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Mocking the Burqa Ban in France
October 5, 2010 3:51 AM   Subscribe

Les Niqabitches stroll around Paris fully veiled from the waist up, but in hotpants and high heels waist-down, to protest the burqa ban in France. Also calling themselves Mi-putes, Mi-soumises, a pun on the admirable organization called Ni-putes, Ni-soumises, they believe the ban is unconstitutional, as calls for similar bans occur in other European countries.
posted by Azaadistani (96 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nature impels young women toward display, and showing the leg delivers the highest impact with the lowest sexual risk. These two gals seem to have discovered that by combining display-by-revelation, and display-through-ostentatious-concealment, they can double their fun! And don't the boys appreciate it.
posted by Faze at 4:18 AM on October 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


The background music is Les nuits d'une demoiselle in case I'm not the only one who needed to know quite badly.
posted by Skorgu at 4:28 AM on October 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


I really wouldn't look to the Daily Mail for a balanced view on British public opinion. France's longstanding hardline attitude to Islamic culture is a far cry from Britain's more tolerant approach. I'm not saying we don't have our share of culture clash, but it's unlikely to be tackled through laws. If anything, our equalities agenda appears to be heading in the other direction.
posted by londonmark at 4:28 AM on October 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, back in the Middle East, Saudi Arabian women protest the bikini ban by strutting through the streets in the diametric opposite of bikinis.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:30 AM on October 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wendell.
posted by fire&wings at 4:31 AM on October 5, 2010


I find this method of protest to be clever, effective, thought-provoking and hot.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:33 AM on October 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


but cool from the waist down.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:34 AM on October 5, 2010


They would have shown some moral courage if they had performed in the banlieues. As it is, it's just a cheap publicity stunt.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:39 AM on October 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was getting concerned for their safety, in case they were perceived to be mocking Islamic sensibilities. But then I remembered that French women don't get fatwas.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:40 AM on October 5, 2010 [30 favorites]


Faze: Nature impels young women toward display

what
posted by nfg at 4:45 AM on October 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


But then I remembered that French women don't get fatwas.

If I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry should I just favourite and flag?
posted by biffa at 4:53 AM on October 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Nature impels young women toward display, and showing the leg delivers the highest impact with the lowest sexual risk.

This makes no sense. You're taking a sociobiologist approach, right? So you're saying the women are trying to attract mates by displaying. And by "sexual risk" you mean "being forced to mate with a less-optimum man" - rape. You're implying that display invites mates, including undesirable ones. So I can't see how a female display can have "high impact" and "low sexual risk." Either it attacts mates (high impact, high risk) or it doesn't (low impact, low risk).

Forgive me, but it looks like your analysis is bollocks. You're trying to fit a complex situation into a "scientific" reductionist viewpoint. Now, if you were saying "And because these are young, hence attractive females, we all want to look at the video" you'd be correct, although it wouldn't add anything to the conversation. So why the "display/risk" comment?

To be honest, it looks awfully like a form of display on your part, rather than a genuine contribution to the thread. You're posturing to show your intellectual insight, and hence your high status and potential as a mate.

Stop it.
posted by alasdair at 4:55 AM on October 5, 2010 [18 favorites]


"Nature impels young women toward display, and showing the leg delivers the highest impact with the lowest sexual risk."

"This makes no sense."


That's the joke.
posted by iviken at 5:09 AM on October 5, 2010


Nature impels young women toward display, and showing the leg delivers the highest impact with the lowest sexual risk.

Yes, clearly this protest tactic is really just evolutionary psychology at work. "Nature impels Glenn Beck followers to gather in crowds, in order to get into that sweet sweet assortative mating behavior." Usw.
posted by PsychoTherapist at 5:12 AM on October 5, 2010


For added fun, maybe they need to have men with womanly legs strut around like that. Men with long smooth legs and... big bushy beards. Get oglers slavering after their legs, then do the reveal and make ogling men question their heterosexuality.
posted by pracowity at 5:18 AM on October 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


France has always had a problem with imported burqas - José Bové was protesting them as far back as far back as 1999.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:20 AM on October 5, 2010


Nature impels Faze to make blanket statements, although they serve no particular purpose; indeed, unlike blankets, they contain no warmth.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:28 AM on October 5, 2010 [15 favorites]


Reminds me of Princess Hijab (Wikipedia entry).
posted by Kattullus at 5:50 AM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The original ban on conspicuous religious symbols in schools was as extremely well intentioned attempt to solve problems faced by French muslim girls, was generally supported by both the left and right, and has help integrate minorities living in France. And other European countries with similar isolated minorities should seriously consider similar approaches.

Sarkozy's across the board burqa ban is just political grand standing however. Adults can make their own choices, don't treat them like children.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:57 AM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


it's just a cheap publicity stunt.

Cheap? Those outfits cost twenty francs, at least.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:01 AM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


They would have shown some moral courage if they had performed in the banlieues.

If you believe moral courage is necessary or desirable, you're perfectly at liberty to volunteer your own body for the task, but my guess is that if they'd performed like that in the banlieues, you'd be chiding them for their willful stupidity for putting themselves at risk.

