After months of political wrangling France banned the burqa and niqab yesterday making it illegal to wear these Islamic clothing in public places but the French government’s concern has nothing to do with the rights of Muslim women and more to do with politics and cultural arrogance as the popularity of the far-right grows.
Yesterday, French MPs voted for a ban on the burqa and niqab in public places bringing to an end months of controversial political debate on the issue. It is now illegal for any Muslim woman to wear either of these Islamic dress in public. Anyone caught wearing either of these Muslim dress will be fined 150 Euros or face community service. Anyone caught forcing a Muslim woman to wear the burqa or the niqab faces twelve months in prison and a 30,000 Euro fine. If a Muslim child is forced the person can serve up to two years in prison and a fine of 60,000 Euros.
The French government referred to the niqab, the full face veil which leaves only the eyes open, and burqa, a full body dress which covers the entire face with a mesh as “a new form of enslavement that the republic cannot accept on its soil.” (CNN.com: April 11 2011)
Already, two Muslim female protesters were arrested for defying the new law and no doubt there will be more protests to come.
A political move to appease far-right gains
If the French government had the interests of Muslim women at heart perhaps this law would be seen as just and ethical, but the evidence suggests that this is just a political manoeuvre by French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy to detract attention away from the gains of the far-right in France and his own party’s increasing unpopularity.
France 24 International News reported on March 22 that Nicolas Sarkozy’s party suffered in the French local elections and finished just ahead of a rapidly-growing far-right political presence in France.
The French National Front Party, Front National (FN), headed by popular leader Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the party and a controversial far-right figure leader, won a place in the second round in one in five of the councils up for grabs.
Marine Le Pen referred to Muslim prayers in the streets of France to the German Nazi occupation during a speech for the FN leadership. (France 24 International News: With eye on far right leadership, Marine Le Pen stirs the pot: 10 January 2011)
Nicolas Sarkozy’s government fears the popularity of Marine Le Pen in the French national elections next year and have arguably used the burqa and niqab ban to appease French people who are turning further to far-right beliefs.
Belgium, Netherlands and Switzerland have all brought some form of legislation to outlaw the wearing of the Muslim burqa and Sky News reported in July that 67% of Britons agree with a burqa ban.
According to CNN, in a Pew Global Attitudes Project 82 percent of French people backed a burqa ban. The survey also found that there was overwhelming support for a burqa ban in Germany, Britain, Spain and America.
No doubt the French ban will encourage other Western governments to follow suit.
Western imperialism disguised behind women’s rights
When I covered this issue in previous articles (read Belgian ban on Burqas: Is it right? and Burka ban debate set to hit Britain) I attempted to inform readers that Western countries in general had appalling records when it comes to protecting the rights of women. I also discussed the Western cultural arrogance towards other cultures, an arrogance rooted in racism and the ideology that the Western world represents the most culturally progressive societies in the world.
Read the articles just given and the statistics paints a different picture of Western attitudes towards women.
Modern female singers in the West whose acts hardly differs from pole dancing and stripping cannot be considered progressive for women. The modelling and fashion industry which forces millions of women and young girls to fit into a certain body type and look a certain way can hardly be called progression for women. Lads magazines displaying the breasts of young women 18 years of age for the pleasure of millions of men can hardly be considered progressive for women.
The Muslim women who have supported the ban play into the hands of Western culturally arrogant individuals who still live in the times when Europeans believed they had a duty to teach the ‘savages’ of other cultures how to live.
You can be against the niqab and burqa for moral reasons, you may even support the rights of Muslim women to refuse to wear these garments, but the danger of playing into the political strategy of Western leaders and governments is evident, and in particularly the far-right.
The problem with this debate is that the bans in European countries on the burqa or niqab has come about on an anti-immigration anti-Muslim platform.
The Muslim women who protest these bans by wearing the clothing may not even be fighting for their right to wear them, but rather fighting for their right to be a Muslim, an identity which has come under severe attack by the West ever since the 9/11 attacks and the ‘War on terror’.
For further research: