Saturday, June 20, 2009


According to an article in the Associated Press, the French government is considering banning the burqas in public. A parliamentary commission will be set to investigate whether such a measure would make sense.
I know that it's considered very illiberal to support anything like this, but I can't help but feel that I understand what this is about. I wouldn't dream of going to Mianwali, for example, and run around in a mini-skirt and a deep cleavage. I would respect the sensibilities of the population that practices exclusive burqa-observance and so I would most definitely wear one myself.
In Montreal, I saw men who were leading women around on leashes. This offends my sensibilities. Why should my feelings not be respected? How is what a woman in Mianwali feels more respectable than what a woman from Montreal feels?
For those who after reading this post will feel the overwhelming desire to scream "intolerance", please read my opinions on the concept of tolerance first:
P.S. For those who read Portuguese, here is an interesting post on the same topic:
The main idea is: let's not tolerate ourselves into self-destruction.


Anonymous said...

From a purely formal viewpoint, one's feelings about how somebody ELSE should behave should not be taken more seriously than one's feelings about how one should or should not live one's OWN life. I.e. their wish to wear burqa is more important than your wish they do not wear one, because it is them whom the decision concerns more.

Trying to solve this issue from the viewpoint of tolerance or who is more entitled to one's feelings cannot be productive at all, IMHO.

I'd rather go for less politically correct, but also less subjective approach: you want to live in XYZ country? - you have to accept certain set of attitudes, values and behaviors, which exist in country XYZ and, among other things, made that country what it is, attractive for you to immigrate. It is not a supermarket, where you can choose only what you like (e.g. higher standard of living) and not take anything else. Do not like country's traditions - do not come.
Immigrants are supposed to obey the laws and customs of their new country. They are entitled to try to change the laws of the country only via regular democratic procedures. Trying to bully the majority into some sort of liberal guilt is one of the democratic procedures :), but naming it with its correct name is also part of normal democratic procedure.
P.S. I am an immigrant.

Clarissa said...

That's exactly how I feel.

P.S. I'm an immigrant, too. :-)

soopermouse said...

this is not a matter of feelings.
This is a matter of RIGHTS.
The burqa is an utterly oppressive thing, and there is nobody with half a brain that can argue that the burqa can be freely chosen when not wearing the burqa puts your life and livelihood in danger.

I see this as the Government of France saying loud and clear that the human rights of its female citizens are more important than anyone's idiotic and backwards tribal customs.

First generation immigrant here as well.

Dorrie said...

my take on religion is this:
Religion: if I can't walk freely on the face of the earth, with the sun on my face and the wind in my hair, THEN I'M NOT INTERESTED!!!!

Burqa is a medieval, moldy old custom of oppression...covering of women for all kinds of "holier than thou" rationalization of "piety" (showing your devotion)...well that is a medieval moldy old custom disguised as religious devotion...

notice, all these covering customs, it is not the men who have restrictions of such magnitude as hobbling with black bag covering you up with only a slit to see out the great Abe Lincoln (was it Abe?) to those who would advocate slavery's socalled virtues, they should try it themselves should the mullahs and other men who insist on women being covered...they should go around covered in a black sack for a while...

here i am in 2009 canada and I see a young "muslim" woman at the chinese green grocer, it's a hot sunny day in june and she is covered with about three layers of clothing, including pants UNDER a skirt, and a black jacket over top of a shirt, AND a full head scarf including it folded to cover her forehead, and then to "bottom" it off, "comfortable" shoes (that is oxfords)...this is just self-congratulatory hubris...i guess we all (women) have to go through it, the urge to act out how special we are as a woman...but please, when i see a "muslim" couple on a hot sunny summer day, the man in a cool, short sleaved shirt, no hot hat or scarf, and then the woman sweltering and suffocating in black full covering, it is just an absurdity...

well, as to the "feminist" twist on tolerance for full "covering" as if it means some kind of liberated choice that women make (what a crock)...think of this: how does a Hitler come to have political power? Not by some mysterious, individual madman phenomenon, but BECAUSE WE ALLOW IT, that is, we don't speak out against it in the "body politic"...