And yes, it is a publicity stunt. Aimed at raising awareness of a bad law. That's a problem why, exactly?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:03 AM on October 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


And I, for one, welcome our burqa draped, sexy hot pants wearing Overlords!
posted by zaelic at 6:15 AM on October 5, 2010


Cheap? Those outfits cost twenty francs, at least.

Um, at today's exchange rate, 20 francs will buy you about $4.20 US.



Or was that wooshing sound the joke passing me by? I am unsure. Désolé!
posted by shiu mai baby at 6:16 AM on October 5, 2010


I rather think their stunt is aimed at raising awareness of their legs. Most people already know about the law, which is at least intended to prevent the spread of a violent and misogynist culture in which they could not walk around in those outfits. They're using the freedom they possess - the freedom to display their bodies, to walk around in clothes that are not selected by the arbitrators of morality - to support a culture in which that freedom is denied. At best it's quixotic; I would call it hypocritical and destructive.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:17 AM on October 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Let us agree to some terms:
Hijab: Head-covering, also the proper way to talk about Muslim modesty clothing in general.
Jilbab: Body-covering
Niqab: Face-covering
Burqa: Full-body cover-- Hijab with Jilbab and Niqab, used often in South Asia
Chador: Iranian head and body covering
Abaya: Saudi head/body covering
The more you know!
posted by The White Hat at 6:34 AM on October 5, 2010 [34 favorites]


Wow, way to miss the point, Joe in Australia.

They're not demonstrating in support of fundamentalism Islam, they're demonstrating against horrible French laws. It shouldn't be the business of the government to tell people what they can and can't wear; if someone wants to wear a veil, they should absolutely be free to do so.

Even when people believe things you don't like, even if they dress in ways you don't approve of, you don't have the right to tell them they can't as long they're not actively hurting you. And that's what these women are protesting.... the government is stepping over a line it absolutely shouldn't cross.

And it doesn't even do any good anyway. It's not like Islam is going to magically go away because they're suppressing a symbol.

The real problem with fundamentalist Islam isn't veils, it's violence. And telling people they can't worship their God in the way that they choose strikes me as a very good way to end up with more violence, not less.
posted by Malor at 6:42 AM on October 5, 2010 [16 favorites]


Argh.... /s/fundamentalism/fundamentalist
posted by Malor at 6:43 AM on October 5, 2010


if someone wants to wear a veil, they should absolutely be free to do so

Isn't the point that the government believes that lots of the people who are wearing veils aren't free to make the choice not to, though?

I mean, I don't like governments mandating who wears what, either*. But I think I dislike more walking down the street and seeing some doughy chap in a short sleeve shirt while his wife walks a couple of paces behind and peeks at the world through a latticed veil.

Although governments have, one way or another, done so for years. Try walking down your local street in a full face balaclava in summer and see if you don't get talked to by a policeman.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:47 AM on October 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


this is amazing and i blogged about it; but haven't made up my mind yet as to whether it is right-on-point or offensively clueless.
posted by liza at 6:53 AM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Malor: "They're not demonstrating in support of fundamentalism Islam, they're demonstrating against horrible French laws. It shouldn't be the business of the government to tell people what they can and can't wear; if someone wants to wear a veil, they should absolutely be free to do so."

I do not quite follow this argument, which also seems to be the main one in the linked article. "If someone wants to wear a veil they should be allowed to do so."
My problem is this: why would anyone want to do this except because his / her religion tells him / her to? I'm not trying to be snarky, I honestly can't imagine why anyone would want to put on a burqa if not for religious reasons; this is not like wearing a thin gold cross on a chain, this is intentionally building a wall between oneself and the rest of the world in a way that is uncomfortable, limiting, stifling and ungainly.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 7:02 AM on October 5, 2010


My problem is this: why would anyone want to do this except because his / her religion tells him / her to?

Why would someone want to avoid eating delicious delicious shellfish unless his or her religion insists on it? And yet, I don't see anyone advocating in favor of government-mandated lobster consumption to save those poor people from the strictures of their faith.
posted by Slothrup at 7:14 AM on October 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


MuffinMan: Sure, there are women who wear burqas/niqabs/various body and head coverings because some man wants them to. But there are an awful lot of women who wear those coverings because they feel they have a religious obligation to do so. When the French government tells those women they can't wear the niqab in public, they essentially tell them they have to stay home from now on, or leave France altogether. And even for those women for whom the choice is being made by fathers/husbands/etc, I would imagine that this law would FURTHER restrict their freedom, rather than increase it.

Personally, I am extremely amused and pleased by this protest. I was going to post about it, but am happy that Azaadistan beat me to it. :)
posted by bardophile at 7:16 AM on October 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Sure, there are women who wear burqas/niqabs/various body and head coverings because some man wants them to. But there are an awful lot of women who wear those coverings because they feel they have a religious obligation to do so

Point taken, hence my ambivalence.

I'd be interested to know if, as it seems to me, burqa wearing was on the increase in the UK and if that was the case whether it was just a factor of changes in immigration patterns or more reflective of greater radicalisation among 2nd/3rd generation muslims.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:32 AM on October 5, 2010



Isn't the point that the government believes that lots of the people who are wearing veils aren't free to make the choice not to, though?


