Eating at a cafe. Lying on the sand at the beach. And being beaten in front of their children, cursed, pointed at, surrounded by cops. According to the women in the article, there has been a significant increase in violence and antipathy since the implementation of the law. How can the French hold their culture and laws as superior when they sanction behaving in this way? It's amazingly hypocritical.

And for the people who "understand" the law on feminist or humanitarian grounds, what about Belgium making the wearing of the niqab an offense punishable by prison?

This reminds me very much of the intense and widespread European discrimination against the Roma, which France has been right in the middle of propagating.
posted by Danila at 11:07 AM on September 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm not advocating for majority rule Surfurrus I am more wondering how far people should go to allow the whims of a minority, a very small minority at that.


"If we do not believe in freedom of speech for those we despise we do not believe in it at all." - Noam Chomsky

I would extend that to freedom of expression (dress, language and culture) -- so long as it is not hurting anyone else (and personal offense or discomfort is not "hurt"). I do not see this "anti-Muslim woman" law as protecting any freedoms, but as denying them.

People who chose to be different do live with the social consequences. It is government's duty to protect them from physical and economic harm just the same -- it is the government's duty to ensure equitable treatment for all.

I do not see the government doing this for these women. The title of this thread is apt ... the French are saying, " If these people do not conform, they deserve to be harmed (as were others who did not conform)." I find it mind-boggling that anyone can defend this. This is a regressive, ignorant and barbaric law.
posted by Surfurrus at 11:25 AM on September 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


If France's true concern is about the rights and freedoms of women, the government should spend all their efforts addressing the human trafficking and sex slavery of women and children, which exist in vastly larger numbers than women wearing niqabs or burqas against their will.

France is a destination country for women and girls trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation from Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and Malaysia and other Asian countries. Men, women and children continued to be trafficked for the purposes of forced labor, including domestic servitude, many from Africa. Often their "employers" are diplomats who enjoy diplomatic immunity, including those from Saudi Arabia. The government estimates that of the 15,000 to 18,000 women in France's commercial sex trade, the majority – possibly 10,000 to 12,000 – are likely victims of sex trafficking.

But this is dog-hard work that requires significant expenditures of money and personnel against a hydra-headed criminal element with an ever-renewable source of victims – none of which is typically sound-bitetastic, and which doesn't give conservative voters the same thrill as outlawing items of clothing worn by a few of the unpopular minority.
posted by taz at 11:49 AM on September 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


this is not a dress code but religious extremism
posted by hopefulmidlifer at 11:51 AM on September 20, 2011


Oh well, I'm pretty sure that the laws and expulsions the Roma are facing are completely justified because they oppress their women or have weird purity laws. Just ask Vibrissae; she'll tell you why we shouldn't listen to the Rom's complaints, because they are victims of their society.

Also we should thank her in advance; when the muslims start getting put in camps and murdered en masse in the streets, Vibrissae and friends will be there to tell us how it is necessary for social justice.

That's ultimately why social liberalism always falls in the face of authoritarianism; there's always liberals who tell us we need the authoritarianism for the sake of their liberal ideals.
posted by happyroach at 12:12 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


so how many women wear full niqab in the US ?
Do you want a number? I don't think anyone keeps track of that. I would say very few, but some. I know there's at least one woman in my town who wears a veil that covers her face, because I see her in the grocery store sometimes. It's definitely not a common practice here, though, which as I understand it is also true in France.
posted by craichead at 12:16 PM on September 20, 2011


Do you want a number?

Thanks, I was just wondering if it existed in the USA
it's not an important number here but it's also not something people are used to

A lot of muslim women wear headscarfs but not the full emirates niqab.
The muslim women I work with in my hospital remove theur headscarfs at the hospital and put them back on when they go home

I am totally against the french govt's stance re the Roma as are many people here in France, it's quite evident they are pandering to extreme right
posted by hopefulmidlifer at 12:35 PM on September 20, 2011


happyroach: " Also we should thank her in advance; when the muslims start getting put in camps and murdered en masse in the streets, Vibrissae and friends will be there to tell us how it is necessary for social justice."

