France has a Muslim problem. The problem does not date to yesterday or even last year
France had been overly generous about admitting foreign Muslims. Now it has a very large and unruly group of Muslims in its midst.
It has suffered the assassination of journalists at Charlie Hebdo, the massacre at the Bataclan music hall and the mass murder that took place in Nice last month. All of the perpetrators of these terrorist attacks were Muslim. All of them did it in the name of Allah.
French authorities have tried to be resolute. They have cracked down fiercely on local Muslim agitators and have banned various kinds of Muslim dress, especially the burqa and other face coverings.
France prides itself on its laicity. It happily accepts those who wish to practice their religion, but it does not tolerate religions that wish to supplant the French legal system and to undermine traditional French culture.
Thus, beginning with the municipal authorities, France has banned what is called the burkini, a body suit worn by Muslim women who are not allowed to bathe in more revealing Western garments. One notes that the ban on the burkini does not, in fact, ban modest bathing suits. The choice is not between the burkini and the bikini.
The ban has been applauded by the Socialist prime minister and by several other Socialist ministers. It is not being imposed by some right wing Tea Party patriot.
Needless to say, Western feminists are up in arms about this inhibition of women’s liberty. Said feminists have never much concerned themselves with the fate of women in Muslim countries; they have not been holding marches against honor killing, female genital mutilation, rampant sexual abuse, stoning adulteresses, wife beatings and jailing rape victims.
About that, feminists and other progressive fellow travelers have had nothing to say. But, banning the burkini, that was one step too far. The feminist left has finally decided that modesty is a good thing. In some contexts at least.
For those who prefer to be informed about French jurisprudence an article from Le Figaro sums up the case. I will summarize it.
Jean-Louis Harouel explains that the ban is not directed against the Muslim religion but against political Islam. French law distinguishes between the two. It allows people to practice their religion but it does not tolerate a political system that is fomenting a culture war against Western Civilization and Western values.
Continuing, Harouel takes up an argument made by Bernard Lewis in his book What Went Wrong? Islam, Lewis pointed out, is distinct from Christianity in that it does not separate church from state. Lewis explained, and Harouel also notes, that Christianity renders unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s. Islam does no such thing. Thus certain cultural practices are considered a repudiation of French law and custom. Plus they are symbols of misogyny. Again, I note that they are unacceptable to French Socialists.
The American left, however, is appalled by the French. In particular, it believes that it is looking into the abyss of Islamophobia. Keep in mind, American leftists, beginning with our president, are not at war with Islam and refuse to believe that Islam is at war with the West. They are fighting against Islamophobia. They believe that if only we were more tolerant the Islamist terrorists would not hate us so much.
The New York Times editorialized:
This hysteria threatens to further stigmatize and marginalize France’s Muslims at a time when the country is listing to the Islamophobic right in the wake of a series of horrific terrorist attacks. And with presidential elections scheduled for next spring and the right-wing National Front’s popularity on the rise, French officials and politicians have leapt to support the mayors.
Given that it’s the Times, they had to find a way to obscure the fact that major Socialist Party officials have signed on to the ban. If you are the Times, you think that all evil comes from the right. Of course, if the Socialist ministers are supporting the ban for purely political reasons, they are cowards.
The Times quotes Socialist officials without, of course, saying that they are leftists:
Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Wednesday called the burkini a symptom of “the enslavement of women” that “is not compatible with the values of France” and said “the nation must defend itself.” France’s women’s rights minister, Laurence Rossignol, declared the burkini “the beach version of the burqa” and said “it has the same logic: Hide women’s bodies in order to better control them.”
Times columnist Roger Cohen also denounced the ban, but he fell back on the old canard—namely that women follow Islamic dress codes because they really, really want to do so:
Often the choice to wear one has been imposed through forms of male domination sanctioned by certain readings of Islam and pervasive in societies like Saudi Arabia, but equally it may reflect a woman’s independently embraced identity. That is not for officials to decide. Inside the burkini lurk many different women’s journeys.
Since these women do not have a choice—they follow the rules or they are killed—it is meaningless to say that this is something they really, really want. Whatever happened to the freedom to choose?
As it happens the Times is all over this story. Someone named Amanda Taub adds her own views, because, she knows, better than most, what it’s really about. If you don’t think so, just ask her.
Or better, ask the experts that she consulted:
Social scientists say it is also not primarily about protecting Muslim women from patriarchy, but about protecting France’s non-Muslim majority from having to confront a changing world: one that requires them to widen their sense of identity when many would prefer to keep it as it was.
This means: get used to diversity. People from different cultures do not have to adopt our customs, they can practice their own Sharia laws. If you do not like it, too bad.
But, can these same people practice honor killings or wife beatings or marital rape… under the aegis of Sharia Law? Should men be allowed to have multiple wives and should parents be able to mutilate their daughters’ genitals. And besides, what is the difference between a holy warrior and a terrorist? Ought we to excuse terrorism, even to call it workplace violence, because it is acceptable within a certain religious context?
To the feminist mind, banning the burkini is telling women what they can and cannot do with their bodies. And this means that the West is just as repressive as Islam when it comes to women’s freedom. One finds it hard to believe that people can be so afraid to denounce Islamic misogyny that they excuse it and compare it to the way women are treated in the West.
Are their minds so addled that they cannot make any basic distinctions? Who would dare tell a Western woman what she can and cannot wear or what she can or cannot do with her body?
And naturally, feminists whose weakness and cowardice invites terrorism suggest that the burkini ban is a tool for recruiting terrorists.
As for Americans defending the ban, we have Louise Mensch,who explains this:
The argument is made that we must have freedom of religion under the First Amendment; but I would reply that this freedom is not untrammeled. One cannot legally practise polygamy. In terms of clothing, one cannot walk around naked; it’s a public order offence. My view is that the extreme forms of veiling are hate speech towards women. Even if practised by women as a choice – and often they may not be – they still constitute hate speech towards other women. It is false to say that women are not capable of misogyny. In India, very often mothers-in-law commit horrific and misogynist crimes against daughters-in-law. Those saying the burquini is free speech seemed angered that a Corsican tourist exercised his free speech by taking a photo of the woman in the insulting, disgusting garment. Muslim men tried to hurt him; Corsicans fought back; hence the ban; a public order offense.
And Mensch adds:
President Obama will say ‘black lives matter’ and the UK Parliament will tell the Queen she leads a “rainbow nation” to make a point about gay rights, but this same President and this same Queen will bow low before, and mourn, respectively, the King of Saudi Arabia who does not let women vote, work, have parental rights, or drive in cars; whose nation forced at gunpoint a school of girl children to burn alive because they would not let them out of the building because they were “improperly veiled”.