Yes but, the law punishes women who wear the veil. Presumably the kind of woman who has been coerced into wearing the veil is not going to give it up over a $150 fine. So one has to ask, who is that fine really aimed at? Answer: the voluntary wearers.
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 7:39 AM on October 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm supposed to see a political statement, instead I want one to wear around because I'm shameless and like provocative clothing in small doses. I hate it when I miss the point, know I'm missing the point and yet still the first thing that pops into me head is: "Coooool, it looks sci-fi!"
posted by Phalene at 7:42 AM on October 5, 2010


You had me at "Niqabitches"...
posted by nickrussell at 7:47 AM on October 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hot pants - Smokin
posted by pianomover at 7:56 AM on October 5, 2010


Burqas are not just a symbol like a cross, but actually a tool of repression that isolates minorities, and ultimately contribute to violence. It follows that schools should not permit children or teachers to wear them. Adults however must be permitted to make such choices on their own. Ever hear the term "nanny state"?

If Sarkozy felt like being constructive, he could order police actions that targeted harassment of women on the street in France.. or spend more one women's shelters that deal with the really bad cases. He didn't do either. Instead, he passed this pointless ban that'll generate publicity.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:06 AM on October 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


MuffinMan: Fair enough. I'm ambivalent about it, too. :) Because the burqa makes me personally incredibly uncomfortable, and I have a hard time understanding why women want to wear it.

I would expect that the rise you probably are seeing in the incidence of burka/niqab wearing is the result of increased conservatism and/or radicalization on the part of 2nd/3rd gen immigrants. When I was in college in Lahore (oh, some 15-20 years ago) the only women wearing the hijab were repatriates, most of them from Britain, most of them with continuing ties to Britain.

The school I taught at in Lahore for the past ten years has seen a steady increase in the numbers of girls covering their heads (some by choice, some under parental pressure) in some way. This is a private all-girls school, with a mostly upper-middle to upper-class demographic. And there is an increasing divide on the subject amongst educated Pakistanis, particularly English-speaking educated Pakistanis.
posted by bardophile at 8:11 AM on October 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


My problem is this: why would anyone want to do this except because his / her religion tells him / her to?

Isn't that enough? Or would you advocate government legislation of religious beliefs too?
posted by londonmark at 8:17 AM on October 5, 2010


Burqas are not just a symbol like a cross, but actually a tool of repression that isolates minorities, and ultimately contribute to violence. It follows that schools should not permit children or teachers to wear them.

Doesn't the ban tend to push observant Muslim girls into private schools, and thus OUT of the mainstream? Either way, you are really reaching with that argument. Yes, burqas are different from crosses, in that they serve a practical as well as symbolic function. Therefore, yes, they can also be used as tools of repression. To jump from that to the blanket statement that they are "a tool of repression that isolates minorities" and then further to that they therefore "ultimately contribute to violence" is really quite a stretch. To then take it even further that therefore schoolgirls should not be permitted to wear a burqa just doesn't make sense to me at all.
posted by bardophile at 8:20 AM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


My problem is this: why would anyone want to do this except because his / her religion tells him / her to?


What makes it your problem? It's their religion and their clothes. Nothing to do with you.
posted by octothorpe at 8:32 AM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have to be honest. I care significantly less about the right of French women to oh-so-amusingly wear a symbol of sexist, patriarchal, primitive and repressive attitudes to women than I care about the right of women in certain less liberal countries not to wear it.
posted by Decani at 8:36 AM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


This post really adds no value to MetaFilter
posted by KokuRyu at 8:44 AM on October 5, 2010


So, when do they start banning the wearing of crosses, prayer shawls, yarmulkas, and any other religious symbols?
posted by 1000monkeys at 8:45 AM on October 5, 2010


For that matter, what about the Sikhs and their daggers? Those guys carry weapons, fer chrissake, and yet somehow lace over the face is a bigger problem?
posted by Malor at 8:52 AM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


This post really adds no value to MetaFilter
This remark adds less.
posted by adamvasco at 8:54 AM on October 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't understand why some people don't see the freedom to practice religion as just as fundamental as the freedom not to. Certainly the right of women in "less liberal countries" to not wear head coverings/veils/cloaks/gowns is just as important to me as the right of religiously observant women in purportedly more liberal countries to practice religion as they see fit.

As a Muslim women, I know both kinds of restrictions make me equally uncomfortable.
posted by bardophile at 9:01 AM on October 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


That's the joke.