Ugh. Can we not do this, please? You're taking what she said to a really disturbing conclusion.
posted by zarq at 12:39 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh well, I'm pretty sure that the laws and expulsions the Roma are facing are completely justified because they oppress their women or have weird purity laws.

Yeah, the reason I thought of and brought up the Roma is the oft-repeated justification that they don't make the effort to fit in with the dominant culture and this justifies the ill-treatment.

Another similarity is the propensity of politicians to use xenophobia and anti-ethnic rhetoric in order to raise their own popularity. “I don't think Sarkozy is a racist, but he is using the Roma to raise his popularity,” says Florin Cioaba, Romania's self-styled “King of all Gypsies.” The politicians are just moving from one target to another, stoking the fires of race hatred and encouraging division. They're not doing it because they care and they're getting exactly the results that they want. It just seems so obvious to me that I feel I must be missing something.

so how many women wear full niqab in the US ?

I don't know, just have anecdotal experience. I live near several significant Muslim communities and went to school with Muslim girls and boys. I probably see the full garb more than most who are more segregated from these communities, but it's still not very common. Still, common enough that I am not uncomfortable with it at all.
posted by Danila at 12:39 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


helpful minder, it depends very much where you are. For most places in the US, people likely have never seen anyone wearing a niqab. There are maybe two or three women that I've seen in my city (Minneapolis, where most of the Muslim community is Somali), but I imagine there are people here who don't often see someone wearing a headscarf, never mind one of the not even a dozen (at the high end) of women who wear a niqab. But women aren't expected to remove headscarves at work here. I think they're incorporated in Target's dress code, for instance--every Target employee with a headscarf has one in red, khaki or maybe black. (The Target uniform is khaki trousers and a red polo shirt, for the most part.)
posted by hoyland at 12:49 PM on September 20, 2011


I'll say here what I said in the previous thread: if the intent of this law was really to preserve the dignity and gender equality of women, it would not then subject those women to potential fines and imprisonment. If the purpose of this law was to defend women from religious and social coercion, it would not jail them for being "coerced".

What this law has done instead is to declare open season on Muslim women in France. Far from providing Muslim women with an aversive shield against coercion, it has instead granted social legitimacy to bias violence under the guise of legal remedy. Is there any other circumstance in which we would observe that a law emboldened men into punching women in the middle of the street and then suggest that that law was well-conceived? How can you explain the women who wear the niqab in defiance of a law that is supposedly designed to protect them? How do you explain their steadfast determination to do so, in the face of harassment, violence, and prison? In any other context, those women would be seen as a noble resistance. How do you explain that all of the harassment and violence we see in relationship to this law is directed at women, and not at the men who are purportedly coercing them to disobey the authorities?

No, this law advances no freedoms and removes protections. It provokes vigilante action and discrimination. It may liberate some women, but at the cost of exposing others to violent retribution for no crime that can be identified to have a target or victim. It's a bad law.
posted by Errant at 1:06 PM on September 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


Errant, I think V. and friends have already established that these women lack agency under a Stockholm Syndrome thing, so they aren't properly adult humans at all. Like children then, any amount of legal violence against the men perpetrating their oppression isjustified for their own good. And if we forcibly send them off to camps to be re-educated in proper western liberal values, why we can ignore their screams, because they don't know any better.

They'll thank us for it eventually. Just like the American indians thank us still for our schools.

Anyone want to start a chant of "Save the Woman, kill the Muslim?“
posted by happyroach at 1:42 PM on September 20, 2011


I don't accept that these women do lack agency, but let's say for purpose of argument that they do. This law doesn't give it to them, it just punishes them for not having it and provides social justification for violence against them on the basis of their lack of agency. Even if you believe that these women have no recourse or ability to speak for themselves, this law still doesn't help them.

