The French left shows it Islamophobia in supporting Niqab ban


7:03 pm - April 5th 2011

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contribution by Sam Bogg

On 11th April, French Muslim women will wake up to find they can no longer were the niqab in any public place.

Sarkozy has argued that the burqa is not welcome in France. Even on the liberal-left people have heralded the move as “the right step”. It would seem that some on the French left have forgotten what that means.

One of the key arguments given by leftists and liberals in support of the ban is the argument of women’s equality. Herein lays fatal contradictions.

Firstly, let’s look at the French Government protecting the rights and equality of Muslim women in action recently;

In 2008, Faiza Silmi was blocked from getting French nationality because she wore the niqab. The argument there was the same that is given now: that the Islamic veil is not compatible with French values on women’s equality. The fact that she chose to wear the niqab did not enter the equation.

In the same year, a young Muslim couple of Moroccan origin filed for their marriage to be annulled. The husband’s reason was that she was not a virgin as he had believed before their marriage. Under French Civil Code, an “error on the essential quality of the spouse” qualifies that annulment.

The incident, however, became widely interpreted as a move to introduce Sharia Law, into France. Later that year, the Public prosecutor of Lille appealed and the couple was remarried, as the prosecutor argued virginity was not an essential quality of a spouse. The result was that a woman who did not want to remain married to a man anyway, was remarried to protect her rights as a woman.

These are just two cases in a sea of hundreds. However, what is evident is that the Government does not really care for the equality of Muslim women at all, given that their desires and choices were not taken into account.

What is worrying is that many on the liberal-left seem content to allow rich western men to “liberate” poor women of Middle Eastern and African origin, especially as history shows that the ruling class has never been at hand to help advance the liberation of women.

How those supporting the moves do not see the contradiction in liberation coming in the form of dictating what women can wear, is beyond me.

Women’s equality is (ironically) being used as a veil to attack Islam. What makes those that claim to stand up for women in their attack of Islam more stupid is that they are supporting measures that hit women far worse. They are not denying men the right to practice their religion, but are denying the right to their sisters.

You cannot legislate to liberate, and so long as women want to wear the niqab or any other veil, I support them, and those on the left should too. Equality is about the freedom to make your own decisions and that is the complete opposite of what this law does.

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Reader comments


1. Jonathan Phillips

A phobia is an irrational fear or dislike. Why is it irrational to object to the practice of facial concealment? I want to see the face of anyone who might be looking at me, and if I were a shop or bank manager, a bus or taxi driver, a passport inspector or a presiding officer in a polling station I should certainly want to see who I was dealing with. An objectionable practice does not become acceptable just because it’s associated with a religion. I wouldn’t be allowed into a bank if I were wearing a balaclava!

I’m always a bit uncomfortable when people bring up the idea that women have ‘chosen’ to wear the veil. It’s likely that a lot of pressure from their family and community will be forcing them to that choice.

Is it a contradiction for the law to prevent you making a certain choice in order to protect your own freedom? There are clearly some cases where the law is justified in doing so, for example, forbidding people from selling themselves into slavery. If we extend that principle as far as seatbelts and cigarettes, surely we can extend the it to the niqab.

I tend to sympathise with the french on this issue.

As a woman, and a leftie I think France is taking the right steps. I hate all religions, because I see them as power for men to keep woman as second class citizens.

I also do not believe that most woman really, really want to wear this dress. What does it say about men that they need to cover up woman because they can’t trust themselves to not grab them and rape them if they see a bit of flesh or hair.

You mean the WHOLE of the French (highly diverse) Left support this? I think not. Lazy journalism of the worst kind

Whats also odd is that in contrast to the broad left-right consensus in France that the burqa should be banned, there is a broad left-right consensus in Britain that it shouldnt. I offer no reasons as to why this should be the case.

Great post. The naqib ban is Islamophobia wearing the clothes of women’s liberation. But liberation can’t be imposed from outside – people have to be empowered to liberate themselves.

7. Jonathan Phillips

@ Sally You’re entitled to hate them all, but it makes no sense to hate them all equally. Some Christian and Jewish denominations admit women to the priesthood – there are no Roman Catholic women priests, of course, and as for female mullahs…

But while some Christians and Jews are moving away from the earlier tradition, it is certainly the case that religions have always sought to maintain clear distinctions between male and female roles (always to the disadvantage of women, of course), and the distinction appears to be sharpest of all in Islam. This presumably explains their extreme homophobia, since homosexual people appear to blur the distinction, which they find intolerable.