Man, I miss The Critic.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:28 AM on October 5, 2010


It should be noted that there are about 2000 women wearing burqas in France, out of 3 million muslim women. 25% are converted ethnic French. Most Muslims in France come from North Africa or sub-saharian Africa where this tradition doesn't exist. The impact of this law is largely symbolic.
The "Mi-putes, Mi-soumises" joke in the video is also at the expense of Fadela Amara, the founder of the Ni-putes, Ni-soumises movement, now a minister in Sarkozy's gouvernment and a supporter of the ban.
posted by elgilito at 9:31 AM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


PROTIP: The worst way to get people do stop doing something is to make it illegal.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:31 AM on October 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


This post really adds no value to MetaFilter

Well it prompted me to find this article, which helped in my understanding the particularities about immigration and Islam in France.


this is intentionally building a wall between oneself and the rest of the world in a way that is uncomfortable, limiting, stifling and ungainly


CALLING DEE XTROVERT
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 9:48 AM on October 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Children enforce social norms among themselves and respond to social pressures very differently than adults, bardophile. Also, the school ban applies equally to all religious clothing, not just Islamic. Gang colors are banned in U.S. school too. Kids don't get all the freedoms of adults.

French school teachers, an extremely left wing group, strongly supported the ban in schools because girls were being forced into wearing them by their parents, and girls whose parents didn't care got bullied & attacked. It wasn't all schools obviously but the nationwide ban resolved the problem unequivocally.

There are several other European countries that should adopt the school wide ban on religious clothing, but the problems were particularly dramatic in France. Fyi, Turkey kept headscarves banned in universities for quite some time.

I doubt the French are too worried about a few Islamic schools since they never bothered fixing the private school loophole in the previous law. You won't see the bullying and attacks among kids whose parents are actually spending money to segregate themselves. Sarkozy's law will now apply to those schools of course, but that's not the intention.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:57 AM on October 5, 2010


I agree with Joe. Their choice or protest site sends a much stronger message than whatever it is they are trying to say.
posted by Anything at 10:07 AM on October 5, 2010


MuffinMan: Fair enough. I'm ambivalent about it, too. :) Because the burqa makes me personally incredibly uncomfortable, and I have a hard time understanding why women want to wear it.

I can imagine several reasons some women would choose to wear a hijab. Foremost it's an important religious symbol, and presumably devout religious women would want to follow their religion's instructions. There are also cultural associations about modesty: perhaps they feel more confident or believe that their physical attractiveness is something intimate to be shared between them and a partner, etc. Why would someone wait until marriage to have sex? Or wear any other garment or adornment associated with their religion? Probably similar reasons.

I think it's incredibly disturbing for a government to go, "Ladies! Muslim men should not dictate what you can and can not wear! WE should dictate what you can and can not wear!"

People outlawing women from wearing burqas is just as offensive to me as people forcing women to wear them, for exactly the same reasons. Bottom line: it should be a woman's choice.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:07 AM on October 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


choice of
posted by Anything at 10:08 AM on October 5, 2010


The burqa ban gives plausible deniability against arguments of being a bad muslim, and thus against rapes and beatings, for women who want to let people see their face.

The choice is not between 'monetary penalties for some women for their own choice of wearing a burqa' and 'freedom for everyone', it's between 'monetary penalties for some women for their own choice of wearing a burqa' and 'rapes and beatings for some women for their own choice of not wearing a burqa'.
posted by Anything at 10:24 AM on October 5, 2010


The choice is not between 'monetary penalties for some women for their own choice of wearing a burqa' and 'freedom for everyone', it's between 'monetary penalties for some women for their own choice of wearing a burqa' and 'rapes and beatings for some women for their own choice of not wearing a burqa'.

Wait, are you saying that Muslim women in France have been "given" the choice of either paying a government fine or being beaten and raped? Is that really the either-or proposition here?
posted by Errant at 10:41 AM on October 5, 2010


Wait, are you saying that Muslim women in France have been "given" the choice of either paying a government fine or being beaten and raped? Is that really the either-or proposition here?

That seems like an awfully inefficient workaround to a serious problem.

If you want to stop beatings and rape, stop beatings and rape, not questionable costumes.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:09 AM on October 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I agree with Joe in Australia, a man who has never dared to wear a small turban on his penis and streak through Mecca. I'm not saying the guy lacks moral courage, but he sure is an ethical coward. A total virtue-deserter, if you will; the big chicken of righteousness.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:28 AM on October 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's the official video, which has a ... quite different soundtrack.
posted by desjardins at 12:01 PM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a very good, very French type of protest.
It pisses off the anti-burka brigade and it also pisses off the don't show flesh fundamentalists plus it has two girls without thunderthighs or arses like elephants to amuse and maybe make the rest of us think a bit.
Protesting this in the slums would not get them or their message noticed. Notice they appeared outside the Ministry of Immigration and National Identity. There is a growing right wing faction throughout Europe. France has recently shown how unsympathetic it is to Roma and it has just been revealed that Petain actively spearheaded the Jewish Persecution.
Are the French Muslims next?
posted by adamvasco at 12:12 PM on October 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Protesting this in the slums would not get them or their message noticed.

As if that's the reason why they're not doing this there. Of course it would get noticed.

It's just that a) it would also draw attention to the religious harassment of women in the slums which I suppose is counterproductive when you're running a campaign against the ban of the burqa and b) they would be likely to get attacked or harrassed themselves.
posted by Anything at 12:34 PM on October 5, 2010


The burqa ban gives plausible deniability against arguments of being a bad muslim, and thus against rapes and beatings, for women who want to let people see their face.