I am in no way qualified to speak about the various forms of Muslim culture, the relative power or powerlessness of women therein, or the complicated intersection of Muslim faith and secular society. I can say that this law is an attempt to not have that conversation at all, and it elects to punish women in order to avoid the messy and fraught social discourse. I have nowhere near enough information to be able to speak intelligently about the role of the burqa or niqab in a multicultural society, but I can say that that role cannot simply be legislated away.
posted by Errant at 1:53 PM on September 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


I did miss one obvious possibility - repeating bits of Quranic or other analysis we found in translation from French on the Internet but cannot find at the moment. My bad.

Actually, it was more an academic journal by an Islamic scholar and it was in French, not translated, but long enough ago that memory and googlefoo fails me. My bad.

Well, there's comfort and there's freedom. When Giuliani wanted to use an unused edict left on the books prohibiting marching in masks to stop the Klan marching in New York, the ACLU had to grit their teeth and go in to bat for the Klan. I think Americans are OK to wear masks in public in most situations, although they generally choose not to.

If you're asking if I'd be comfortable - well, if I were in a bank or a liquor store and a group of men in stocking masks walked in, I'd be uncomfortable, which is one reason why banks tend to refuse entry to people in facemasks, ski masks, motorcycle helmets and the like - which is their right. If a gang of men walk into a bank in stocking masks, the odds are good that they are bank robbers. I am generally not as frightened of Muslim women in public as I am of bank robbers in banks, so that's a different situation.

However, you raise a broader question, which is about comfort, which is where you and salmacis sort of dovetail. salmacis appears to believe that one should not give members of religious groups specific exemption from the law, but that one should also not legislate on the grounds of comfort. Are you saying that one should legislate on the grounds of comfort? And, if so, whose?


I'd argue the two are not comparable. Carnival parades and Klan Marches tend to be well policed and are in any event fairly rare events. We're talking an everyday practice here without more or less constant supervision.

I used the word comfort comfort perhaps too loosely and chiefly for the sake of argument. Perhaps I should have stuck to the original question, which was could it be justified. Answer - sure. No problem. Bank robbers. I changed the word to comfort in hopes that ya'll might consider a small tweak in the hypothetical, as you did. Banks should be allowed to deny service to hooded men.*

Next question - should the bank/liquor store/jewelry store be able to deny fully shrouded Muslim women as well? Seems like a clear yes.

Next step becomes, do we deny men from wearing ski masks off the slopes? What if they claim it as a religious necessity? How far are we willing to stretch a point?

Look carefully and you will notice that I came down on no side in this question. It is an interesting question and raises many other interesting questions, but as I am not an islamic scholar nor legislator nor judge, I'm reluctant to go too dogmatic one way or the other. Given all the questions.

That said, I tend to be a strong believe in equal justice, and I tend to be skeptical of any kind of religious extremism.

(NB as well, at least one of the women interviewed was not to the burqa born, but an ethnic Frenchwoman who converted. Which raises other interesting questions on culture vs faith. Or "faith".)

*(Not too many burqa clad women in liquor stores, and perhaps given the Muslim take on interest, perhaps not in western banks either.)
posted by IndigoJones at 3:01 PM on September 20, 2011


Errant, you lack the proper "ends justify the means" attitude to appreciate that created successes like indian reservations and Struggle Sessions. Sometimes you need to give up on a few basic concepts of feminism to make the targets Feminists Just Like Us.
posted by happyroach at 3:05 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


happyroach, you appear to be attempting to bait me into some conclusion you've already reached about feminism or its hypocrisies. Would you like to just say whatever it is you have to say instead of using my comments as a proxy vote for your position?
posted by Errant at 3:30 PM on September 20, 2011


Next step becomes, do we deny men from wearing ski masks off the slopes?

Would those be the slippery slopes, by any chance?
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:46 PM on September 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I probably see the full garb more than most who are more segregated from these communities, but it's still not very common. Still, common enough that I am not uncomfortable with it at all.

If you are uncomfortable with it, don't do it. No one is forcing you to stare at a burka -- let alone wear one.