I mean niqab. Oops.

9. johnny2hats

@Jonathan Phillips – While you might not be allowed into a bank wearing a balaclava, you certainly *would* be allowed out on the street wearing one, or a motorcycle helmet, or a lion mask, or whatever the hell you wanted. There’s a big difference between a private business refusing entry to people dressed a certain way for security reasons – or an individual like yourself simply disapproving of the practice – and a government legislating that you cannot wear a certain item of clothing in public *at all*. That’s a massive and unacceptable intrusion into personal freedom in my opinion.

10. Jonathan Phillips

@johnny2hats – what you say is true but irrelevant. I object to people hiding their face from me in the street. I am prepared to make an exception for people actually riding motorbikes, but for the rest – no. Maybe a lion mask as part of a carnival. A balaclava never. But even if it is deemed undesirable to prohibit facial concealment outdoors, it would be quite wrong to force shopkeepers, taxi-drivers and the rest to admit persons whose face they cannot see.

11. Torquil Macneil

I don’t think this issue is as straightforward as its supporters or its opponents would like. I would like to ask Sam though why he thinks it is that some pious Muslim women choose to cover their faces but no Muslim men do? There is no proscription against it in any Koranic or non-Koranic edict of Islam.

12. Torquil Macneil

“But liberation can’t be imposed from outside – people have to be empowered to liberate themselves.”

I don’t recognise any general principle in that either. It is an argument against the sexual and racial discrimination acts isn’t it?

I still don’t understand what is wrong with “islamophobia”. Can anyone explain? If it’s anti-Muslim bigotry you’re referring to then say anti-Muslim bigotry. That is a legitimate and real concern. You don’t use that term however. The term islamophobia is used purely to conflate the notion of religion and race and silence criticism of Islam.

I myself am deeply “phobic” of all religions. Islam included. Considering the calls of the various monotheisms for slavery, the execution of homosexuals and non-believers, and the subbordination of women, I tend to think this is a positive thing, not something that should lead one to be labelled a racist – what the islamophobia term is there for.

The real problem is the medieval interpretation of various religions. Christians are in no place to carp at the current Islam problems , because 500 years ago they were burning people at the stake for being the wrong kind of Christians. People were fined , if they did not attend church. The power of the Church was not that different to some Islam sections today. The America Christian Right goes out of it’s way to say that a wife is subservient to her husband, and they hate woman in any kind of managerial role. Unless it is flower arranging in the Chapel. As for gays there are plenty who would love to put them on top of a bonfire, but the secular law stops them.

Shit , it took until the 1930s in a so called Christian country for woman to get the vote. Islam has taken on a very medieval interpretation of in the last 40 years. Back in the 1950’s Iran, and Iraq were much more tolerant of a woman’s place. They were allowed to go to school and further education. Islamic country’s will have to have the secular , cultural changes before they can enjoy any chance for a more open society. However , the Conservative elements, just like they did here will fight against any watering down of their power.

15. David Hodd

The Niqab is nothing to do with Islam, and therefore opposition to it cannot be Islamophobic. It is cultural attire from Wahabi Saudi Arabia. To claim it is something to do with Islam is confusing customs from an Islamic part of the world with the Islamic faith, and so there is a reasonable claim that the article is in fact Islamophobic, as it is reliant on a stereotypical view of what Islam is.

I note (from Wikipedia, so it must be reliable!) that the Niqab is also banned in Tunisia, Turkey and Syria – I presume they to are Islampophobic countries?

You might have better claim that opposition to the Niqab is Anti-Semitic. I think for many there is a mix of discomfort at not being able to see the person, concern that the wearing of it is not a full free choice for the wearer, and yes, in many instances a degree of fear over a distinctly different expression of culture which does challenge views of what Multi-cultural society really is. I think you could only claim opposition to the Niqab is anti-Semitic if your opposition is based solely on the last point.

Oh here we go again, another sweeping set of generalizations and condemnations put forward by somebody with very little knowledge/understanding of the vast complexities of French history, society and politics.

I bet you wouldn’t like it if some Fench person came over here and told you what The Left in Britain thinks whilst knowing not a jot about what marks Britain out as politically a very different place. So maybe think about that.

