Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Sign of subservience"

In a secular society no-one should be subjected to the humiliation of a walking isolation cell imposed upon them. For once Sarkozy got it right.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has caused a stir with his remark that "we cannot accept, in our country, women imprisoned behind a mesh, cut off from society, deprived of all identity. That is not the French republic's idea of women's dignity."

Referring to the burka, he added that it is unacceptable to have women in France who are "prisoners behind netting". "It is not a religious issue", he said, "but rather one related to freedom and dignity". A burka commission will be set up to assess the extent to which some women are forced to wear it against their will and possible ways to limit its use.

Some have criticised Sarkozy on the basis that "the idea that the state has a right to tell people what they can and cannot wear is completely unreasonable" ('Don't Ban The Burqa'). Others have denounced the alleged use of feminism to "serve a neo-cons agenda" and that many Muslim women wear it because they want to ('Truth or Propaganda: Muslim women need to be saved').

Similarly though, in the 19th century there were plenty of slaves to be found claiming that being a slave was ok. The fact remains that for a scary number of women the burka is forced upon them and turns them into faceless property without identity in all but name- a walking isolation cell. I guess not miles away from the old catholic 'tradition' of forcing daughters into monastic life.

Tolerance of the burqa based on the post-colonial notion of 'cultural background' assumes that Islam is so backward that it's normal for a woman to live her life subjugated. To go along with it is to appease the bullies.


Chris Baldwin said...

Obviously no adult should be forced to wear clothes they don't want and if they want to look into ways of stopping women being forced to dress like this then that's fine by me, although I don't see how they're going to actually achieve it. But any actual ban would be unacceptably authoritarian - it might be a good thing, but it wouldn't be the right thing. I must say as well that I never saw anyone dressed like this while I was living in France.

Stan Moss said...

I'm with Chris on this one. I too believe getting women to wear such dresses is inhumane, but I don't think a total ban like that on the agenda in France is the best way to go about it.

I must say as well that I never saw anyone dressed like this while I was living in France.
Though they're saying the numbers are multiplying fast. We'll see what happens.

ejh said...

I'm also witrh Chris on this and I'd add that his last sentence may be the most important one. How many people are we actually talking about? Hardly any? Is it not possible that Sarko is actually indulging in gesure politics here?

And what are you going to do if somebody does want to wear it - as, within a population of millions, somebody is bound to want to do? How are you possibly going to enforce a ban without behaving oppressively?

It's one thing to oppose the burka, which is ABC. It's quite another to talk about bans without feeling profoundly uncomfortable about it or thinking more deeply about what the consequences of that might be.