As an aside ... a few years ago I was enjoying my favorite swim spot on O'ahu - way out where the waves were too rough for most people. A family showed up on the beach -- the women clad in high neck, long sleeved, shirt with tunic top, head-covered Muslim dress. I watched the children frolic in the shore waves and felt sorry for the mothers. Then one plunged in. She was the older mother in neon pink. She swam out to me and I was bursting with delight. What a strong swimmer! Such joy in the water! We didn't speak, just laughed and shared the smugness of being the baddest-ass women in the water that day. That was the first time I ever heard of a burkini. These women aren't going to miss anything.
posted by Surfurrus at 3:57 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whoops, sorry, Danila -- I didn't mean to say YOU are uncomfortable with niqab/burkas -- that should read "If anyone is uncomfortable ..."
posted by Surfurrus at 4:00 PM on September 20, 2011


1. Banning hijabs solves no problems for oppressed women. If you believe otherwise, I'd like to see some evidence of that.

2. Laws shouldn't be made based on our discomfort, they should be based on solid principles of justice and equality. Otherwise we'd have to let all the people who think gay sex is icky write the laws about what gay people can and can't do. Don't like gay sex? Don't do it. Think wearing niquabs is rude? Don't wear one. You don't get to dictate what other people do just because you're a majority.

So what's the reason for banning them then? I believe it's because the French government doesn't know how to deal with the very real issues of cultural integration, so they're looking for cheap bandaids that will go over well with stupid voters.
posted by harriet vane at 10:04 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually Errant, I've got nothing to say about feminism, because once V. and company said Muslim women were lying about their motivations (shades of "Bitches lie when they cry rape!"), it had nothing to do with feminism. It doesn't really matter what the excuses are, as long as it serves the need for fear, hatred, and cultural domination. There's all kinds of excuses followers can make when the totalitarians call, and it's part of LePen, Sarkozy and Co's genius or luck that they picked a great target in a minority that is disliked, isolated, and has traits that "enlightened" Westerners find problematic at best. It's no wonder that there's so many self-proclaimed liberals dancing with the right-wing.

Maybe we'll be lucky and it won't get much worse, but I doubt it. Maybe in 50 years V. will stammer and claim she never thought things would go so far. Or maybe she'll be cheering on the air strikes against Turkey "for the sake of the oppressed women. These day's I can't muster much optimism for the first two scenarios.
posted by happyroach at 10:05 PM on September 20, 2011


[few comments removed - if you can't handle civil discourse you are more than welcome to go elsewhere, thanks]
posted by jessamyn at 10:23 PM on September 20, 2011


I've recently come back from Malaysia. Niqab wearers have the most amazing shoes, painted toenails, eye makeup, eyelashes, and manicured fingernails I've ever seen.

Especially the eyes. They absolutely nail the eyes. Just beautiful.


Flagged as utter fantasy. Niqab wearers are only slightly more common in Malaysia than in France, so seeing them in the plural on a business or holiday visit is already very unlikely, unless you were covering a PAS convention in Kelantan. Then, Niqab wearers in Malaysia, unlike what one might find in the Gulf, are very religious. I have yet to see one wearing eye makeup and I've been here 10 years. But the most obvious delusion here is the fantasy of painted toenails. A woman's feet are far more widely recognized as part of her aurat by observant muslim women than the face - devout women who do not wear the niqab will still wear stockings in public. Moreover, nail polish invalidates the ablution. This is a total fabrication. Except maybe the going to Malaysia part, I can't speak to that.
posted by BinGregory at 11:30 PM on September 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maybe in 50 years V. will stammer and claim she never thought things would go so far. Or maybe she'll be cheering on the air strikes against Turkey "for the sake of the oppressed women

thinks.....and maybe in 50 years time the US will be run by crazy gun wielding creationist bigots !
posted by hopefulmidlifer at 11:41 PM on September 20, 2011


This is a total fabrication. Except maybe the going to Malaysia part, I can't speak to that.

The fuck, dude?

Unless you're getting into some semantic argument over my use of the word "niqab" which was a copy'n'paste job from this thread. The thing that covers their entire face, but with a slot for their eyes. Whatver that's called.