I’ve said this before on various other threads regarding the French and religious symbolism, – the fact is France is a secular state and has been so since the revolution (the liberal revolution). The catholic church was highly critical of the revolution and many of its’ members refused to acknowledge the new republic, it’s that foundation which has determined France’s stance on all religions, not discrimination of Islam..

@15 @17

If the niqab isn’t a symbol of Islam, a secular state has no business banning it – and even if it is, a secular state has no business banning what private citizens (as opposed to state employees) wear.

I’d say that even if it isn’t strictly a symbol of Islam, it has been adopted as such both by some Muslims and by Islamophobes*. The real motives for banning the niqab are not the same as the post-facto justifications that are offered.

*(or, if you prefer, anti-Muslim bigots – though given that anti-Muslim bigotry is generally a concealed form of racism anyway, I’m not worried about any extra connotations “Islamophobic” may have here)

Banning the burqa doesn’t amount to Islamophobia then?

That’s probably a wise call with international news reports like these:

The ‘burkha bandits’: Robbers armed with knives and an axe wear Muslim dress to raid stores
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1209006/Jewellers-robbery-Oxfordshire-burka-clad-man–150-000-designer-watches-stolen.html

Two burqa-clad robbers hold up post office near Paris
http://www.france24.com/en/20100210-burqa-robbers-post-office-paris-nicolas-sarkozy-ban-national-identity-france-muslim

Police hunt Sydney burka bandit
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/05/06/2891505.htm

Ottawa police are investigating a series of bank robberies by a man or men wearing a Muslim woman’s head scarf. In the latest incident, on Thursday afternoon, a man in a head scarf robbed a bank at Pinecrest Mall in the city’s west end.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2010/12/31/ottawa-robbery-hijab.html

I object to people hiding their face from me in the street.

And? I object to all sorts of stuff, that doesn’t mean I’m entitled to have it banned.

You can show that all these woman would like to wear it can you?

18
Of course the state can ban the wearing of religious symbols in public it’s obviously their business or there would not be a ban. As far as I am aware French ciitizens are able to wear such symbols in private But I will repeat what I have said on several previous occasions, you cannot call this action Islamaphobe when it relates to other religious symbolism.
That said, there are plenty of examples of Islamaphobe in France as well as the UK, but this is not an example of it.

23. Jonathan Phillips

Hi Larry!

I said: I object to people hiding their face from me in the street.

You countered: And? I object to all sorts of stuff, that doesn’t mean I’m entitled to have it banned.

And you’re quite right too! That something is found objectionable (whether by liberal secularists, religious fundamentalists or readers of the Daily Mail) does not constitute grounds for banning it.

But facial concealment is not objectionable-but-risk-free (like builder’s bum, say): it does bring real risks. And while any attempt to ban the niqab (why are we stuck with these stupid spellings?) in open-air locations would probably cause more problems than it would solve, I hold to my view that it should NOT be against the law to refuse admittance to enclosed places, including buses and taxis, to people who refuse to show their face.

24. Jonathan Phillips

22

The French state may be secular but it doesn’t ban the public display of religious symbols – it isn’t North Korea! But symbols are one thing, concealing your identity is another.

@24 Are France banning all forms of dress which conceal people’s faces? Or just the one used by some Muslim women?

26. Jonathan Phillips

@25

Je ne sais pas. I hope it’s a general ban on facial concealment rather than just aimed at islamic dress – but maybe they already prohibit non-religious masking. I don’t know that either.

If I were to walk about in Norwich wearing a balaclava with only my eyes visible, I think I’d expect to be stopped by the first cop I met, if only for a friendly little chat so he could ascertain my motives. You couldn’t do that with a person in a niqab, could you?

27. Just Visiting

Have a listen to the arguments that the well-known atheist Sam Harris makes regards the burqa:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ko3YPnSD_fg

28. Just Visiting

And if you disagree with Harris, and find yourself agreeing with the Mulsim figures who argue that women choose to wear the Burqa themselves:

Harris’s own website has a page:

“Honesty: The Muslim World’s Scarcest Resource?”

http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/honesty-the-muslim-worlds-scarcest-resource/

It was a highly instructive personal experience going on an exchange visit to an all-boys lycée in France in the early 1950s: no school uniform, no school assemblies for “an act of worship”, some women teachers – all with agrégé diplomas, naturally – no RE classes, no corporal punishment, no organised school sports – Wednesday afternoons were left free of classes in case any students wanted to go off and do sport.

