“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

France, Nativism And A Piece Of Cloth.

with 4 comments

I am not a fan of the Niqab or Burka, but then again I am against enforcing specific dress codes, to wear something or not to wear something.

I argued some time ago on this very topic at Zword, but reconsidering some of those arguments I think there is a better way of looking at it, a simpler way. In the grand scheme of things, how important is it, really? In my view, not much.

When you think of France, with all its numerous social problems, economic ills and political difficulties, would you think that a piece of cloth is the biggest problem that they face?

And does it become a bigger issue when worn by women, in strategic places ?

I suspect most intelligent readers will say, no.

Clearly, there is plenty of historical material on secularism in France, and anyone familiar with the French Revolution would know why, but the contemporary debate in France owes more to the political manoeuvrings of politicians and the influence of the Far Right.

Xenophobia has long been a problem in Europe with its major manifestations in the 1930s and 40s.

More recently we can see increased racial attacks and violence again Roma across European countries, including France and then the spectre of nativism raises its ugly head, where those wearing unapproved fashions are now attacked.

The Far Right’s influence can be seen all over these measures, along with Nicolas Sarkozy’s fingerprints as he panders to French nativism in the hope of electoral success.

Enforced dress codes must be rejected, whether in Saudi Arabia, the Taliban’s old Afghanistan or France.

France has many serious problems and they do not come down to bits of cloth worn by women.

The real problems and social ills in France should be dealt with, and it does not help women in anyway to fine them for not wearing the approved range of clothes.

So in Europe let us be serious, deal with the real problems, infrastructure, social inequalities, decent wages, good pension, a solid welfare state and the stark divisions between rich and poor, and not these panicky measure which only increase racial tension and help the Far Right.

Update 1: Previous posts on the topic, Stigmatising Dress Codes.

Pandering To Prejudice In France.

Written by modernityblog

11/04/2011 at 17:23

4 Responses

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  1. Personally think it’s more than just a regular piece of clothing – no other piece of clothing raises such a barrier to communication from one person to another, save for maybe a motorcycle helmet, which no one in their right mind would wander down the street wearing. Good decision by the French.


    11/04/2011 at 17:41

  2. @modernity I agree with the points you have raised, and have thought a long time about the burqa and niqab, and whatever way I look at it, I still cannot agree,and will never agree that a ban is the way to address the problem,personally I find the burqa particuarly repulusive, a women dressed from head to toe in black, never feeling the wind on her cheeks or the sun on her face,no one noticing when she laughs, or how the sides of her mouth curl when she laughs, i find the burqa offensive, and the wearing of it has nothing what so ever do with Islam, but is a cultural practice, yet it is a cultural practice that has seen men throw acid in the faces of women not fully covered. It needs to be addressed.
    I also find the fact that many ultra orthodox Jewish women who cut their hair and wear sheitels(wigs) completly crazy, this again is cultural, although obviously not to the extent of someone being drapped from head to foot in black, but it is not religious concept,and the idea is riddiculous, i think it needs to be addressed, a modest headscarf is all that is needed, not to cut ones own hair and buy false hair, and the same for the cultural practice of wearing the niqab or burqa, i think Judaisim and Islam need to address these issues themselves.


    11/04/2011 at 21:27

  3. I agree with the first sentence of the first comment, but not the second.

    smtx01 – although I sympathise with your point of view, I also note that women have been attacked, even killed, for *wearing* a veil too.

    Sarah AB

    12/04/2011 at 08:43

  4. Since seeing someone’s face is such an important part of communication and everyday human interaction I hope the French build on this recent law by legislating against blind people.


    14/04/2011 at 18:01

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