Anonymous said...

I guess part of the problem would be solved once it will be clearly stated by law that freedom to practice any religion is limited to situations when it does not contradict basic principles like "women and men are equal", "people of all races and ethnic groups are equal", etc. In other words, basic ethical concepts which are independent of religion should take precedence. As it should be in a secular state anyway. (Of course, country where "In god we trust" is written on money is not a secular state. But something will have to give...)

Then there would a) be a legal basis for outlawing some religious practices as contradicting universal human rights b) all those who are just considering immigration will get a clear message about what will and what will not be tolerated despite "religious freedoms".

Clarissa said...

"as to the "feminist" twist on tolerance for full "covering" as if it means some kind of liberated choice that women make (what a crock)..."

-This is exactly the reason why I was attacked when I voiced this opinion on another site. I believe that it's a bit dismissive of the Muslim women to assume that the way they live is always their free choice.

At the same time, I don't claim that my position comes as much from my concern for the Muslim women as from my concern from my own rights.

As an immigrant, I learned a lot a bout the country I was immigrating to prior to immigration and learned to adapt. I believe that everybody should do the same. Screeching about "tolerance above all" is uninsightful and, in the end, damaging to everyone.

Clarissa said...

I have received a message asking whether I realize that prohibiting the use of burqas in public will result in many women not being able to leave the house at all.

My answer: We are talking about adults, not children who aren't capable of bearing the responsibility for their decisions. So if some women decide to practice their religion in this way, it's not the government's business to take those things in consideration and act in a paternalistic way. These are not infants who have to be protected both from society and from their own religion.

Anonymous said...

---that prohibiting the use of burqas in public will result in many women not being able to leave the house at all.

Suppose the woman locked in her house would be of different religion, not Muslim... Wouldn't it be called abuse in our society? With certain legal consequences for the abuser?
That's why I said above that the priorities of the law have to be made clear. And various religious freedoms (I do not have some special problem with the Muslims, I have problem with all kind of fundamentalists.) should not be higher on that priority list than secular humanist concepts.

Anne said...

Hi there -- nice blog, first timer here.

I have about 15 different problems with this post and the ensuing comments, but I first wanted to point out that there are many, many Muslims in France -- not all of them are immigrants, and many of those burqa wearers probably consider themselves every bit as French as Sarkozy.

To your commenters:

The issue here is really not about women's liberation. The French could give a flying farq about that -- it's about anything that doesn't fit with their very deeply held self-image as a secular people. And the way to "liberate" these women is not by taking punitive measures against them, nor would that be effective.

Even if all these women are truly being forced to wear these hideous robes (a position which I highly doubt -- not all Muslim women are submissive children waiting for white men to lift the veil of oppression), do you really think that they'd even be allowed to/want to leave the house for fear of backlash from either their families or from the French government? In essence, you'd be punishing the victim and setting them back further. But then, why am I not surprised -- that's the history of legislation when it comes to women, regardless of nationality.

Clarissa said...

Dear Anne: thank you.

My position on this issue hinges less on my desire to "protect" Muslim womeen from oppression. It has more to do with my wish to see my rights protected and my culture respected. If I were to go to a fundamentalist Muslim state, nobody would care much about myy cultural expectations and allow me to wear revealing clothes. If I respect the funddamentalists' right to live the way they want in their own countries, why shouldn't my right to live the way I want within my civilization also be respected?

In Montreal, women from fundamentalist families lobbied very strongly to prohibit men from coming to birthing classes with their wives and partners. Nobody prevented them, of course, from organizing their own birthing classes, but that was not the point.

There was also a very strong push to get Canadian Supreme Court to permit shariah laws being applied within Muslim communities on the territory of Canada.

This is what I mean by self-destructing through tolerance.