If parents wanted any religious education (RE) for their children, they had to come to some arrangement with local clergy for out-of-school classes.

All that ran and runs completely counter to what is still upheld as the model features of a “good” school here.

We really do need to look over the barricade from time to time to compare how they do things in other west European countries.

I’m struck by the begining of your last paragraph.

“You cannot legislate to liberate…”

So what the hell has all the equalities legislation passed over the last few years been about then?

31. David Hodd

18

– Whilst continuing to confuse cultural dress with religious dress, you did not pick up on my point that the niqab is banned in public places in 3 states with an majority Muslim population – Turkey, Syria and Tunisia.

Are these countries Islamophobic? or perhaps they have a valid reason for banning the Naqib that is somehow not valid in Western Europe?

moreover
“If the niqab isn’t a symbol of Islam, a secular state has no business banning it” – there are many things which a secular state has a business in banning, and which are not symbols of Islam. You have a flawed logic here.

Lets liberate women from under the yoke of controlling patriarchy by telling them what they cannot wear in public. That’ll work surely…

33. douglas clark

Can I point you all to this thread?

http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/4963

I started out believing that it should be banned, and ended up believing it shouldn’t.

It is an incredibly intelligent debate. One that is worth seeing to the end…

34. Jonathan Phillips

@28

Harris wants to base morality on somewhat fuzzy notions of human wellbeing, a version of the “greatest happiness” principle. Maybe most people, religious or not, would agree (with a bit of fudging) – but some “true believers”, not all of them Muslim, would not. For them morality is based on revelation and is not open to discussion. The two positions are incompatible. In much of the world enlightenment has made some progress – our minds and our societies have become more open, the possibility of improvement is there; elsewhere minds sometimes seem to be closing. All we can do is push education and promote the inquiring spirit. Recent events in some Arab countries do seem encouraging.

Try this illuminating video clip about Samarkand Islamic History Empire and notice the women going about their ways in the covered market without any head coverings:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCiUGb9f7hI

36. David Hodd

33

I find this line particularly persuasive

“Would Darth Vader impersonators be held?”

- quite right too, though that make me a Jediphobic (or rather Sithophobic?)

@31

“Whilst continuing to confuse cultural dress with religious dress”

If you read my comment, I *do* acknowledge your point about a niqab not being religious dress in the sense of being required by Islam. My point was that it has nonetheless come to occupy the role of a symbol of Islam or Muslimhood both for Islamophobes and some Muslims.

“You did not pick up on my point that the niqab is banned in public places in 3 states with an majority Muslim population – Turkey, Syria and Tunisia.

Are these countries Islamophobic? or perhaps they have a valid reason for banning the Naqib that is somehow not valid in Western Europe?”

I didn’t pick up on it because it is what is known as ‘whataboutery’. The answer is I don’t why those states banned the niqab or if their reasons were good (though Syria/Tunisia hardly strike me as good examples to follow!), though it’s entirely possible the reasons for banning it might not be applicable outside particular local circumstances. In any case, it seems unlikely that they banned it for the reason it is being banned in France, namely to launch a symbolic attack on Muslims (akin to the Swiss decision to ban minarets).

“If the niqab isn’t a symbol of Islam, a secular state has no business banning it” – there are many things which a secular state has a business in banning, and which are not symbols of Islam. You have a flawed logic here.”

It’s compressed logic. If the niqab isn’t a symbol of Islam, it is not something that a secular state qua secular state has any business in banning. In any case, see @24.

I would like to ask Sam though why he thinks it is that some pious Muslim women choose to cover their faces but no Muslim men do?

The problem is there’s no one interpretation of religion. And so what we’re dealing with here is highly orthodox Muslims. There are also highly conservative women in Hinduism who used to have ‘purdah’ to hide themselves and same with Jews.

I don’t think anyone is saying its right. The point is why should the state coerce people on what to wear or not?

Agreed OP. It’s particularly sad to see French feminists supporting such anti-woman legislation.

@7 – I think you mean Iman rather than Mullah. There are women Imams.

@7 – There are also women Priests. Although obviously they have all been excommunicated by Rome.