What about women who WANT to wear a burqa? Do we just decide they don't get that right? Or should only rich women have that right, since they can afford to pay all these fines?

I really don't see how this is a good solution to the problem of violence against women.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:42 PM on October 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Solon and Thanks: The point was that someone's freedom is guaranteed to be violated, whether there is a ban or not. With this in mind, the question then is not only whose freedom is to be prioritized, but what is the mechanism of enforcement in the two cases. With a ban, it's money loss for those who want to hide their faces; without a ban it's varying degrees harassment and violence against those who refuse to hide their faces.
posted by Anything at 12:54 PM on October 5, 2010


MuffinMan: "France has always had a problem with imported burqas - José Bové was protesting them as far back as far back as 1999."

No no. That's Burgas, with a G.
posted by symbioid at 1:05 PM on October 5, 2010


With a ban, it's money loss for those who want to hide their faces; without a ban it's varying degrees harassment and violence against those who refuse to hide their faces.

In the scenario you are describing, women are effectively paying a "don't rape or beat me" tax. You seem to be proposing that this is better than the alternative, and I would like to suggest that if your dichotomy is accurate, it would be more productive to society to target rapists and assaulters.

That's if your dichotomy is accurate, and I'm not sure it is. "someone's freedom is guaranteed to be violated" is the premise you'd like me to accept, but I don't think I do.
posted by Errant at 1:19 PM on October 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Cheap? Those outfits cost twenty francs, at least.
I think they use Euros now.
posted by delmoi at 1:26 PM on October 5, 2010


You seem to be proposing that this is better than the alternative

I'm sorry, I'm not sure I understand which things you are referring to.

As for prosecuting rapes and assaults after the fact, this is not a trivial matter when the victim is very likely to get in even worse trouble if she tries to take it to court.
posted by Anything at 1:30 PM on October 5, 2010


Sorry, I'll rephrase, and it's also entirely possible that I'm misinterpreting you.

You said: "The point was that someone's freedom is guaranteed to be violated, whether there is a ban or not. With this in mind, the question then is not only whose freedom is to be prioritized, but what is the mechanism of enforcement in the two cases. With a ban, it's money loss for those who want to hide their faces; without a ban it's varying degrees harassment and violence against those who refuse to hide their faces."

I read this as saying that, look, whether or not there's a law, women's freedoms will be abrogated: either women who want to wear a burqa will not be allowed to and will have to pay a fine, or women who don't want to wear a burqa will be forced to under threat of assault, rape, etc. Since women's freedoms will be abrogated no matter what we do, it is a better alternative to fine women who wear burqas, because, whether they choose to wear them or are socially required to do so under threat, a fine is preferable to assault/rape/other violence. Otherwise, by not banning burqas, women who refuse the burqa do not have the "sorry, it's illegal otherwise I would" excuse and will be seen as deliberately mocking the cultural norm, which leads inexorably to violence, rape, etc.

So by passing an anti-burqa law, France shields those women who refuse the burqa from violence, at the cost of fining those women who do not refuse it; this is a better alternative than not banning the burqa and providing no social shield for women who are going to refuse the burqa anyway.

Am I understanding your thesis correctly?
posted by Errant at 1:43 PM on October 5, 2010


Does my ass look fatwa in this?
posted by chavenet at 2:51 PM on October 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks, I think that's correct, although on the point 'this is a better alternative than not banning the burqa and providing no social shield for women who are going to refuse the burqa anyway', I would clarify that under the no-ban scenario, I certainly don't mean to discount those who do wear the burqa, against their will.

I hope I didn't confuse you by bringing up the different forms of enforcement under the two scenarios. Even if instead of violence, the family or community just took money from the woman who shows her face in public, we would still be left with the question of which freedom to prioritize; the freedom to show your face or the freedom to hide your face.
posted by Anything at 3:31 PM on October 5, 2010


I hope I didn't confuse you by bringing up the different forms of enforcement under the two scenarios.

No worries, you didn't confuse me, but this is actually where I take issue with your argument. In a scenario where women who lawfully (meaning nationally lawful, not culturally or religiously lawful) refuse to wear the burqa and are punished extra-legally with the threat of rape or other assault, which I agree is a real and troubling situation, it seems very unlikely to me that the legal shield of a burqa ban would prevent that extra-legal retribution anyway, since that retribution has always been unlawful regardless of whether the burqa itself is lawful (speaking, again, of France and not elsewhere). I therefore dispute that the ban serves as any form of protection for those refusing women. My point, then, was that instead of providing a shield for refusing women, who must live with the threat of retribution regardless of the lawfulness of their actions, it adds an additional "tax" on women who wear the burqa out of fear, as well as taxing women who wear the burqa voluntarily.

So, rather than protecting women who would otherwise be under threat due to their refusal, who, I suspect, remain under threat, the law instead levies additional punishment against both women who choose freely to wear the burqa and women who wear the burqa in response to that threat. It's in this context that I referred to it as a "don't rape or beat me" tax.
posted by Errant at 3:50 PM on October 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Solon and Thanks: The point was that someone's freedom is guaranteed to be violated, whether there is a ban or not. With this in mind, the question then is not only whose freedom is to be prioritized, but what is the mechanism of enforcement in the two cases.