And the neck-to-ankle black robe... with, like, ornate open-toed shoes with heels and perfectly painted toenails etc.

I saw a number of women dressed like that.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:53 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


You mean, tourists? Here I went and assumed you were talking about the Malaysians you saw in Malaysia.
posted by BinGregory at 12:02 AM on September 21, 2011


OK, that clears that up! I agree, my guess was that they were Arabs on holidays.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:05 AM on September 21, 2011


Mm, yes. Kuala Lumpur does get a huge number of tourists from the Gulf. God knows they can't visit Paris and be treated with respect.
posted by BinGregory at 12:10 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


That said - if you're back, uncanny hengeman, can we get a cite on:

> Very recent trial in Australia where it got "thrown out" due to the Muslim lady defendant being in disguise the whole time of the police videotape / eyewitness testimonies.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:43 AM on September 21, 2011


The Mark of Princess Hijab
posted by homunculus at 2:49 PM on September 21, 2011


running order squabble fest, I linked to the case he was talking about upthread, I believe. Which was not quite what he was purporting it to be.
posted by smoke at 3:12 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love it how all the "cites!?" and "give me links!" and rules about benefit of the doubt are all in favour of one side of the argument. Very telling.

Erm, anyway...
Police Minister Mike Gallacher has revealed that police do not currently have the legal power to require women to show their face if the women refuse on religious or cultural grounds. Linky.

Bonus chuckles: check this disgraceful performance. You can catch an all-too-brief example of her provocative behaviour at the initial traffic stop at 1:10.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:08 PM on September 21, 2011


A less inflammatory account from a paper a bit less like the Daily Mail.

There was a crucial part of the judgment conveniently elided by the Herald Sun and UH (emph mine): So beyond the issue of obfuscated identity, was more importantly the issue that she quite arguably wrote what she believed to be true. Her statutory declaration doesn't contradict the police video, if you read it.

More to the point: I dunno what the hell this has to do with banning burkas in public, really. What happened in this case was extremely unusual.
posted by smoke at 8:18 PM on September 21, 2011


uncanny hengeman, that woman still isn't an example of what you said before, and what you said before was quite provocative which is why people wanted links. You said burqas are used as disguises and cited a recent case where a defendant got away with a crime due to being in this disguise. A criminal disguise is not worn all the time; it is worn for the purpose of getting away with crime, "the elephant in the room" as you put it. Even in the Matthews case, there is no indication at all that she only wears the burqa to assist in criminal activities. At very worst (assuming it was her), it gave her a legal loophole and people from all sorts of backgrounds find legal loopholes in all sorts of places.
posted by Danila at 8:26 PM on September 21, 2011


You said burqas are used as disguises

No, I said they "can be." Huge HUGE difference. niqab, hijab, Toyota Hilux Dual Cab, disguise. Call it want you want. I'm not getting into an argument over the definition of clothing that covers your face.

and cited a recent case where a defendant got away with a crime due to being in this disguise.

And she did.
Yesterday, Ms Matthews avoided jail because her identity could not be proven.

Ms Matthews, 47, from Woodbine, in Sydney's southwest, had been sentenced to six months in jail for making a deliberately false statement that a policeman tried to forcibly remove her burqa because he was a racist.

But judge Clive Jeffreys said yesterday he was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that it was Mrs Matthews who made the racism accusation because the person who complained to police was wearing a burqa at the time.
In what fantasy land do you live in where that is that not "got away with a crime"?

And now, surprise surprise, smoke is complaining about the link I provided. NON APPROVED LINK! I can't win with you guys.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:15 PM on September 21, 2011


You can win, just don't distort the facts. An important part of the judgment was that the judge didn't believe the stat dec was knowingly false.

More importantly, I think it's great to talk about how niqabs etc could be used for malfeasance, but the current reality is they're not (certainly not in that case), and that banning them is hurting people in France currently. Reality trumps hypotheticals for me.
posted by smoke at 9:37 PM on September 21, 2011


I can't win with you guys.

