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‘The integration debate, of which this the latest manifestation, is poorly veiled racism’

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Mon 15 February 2010

The Cherwell newspaper

http://www.cherwell.org/content/989

‘The integration debate, of which this the latest manifestation, is poorly veiled racism’

No one in France actually wears a ‘burqa’, the traditional garb imposed by the Taliban on women in Afghanistan. By using the term, Sarkozy was using a mental slippage technique which allowed people to feel like they were opposing oppression in Afghanistan through supporting state oppression of women in France. Less than 2000 French women actually wear a face veil which explains much of its mystic and the inability to focus on the bigger picture.

The real issue all women face is the struggle for self-determination – the struggle to make choices for themselves about themselves, unfettered by over-zealous clerics or patronising presidents. Muslims who wear the face veil fully support security procedures requiring their identification and have cooperated fully to this end. The core of this debate is not about security or Sarkozy’s alleged passing penchant for these women’s rights, otherwise he might have consulted at least one in the mock commission set up to ‘investigate’ the face veil. Rather, it is about vote betting in identity-crisis ridden France.

The integration debate, of which this the latest manifestation, is poorly veiled racism. White French men in power telling Arab women what’s best for them, is just the latest expression of neo-colonial arrogance. Historically, Arabs needed emancipation from their debased state of being through the imposition of ‘French’ culture. Today, many French can’t tolerate the thought these former ‘barbarians’ turned citizens might have a say in defining modern French identity.

The ripples of this discriminatory legislation will vindicate already widespread islamophobia and racism. French Muslims of Maghrebi ancestry are the victims of 68% of racist violence and face a 26.5% rate of unemployment compared with 5% overall. Young women in headscarves are already excluded from schools and public pools for adhering to their religious conviction and some women have been unable to marry, vote or take exams. In the case of immigrants, the irony is self evident: women are now being turned away from state-sponsored French language classes!

Supporters of the ban claim they are fighting for women’s dignity but few things could be quite as humiliating as being turned away from an office, denied entry to a hospital or escorted out of public transport. This legislation limits women’s participation in the public sphere and there is nothing empowering about that. Even through a burka, the instrumentalization of women’s bodies for electoral ends is clear for all to see.

 

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Written by Myriam Francois

February 15, 2010 at 00:12

Posted in all

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