I'd much prefer a world in which a woman may face violence or oppression from another individual -- an individual then liable under the law for his or her crimes -- than a world in which women are systematically denied their liberties and choices by the government, in order that no one may force them to make a choice they don't want to make.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:28 PM on October 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


it seems very unlikely to me that the legal shield of a burqa ban would prevent that extra-legal retribution anyway, since that retribution has always been unlawful regardless of whether the burqa itself is lawful

This may be true, and if indeed the ban proves to be an ineffective protection, then I am against it.

But as I said, the unlawfulness of the retribution may not be much of a factor if the victim is too scared to press charges. In a violently patriarchal community there may not be much of a downside to beating your wife into covering her face, and the new prospect of losing money because of it may be comparatively significant.
posted by Anything at 5:20 PM on October 5, 2010


Solon and Thanks - I should rephrase and elaborate.

I am ambivalent about the burqa, myself, because as a devout Muslim, I question whether it is an obligation. When it comes to wearing the niqab, it seems to me that it is actually a violation of something that I was taught is a basic principle of Islam, which is that one should not make religion more restrictive than necessary. Given that one does not wear a veil over the face at the Kaaba, even though one is in public, the wearing of the niqab becomes, to my mind, "more restrictive than necessary." Given also that many women are raised with extremely misogynistic interpretations of Islam, and taught that this has been ordained by Allah, I worry about women feeling obligated to do something that I am fairly certain my religion does not in fact require of them.

When I say I don't understand why women wear it, I mean that while I know the reasons for it in my head, having discussed them ad nauseum with supporters and detractors alike, at some fundamental level, I don't "get" it.

Nevertheless, I recognize, that these, my beliefs and interpretations of my faith, are not shared by a very significant number of Muslim women, many of them highly educated and independent minded. And as I said earlier, I don't think the state has any business legislating whether people can practice religion as they see fit, barring specific harm to other individuals (so, for example, I can see the state legislating again forced clitirodectomy, no matter WHO says it is a religious requirement).

I can see an argument for prohibiting teachers from covering their faces, since that does, in my experience, get in the way of effective communication, and therefore the carrying out of job-related duties. Lifeguards couldn't be permitted to wear burqas, either. But those are highly specific situations.

My ambivalence is entirely about the burqa itself, not about the ban, to which I am unequivocally opposed.

______

jeffburdges: The argument that "well, children aren't allowed the same freedoms as adults" I find misplaced, in this case. Different religious obligations become incumbent upon Muslims at different parts of their lives. By the time you're eight, you're supposed to be praying five times a day. By the time you're twelve, you're supposed to be fasting during Ramadan, and observing rules about modesty. This is equally true whether you are male or female (that the rules are usually interpreted and enforced more strictly for women than for men seems to me a global problem, not a Muslim one). So by seventh grade, those girls who are going to be observant as Muslims, of wearing hijab/niqab/burka, will be wearing it. To equate religious practice with the wearing of gang symbols is offensive. And the fact that the ban applies equally to all religious symbols really doesn't make it better. If it applied only to Muslim symbols, it would of course lose ALL appearance of legitimacy, but a blanket ban of religious symbols is still utterly repugnant.

As a matter of curiosity, does France prohibit parents from requiring their children to go to church? Or observing any other religious practice? i.e. if a minor went to the French child protective services and said "my parents are forcing me to go to church/take communion/other religious practice of other religion" does the state intervene? Unless they do, I don't see why parents having their children wearing religiously prescribed clothing is any different. If they do, that strikes me as bizarre, but I am aware that a lot of people here may well disagree with me on that. In any case, the ban on wearing it in school certainly doesn't prevent parents from forcing their kids to wear it outside school, so I'm not sure how this solves the problem.

I don't understand the point about bullying within the school. I am very familiar with how young people, particularly middle school and high school students, enforce social norms, having taught and coached them for my entire adult life. Girls were being bullied for wearing headscarves? Or not wearing headscarves? Or both? And are you really telling me that the issue was the wearing of the scarf, and the same bullies didn't find some other thing to bully fellow students about once the head scarf was banned?

Turkey is really not a great example to be bringing up in this debate. When Mustafa Kamal first came to power, men who wore beards were prohibited from serving in the military. Turkey made a wholesale effort to remove the religious from the public sphere altogether. Their record on protecting civil liberties, in general, is not the greatest. And they were bending over backwards for a long time, to send Europe the message "look, we aren't really Muslim after all!" Some part of Turkey still is doing precisely that.

____

I couldn't agree more with Errant's argument about the limited value of the ban as a protection for women who are being forced to wear the burqa.

Here's an extreme analogy: Every day,all over the world, a lot of women get raped, by their husbands/partners. Should women who actually want to have sex with their partners therefore be prohibited from doing so? And to what extent would such a prohibition protect the women whom it was intended to protect?
posted by bardophile at 5:28 PM on October 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


ugh. "legislating against forced clitirodectomy" that should have read.
posted by bardophile at 5:31 PM on October 5, 2010


If you're worried about men forcing women to do something, then why not make it much easier for women to divorce/leave these men? Provide social support? Child care? Better access to services, education, training so they'll be independent of their husbands? And make it all make sense and interface well with the communities where this is a "problem".