Ah, therein lies the problem. No one is here to "win". Maybe you are lost?


the gameroom is that way -------------->
posted by Surfurrus at 9:54 PM on September 21, 2011


Quack quack quack!

Crikey! What was that thing walking and looking and quacking like a duck? Use your brain, smoke. Don't hide under the Judge's big black dress.

the current reality is [...] Reality trumps hypotheticals for me.

How can I argue with that sort of self righteous mindset? Tootles...
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:54 PM on September 21, 2011


How can I argue with that sort of self righteous mindset?

An excellent question which I have been asking myself whilst reading this thread, but probably not in the way you meant.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:57 PM on September 21, 2011


Feel free to stop arguing and making animal noises any time you like. People aren't asking for cites because of what "side" you're on, it's that you're making really out there claims and people want to know more about it. Try to see requests for links as an opportunity to educate people instead of a chance to mock them.
posted by harriet vane at 10:25 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


UH, you used the woman's dress as the reason for her case being dismissed. In reality, however, it was only one part of the reason. The other, arguably main, reason is that the judge thought her statutory declaration could have been accurate, or at least not deliberately inaccurate, and therefore there was nothing to be charged with in the first place.

The presence or absence of clothing had very little to do with the basic validity of the charge, namely; did she lie on a statutory declaration, or not? The judge's conclusion was a) he doesn't know if it was her dec, and b) if it was, he doesn't think it was lying.

I'm happy to continue discussing this with you - or the broader issue - for as long as you like, or need me to. Whilst there are certainly moral arguments to make, I think these are largely hashed out at this point in the thread, but I will counter anything I see as a distortion or misrepresentation of fact.

Your flippant insults don't seem especially healthy or respectful to me; this is why I am trying to ground the discussion in facts, instead of wild gonzo assertions.
posted by smoke at 10:33 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Your flippant insults don't seem especially healthy or respectful to me; this is why I am trying to ground the discussion in facts, instead of wild gonzo assertions.

I must say, this is a rather graceful response given the circumstances. Thank you for the sanity.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:08 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am cool with Muslim women wearing the niqab in public, as long as I can wear my balaclava around London.
posted by jmegawarne at 12:59 AM on September 22, 2011


I am cool with Muslim women wearing the niqab in public, as long as I can wear my balaclava around London.

Exactly. Then tell the cops your imaginary friend in the sky decreed it to be so. See how long you last. As a bonus test, try angrily yelling pointing a few inches from the policeman's face like my good buddy in the link just above.

But I didn't come back here to bang my head on a brick wall . I came here as a total aside to say: I RULE!

I just noticed this guy's username upside down says benson. Why the hell would I notice something like that?

Oh yeah, becoz I rule.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:54 AM on September 22, 2011


I am cool with Muslim women wearing the niqab in public, as long as I can wear my balaclava around London.


Pretty sure you can, so that's good, right? I mean, if you are wearing it in a bank, you'll be asked to remove it, and if you are wearing it in a manner that the police find suspicious - say, you're wearing it on a hot day while standing outside a bank for a long period of time - they will probably ask you about that. And, if there is a potential public order issue, they may again ask you to identify yourself. I think that's all pretty much a given. You have every right to wear a balaclava, though.

At the risk of not being eponysterical enough, I think that UH's concerns can be addressed reasonably calmly. You're right, UH - the burqa and niqab can, certainly, be used as a criminal disguise, as can a balaclava or a clown suit or a mask of President Nixon. In fact, John Simpson of the BBC used the burqa as a disguise to enter Afghanistan illegally, FSVO illegally (cite). However, the instances in which they are being used as a criminal disguise are very few indeed, and they are not a large part of the arguments behind the French, Belgian or proposed Italian laws. So, the elephant is in the room, but it is a tiny elephant - an elephant so small that none of the lawmakers who are enacting or constructing bans have considered it as an elephant worth spending much time on.

