Joni Balter’s piece on the French “burqa ban”
In writing her article in the Seattle Times (Rethinking France’s Burqa ban http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2016417207_joni06.html), I believe Ms. Balter is guilty of lumping several different issues into one and over-simplifying them all. It also appears to me that while she may have spoken with a few Muslim women who were liberal, she did not appear to have made the effort of talking to some conservative Muslim women who did prefer the coverings.
First, the matter of burqa and niqab. I agree it is not right for men to force women to wear these coverings, but at the same time, there are many Muslim women who willingly wear these coverings and I personally know many who would feel that being forced to take off the coverings is tantamount to being disrobed in public. Ms. Balter appears to take the position that the coverings are because men are forcing women to cover up. Frances laws are geared to punish the MEN for women wearing the coverings, is that not placing men in a position where they are forcing women to NOT wear coverings even if they want to?
Based on examples in Pakistan (where I am from) and right here in the US, I can tell you that if some men tried to force women of their household to NOT wear coverings, there will be lots of divorces happening.
I am not suggesting that ALL women wearing coverings are doing so of their own volition, but certainly the large majority of them are, while another large group is wearing coverings because of cultural practices and maybe, a minority are being pressured by their menfolk. France and Ms. Balter, would argue otherwise, “irregardless” of facts.
It would not be a surprise to see some Muslim men “prance around Paris in super-tight jeans and slinky shirts“, after all, contrary to popular mythology, Muslims are varied people who share the faith but not necessarily all practices. By the same token, I am certain there were also plenty of Muslim women also “prance around Paris in super-tight jeans and slinky shirts“, but Ms. Balter obviously did not take the trouble to find out. In fact, we can find such variety of personal practices even in most conservative Muslim countries (Arabia excepting).
Ms. Balter is also saying things like, “France these days is in a pitched battle for its soul” that place her on the side of Islamophobes who are screaming terms such as “Islamization” and “Eurabia” and thus, stoking fears of a Muslim takeover of France and Europe itself while feeding the fires of bigotry right here. Her language pitches France against a monolithic, all-consuming beast (Muslims) that will destroy “the soul of France” unless France forces Muslim women to walk around feeling naked to the public.
France has always had an all-consuming culture where every occupation (Algeria, Tunisia) was “La France!”, but France was never Algeria or Tunisia. Frenchmen moved into occupied countries and settled as they willed, but Muslims from the colonies were segregated into slums where they are still contained. Small wonder that the cultures of the colonized, experienced no change but got worse, upon moving into France. Most Muslim immigrants to France experience huge barriers to employment so much so, that many pretend to be not Muslims in order to get jobs … IF they can conceal their Muslim names! I also wonder if Ms. Balter has seen the many soup-kitchens that openly and deliberately serve pork only, in order to avoid serving Muslim poor?
France has a large number of Jews still living there, no thanks to their helping to truck so many of them off to death camps. Yet we do not hear of the “Judaisation” of France; or that France in a “pitched battle for its soul” because of the many conservative and orthodox Jews whose women are not permitted to show their faces in public and who are kept segregated.
Nuns in France, may walk around in their habits, but should a Muslim woman dare to walk arounf wearing the same garb, there would be all sorts of finger-pointing at the “exploitive” habits (no pun intended) of Muslims.
Why is there “a pitched battle for its soul” wherever Muslims are concerned?
She goes on to say, “What’s more, any feminist must realize the wearing of the burqa and niqab is something only women do. It may be grounded in centuries of tradition, but it’s blatantly sexist“. There are LOTS of things that “only women do“! Just because France does something that we the unwashed Muslims do not do, does not mean it is for the good; prostitution is legal in France, so is pornography, but are they also not extremely exploitive?
At another level, I am deeply opposed to women wearing high heels which deform their feet and skirts (especially in Winter), they wear them as a result of cultural pressures because no sane woman would wear such things otherwise. I am also opposed to women wearing skimpy apparel in sports where their male counterparts wear more clothing. I am aghast at girls, barely past their toddler-ages, being primped to look like sexy women in order to compete in beauty contests. Cultural pressures also force many women into Bulimia and Anorexia. Are these not terribly de-humanizing issues that attack “the soul of” France/ Europe/the West?
Knowingly or not, Ms. Balter is conflating Muslim presence in France and in Europe, with cultural battles and equating Muslim immigrants (many in France are no longer “immigrants” but have been there for generations), and welfare recipients and yet again, stoking false fears with such characterizations.
“Women and men moving to new countries need all the help they can get learning the language and adapting to their new country“. Yes indeed, but men face the same issues as well. Could Ms. Balter say a few soft words on behalf of the Muslim men in France who are no longer immigrants, but born there, but are denied jobs and admissions into institutes of higher learning (excuses aside) because they are Muslim?
Has Ms. Balter checked her own biases against Muslims? She is clearly equating Muslims with the immigration problems facing all of Europe. Yet, Western Europe is flooded with immigrants for Eastern Europe and a huge number of immigrants in France are also from the same countries as the Muslim immigrants. Nevertheless, it would seem from her writing, that all immigrants are Muslim.
Perhaps she means all unwanted immigrants are Muslim, which says something entirely different about France and about her own outlook.
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