Or make it illegal for a man to coerce, threaten, or otherwise pressure a woman to wear any specific kind of clothing.

Or, you could just put one more shitty law on women (who you're trying to claim as VICTIMS) making it less appealing for them to go to the police (they don't want to be fined), making them more isolated if they are being abused...

It makes no sense as a "protective" measure. It's like fining women for having sex because sometimes they're coerced into it.

Unless your issue is the spread of a "violent" and "repressive" culture--which is racist, bigoted bullshit.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:27 PM on October 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


As far as I know, France already has public child care and eduaction. To the extent that there are holes, of course it's important to fix them.

Why do you put "problems", "violent" and "repressive" in scare quotes?

For the record, the measure I would primarily advocate on the issue of 'honor' violence in Europe is a massive increase of financial support for the networks of women's shelters coupled with a strong and very visible information campaign about equality laws and human rights, in multiple languages, in the poorest neighborhoods. Please don't make assumptions about what policies I favor or don't favor.
posted by Anything at 1:05 AM on October 6, 2010


It was true in France that girls not wearing burqas were being attacked, that makes it perfectly analogous to a gang symbol. We're talking about severe bullying that reinforces repressive gender norms and isolates minorities. An educator would need to be a psychopathic before they'd ignore that as "oh kids will be kids."

As I said, there was never any effort to plug the private school loophole in the existing law against religious symbols in schools. So I'd conclude the French don't much care if parents made their kids wear burqas, so long as that didn't create an environment that forces others into wearing them. That's the point. And that's why Sarkozy's new law goes too far.

p.s. Turkey has done a spectacular job of modernizing, given their underlying resources is people not oil. Yes, they've behaved extremely badly very frequently, but they are the closest the Islamic word has seen to the progress in China or India. Also, all western militaries have moderately strict dress & grooming codes, making the beard ban fairly normal.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:53 AM on October 6, 2010


Most militaries have moderately to extremely strict dress & grooming codes, not just Western ones. The ban on beards in Turkey was specifically intended to target men who kept beards for religious reasons, disallowing them altogether, thus forcing them out of the army.

At least we agree that Sarkozy's new law goes too far.

I was by no means arguing that bullying should be dismissed as "kids will be kids". You seemed to think that I was unaware of the way peer pressure works among school age children, and I merely informed you that I have a fair bit of experience with that particular age group, within the context of schools.

As I understand the term "gangs", pursuing criminal activities seems to be one of the defining purposes of them. Religious practice has no such intent, not by definition, although many people carry out criminal activities while they are members of religious groups. The difference seems critical to me, making the burqa far from perfectly analogous to a gang symbol.

Can you give me a reference for school girls being bullied because they weren't wearing burqas/hijab/niqabs? All my googling is leading me to incidents where students have been targeted because they were wearing head scarves. I'd like to know more about it before I say anymore.
posted by bardophile at 5:45 AM on October 6, 2010


"Why do you put "problems", "violent" and "repressive" in scare quotes?"

Because it is a relatively tiny problem that is hugely overblown in proportion to its actual occurrence; because the violence is seperate from the vast majority of the culture that people are talking about; because stopping the spread of repressive culture by repressing people in the exact way exposes that for the bullshit that it is.

For the record, the measure I would primarily advocate on the issue of 'honor' violence in Europe is a massive increase of financial support for the networks of women's shelters coupled with a strong and very visible information campaign about equality laws and human rights, in multiple languages, in the poorest neighborhoods. Please don't make assumptions about what policies I favor or don't favor.

Great! Then wonder what the fuck the point of this law is besides symbolically fighting for political points by "fighting back" against those easily-othered, "violent", "repressive" muslim men instead of fighting for the women who they're claiming to protect.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:28 AM on October 6, 2010


Can you give me a reference for school girls being bullied because they weren't wearing burqas/hijab/niqabs?
Burqas and niqabs are a non-issue in France. As I mentioned previously, there are about 2000 women wearing them and at least 25% are recent converts. If bullying happens, it's within the family, since such practices are not mainstream for French Muslims.
On the other hand, the bullying of young women for not conforming to social norms is a real problem and this is what led to the "Ni putes Ni soumises" movement and to the headscarf ban (summary of the topic here).
posted by elgilito at 7:29 AM on October 6, 2010


"Can you give me a reference for school girls being bullied because they weren't wearing burqas/hijab/niqabs? "

Probably not, because it's the equivalent of Mexicans coming and stealing our jobs here in the good old USA as justification for shitty, racist laws.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:31 AM on October 6, 2010


elgilito: If I understand the article correctly, the problem is widespread in the suburbs, which are poorer parts of the city? And that the demographic is not entirely Muslim, although I would expect that there is a larger proportion of Muslims in the poorer quartiers?