We can agree people need to be able to identify themselves and be identified in many situations within civil administration. The prevention of the incredibly rare incidence of a particular type of women's clothing being used for criminal concealment or disguise, however - in a nation of nearly 23 million we have so far identified one possible instance of justice being evaded (although if a judge says it, it sort of _is_ justice, so that's a bit murky) - probably doesn't justify a ban, just as balaclavas are not banned, although you wouldn't want to try to get through passport control wearing one.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:29 AM on September 22, 2011


I am cool with Muslim women wearing the niqab in public, as long as I can wear my balaclava around London.
I'm an all-season cyclist in the upper Midwest of the US, and I wear a balaclava in the winter. Is that really illegal in London? The more I hear about the UK, the clearer it becomes to me that it really is an odd place.
posted by craichead at 6:13 AM on September 22, 2011


Is that really illegal in London?

No. Police can require you to remove a mask worn for the purposes of concealing one's identity while performing, preparing or being prepared to commit an illegal act under Section 60AA of the Criminal Justice Act. The police might want to talk to you if you were hanging around in a balaclava on a hot day outside a bank, and wearing a mask while looting Tescos is illegal (as is looting Tescos) but wearing a balaclava itself is not illegal.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire in the House of Lords:


I thank the noble Lord for that question; he has of course great experience in this matter. The definition of a mask worn for the purpose of concealing identity and with the intention to commit acts of violence is tightly drawn. I passed someone at Victoria station this morning whose face was covered, I think, to keep him warm. Two days ago, I passed some Japanese tourists outside here who were wearing gauze face masks which I think were intended to prevent them catching the European version of Asian flu. They would not be caught by the Act.

Hansard

Wearing a birqa is also not illegal, for the same reasons.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:13 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Veiled woman seeks French presidency
The announcement of Drider’s longshot candidacy came the same day a French court fined two women who refuse to remove their veils. Drider has her campaign posters ready to go, months before the campaign begins — and before she has the required signatures of 500 mayors in the country.

She is among a group of women mounting an attack on the law that has banned the garments from the streets of France since April and prompted similar moves in other European countries.

They are bent on proving that the ban contravenes fundamental rights and that women who hide their faces stand for freedom, not submission.

"When a woman wants to maintain her freedom, she must be bold," Drider told The Associated Press in an interview.
French court fines first women for full-face veils
The court in the northern cheese-making town of Meaux ordered Hind Ahmas, 32, to pay a 120-euro (about US$160) fine, while Najate Nait Ali, 36, was fined 80 euros. It did not order them to take a citizenship course, as the prosecutor had requested.

The two veiled women arrived too late to attend the court hearing, but addressed journalists in front of the building.

“We’ve been sentenced under a law that violates European law. For us, it’s not about the size of the fine, but the principle. We can’t allow women to be convicted for freely following their religious beliefs,” Ahmas said.

The young woman, who comes from the troubled Paris immigrant suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois, called the ruling a “semi-victory” since it opened the way for a series of appeals she hopes will lead to the law’s abolition.

Yann Gre from the “Don’t Touch My Constitution” group that is defending the two women, said that they would appeal.

If the fines are confirmed by a higher court, they will take their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, he said.

“This law forbids women in niqab from leaving their homes and going out in public. It’s a kind of life-sentence,” he said.
For €200, an opponent of France’s veil law gets his fight
Multimillionaire businessman and aspiring presidential candidate Rachid Nekkaz has tried for months to get French courts to fine a woman for violating that country’s law against wearing a full Muslim face veil.

His efforts paid off on Thursday, when a judge levied fines against two women in Meaux, a Paris suburb, who turned up on the steps of City Hall last May wearing niqabs and offering the mayor an almond birthday cake. Now Mr. Nekkaz can challenge the controversial law in court.

Although the law came into force in April, it’s the first time a court has fined anyone for violating it. Mr. Nekkaz says he plans to ask the European Court of Human Rights to strike down the French law, which would effectively make similar legislation across Europe illegal.

Although he disapproves of the veil, he believes banning it violates individual rights and that a raft of anti-veil laws introduced in the past year is “a virus which is contaminating Europe.”

posted by zarq at 7:13 AM on September 23, 2011


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