If my reading is correct, then the consequent turn to religiosity sounds a bit like a lot of Afghan women being initially relieved when the Taliban took over in the mid-90s. I can see how that complicates the issue in some ways. But basically, it just then makes this law look like a PR stunt meant to take attention away from the fact that the government isn't doing much to improve things in the cites.
posted by bardophile at 8:10 AM on October 6, 2010


Yes, it's basically a PR stunt. Misdirection has been Sarkozy's tactic for a while: take a sensitive though relatively minor issue, make a big fuss about it, create a new law if possible. Meanwhile, real problems such as unemployment or high-level corruption get much less airplay and are not being addressed.
In this particular case, Sarkozy plays on the fear that the French concepts of assimilation and "laïcité" are under attack. Today, it's mostly about Muslims, while a century ago it was all about Catholics (and much more violent). That's a very broad feeling, from left-wing to right-wing. The burqa problem was actually raised by a communist MP who freaked out after seing a couple of burqa-wearing women in his hometown, and Sarkozy jumped on such a beautiful occasion.
posted by elgilito at 9:21 AM on October 6, 2010


"As I understand the term "gangs", pursuing criminal activities seems to be one of the defining purposes of them. Religious practice has no such intent, not by definition, although many people carry out criminal activities while they are members of religious groups. The difference seems critical to me, making the burqa far from perfectly analogous to a gang symbol."

No, the primary purpose of gangs is a social network and support structure for people who feel they have nowhere else to turn. People sometimes also join because the gang is the local power structure and to openly snub it is to invite its hostility, and this is a more common perception of gangs, but the research I've read suggests that overwhelmingly, people join because they seek a family and a social structure.

I think the analogy is much closer than you think.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:08 AM on October 6, 2010


Probably not, because it's the equivalent of Mexicans coming and stealing our jobs here in the good old USA as justification for shitty, racist laws beheadings.

There are a few reports in Asia about women being attacked for not wearing a burqa, but not much in Europe...

Women Physically Fight Over the Burqa in France - more of a fuck you, no fuck you, than attacking someone for not wearing it.

The left needs to adopt a more sophisticated, nuanced approach to support women who for whatever reason wear the burqa.

- The burqa debate - for a more nuanced approach

In essence ...

There is no doubt that many Muslim women are forced to wear the burqa or other forms of veil and are unable to make decisions about the most fundamental aspects of their lives. But there is equally little doubt that many other Muslim women have made a free and informed decision to wear such coverings, and value the space to practice their religion in public. Banning the burqa fundamentally undermines their rights and perhaps most importantly does not provide any meaningful assistance to those women who are coerced and forced to cover their bodies and faces.

- Beyond the Burqa: To Help Women, Leaders Should Dig Deeper than Religious Clothing

"For the woman who is forced, this would oblige her to stay home," Delouvin said. "She would be punished twice: forced to wear the garment, and prevented from going outside."

- Burqa Ban May Prove Counter Productive
posted by mrgrimm at 12:54 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why some people don't see the freedom to practice religion as just as fundamental as the freedom not to. Certainly the right of women in "less liberal countries" to not wear head coverings/veils/cloaks/gowns is just as important to me as the right of religiously observant women in purportedly more liberal countries to practice religion as they see fit.

As a Muslim women, I know both kinds of restrictions make me equally uncomfortable.
posted by bardophile at 5:01 PM on October 5


And as a white, male, liberal Englishman, blatant straw men make me uncomfortable. You know, like conflating "wearing a garment that says an exposed female face is immodest" with "freedom to practice religion". That stuff annoys the hell out of me.
posted by Decani at 1:19 PM on October 6, 2010


So, when do they start banning the wearing of crosses, prayer shawls, yarmulkas, and any other religious symbols?
posted by 1000monkeys at 4:45 PM on October 5


Probably about the time someone can make the case that those things are fundamentally sexist, illiberal, patriarchal or oppressive?
posted by Decani at 1:20 PM on October 6, 2010


This post really adds no value to MetaFilter

Boy, we do have some armchair arbiters, don't we?
posted by Decani at 1:22 PM on October 6, 2010


You know, like conflating "wearing a garment that says an exposed female face is immodest" with "freedom to practice religion".

How the hell does a garment say anything?

What does a corset say? Should women be allowed to wear them?
posted by mrgrimm at 2:50 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


High heels are all about the patriarchy! So is makeup. Ban those too.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:03 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Decani:
Probably about the time someone can make the case that those things are fundamentally sexist, illiberal, patriarchal or oppressive?


Some might be able to successfully argue that case. Frankly, I don't have the energy or desire to.
posted by 1000monkeys at 5:27 PM on October 6, 2010


"And as a white, male, liberal Englishman, blatant straw men make me uncomfortable. You know, like conflating "wearing a garment that says an exposed female face is immodest" with "freedom to practice religion". That stuff annoys the hell out of me."

If an adult woman, of her own free will, and out of devout belief that her faith requires this of her, chooses to cover her face, or wear a wimple, and a law prohibiting her appearing in public dressed in that manner is passed, by what feat of logic do you exclude that from an infringement on the freedom to practice religion?
posted by bardophile at 12:56 AM on October 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Bardophile, you make a fundamental error: it's a religion he disagrees with, so freedoms don't count.
posted by smoke at 4:28 AM on October 7, 2010


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