Women priests? What of Pope Joan?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Joan

@Paul Sagar: I bet you wouldn’t like it if some Fench person came over here and told you what The Left in Britain thinks whilst knowing not a jot about what marks Britain out as politically a very different place.

You’ve met Bernard Henri-Levy, then?

“The point is why should the state coerce people on what to wear or not?” Presumably it thinks it’s for their own good in some way. I don’t wear a cycle helmet, but there are countries in the world where the state coerces people – with fairly negative results, but never mind.

Would it look like monomania to point out that, whatever the French exceptionalism, and whatever the substantive merits of each side of the debate on banning full veils, this might just have a teensy bit to do with the recognition on both sides that the next French Presidential election is probably going to be decided by the second preferences of Front National voters.

I was in France for the local election campaigns and I have to say Martine Aubry was very firm on condemning the interior Minister who raised (as a clear dog-whistle) a ban on women being allowed to choose to see women doctors, because it had led to Muslims making healthcare less efficient.

Fairly simple, but he played well with the public, she didn’t.

As a woman, and a leftie I think France is taking the right steps.

Ha ha, Sally’s a brownshirt. ;)

It’s completely illiberal of course, and is ripe for some civil disobedience from women to wear niquabs in public to defy the law. Non muslim women in particular.
Perhaps even men too – although that might seen as a bit disrespectful.

Are the French going to insist that women tourists coming from Gulf countries where niqabs are the norm, take them off when in France?

45. Torquil Macneil

“The point is why should the state coerce people on what to wear or not?”

The state should coerce people if a sufficiently large abuse is taking place that can be prevented with no similarly large attendant loss. Obviously there are many complexities hidden in that, but it is not obvious that the state has no role in matters of dress when they have a symbolic aspect and can be used to oppress others. We do no necessarily, for example, have a problem with the fact that swastikas cannot be worn in Germany, because the loss of liberty is so heavily outweighed by the gains in civility and the protection of minorities. Whether it is reasonable to ban the burqa comes down, to my mind, to the likely costs in terms of social division or even violence (or mockery of the law)and the threat to the principle of personal autonomy compared to the likely gains in terms of women’s freedom, equality and dignity, general civility and gains in personal autonomy.

Nobody doubts that some women will be freed by a burqa ban to a much more fulfilled life, even if ,in some cases, they do not yet know that or would not presently choose it themselves. Others will feel deeply aggrieved and threatened that their chosen expression of religion has been forbidden. The principled position of liberty is not clear cut, so it comes down to a judgement, a cost/benefit analysis.

46. Torquil Macneil

“Are the French going to insist that women tourists coming from Gulf countries where niqabs are the norm, take them off when in France?”

Yes,of course. Foreigners are usually expected to respect the laws of the countries they visit, just like the natives.

47. James from Durham

Shall we be more even handed to both sexes. Another means of concealing identity adopted by men is the growing of large bushy beards. Let’s ban those.

I appreciate this will offend muslim men, orthodox priests, sikhs and aged tramps.

@45 I strongly doubt that a burqa ban would free women and lead to a more fulfilling life, due mainly to what I call “not really thinking through all the consequences properly”.
Now lets assume that we have a women who is not wearing a burqa in say defiance of a hostile western culture but instead from coercion from her male family members. What do you suppose will be the reaction of her family upon hearing the news that the state has decreed that the garments they demand she wear are now banned?
Will they let her out and about without said garments? Or will they more likely demend she confine herself indoors?

@46

Yes,of course. Foreigners are usually expected to respect the laws of the countries they visit, just like the natives.

So we’re going to have policemen policing women in the how they have their hijabs, and deciding if someone is wearing hers too low at the forehead, or dont like the way it covers the chin, or suggest that they wear it back further and show a bit of hair?

Kind of like they do in Saudi Arabia and Iran the other way round.

50. Torquil Macneil

“Now lets assume that we have a women who is not wearing a burqa in say defiance of a hostile western culture but instead from coercion from her male family members. What do you suppose will be the reaction of her family upon hearing the news that the state has decreed that the garments they demand she wear are now banned?
Will they let her out and about without said garments? Or will they more likely demend she confine herself indoors?”

That may happen in some cases, and is a clear case of kidnap. There will be other cases where a girl wears the veil happily enough because she knows no other way and is so firmly under the control of her family and religious community. Many of these will be freed from that control, or at least feel it loosened by this law. That isn’t to say there will be no nasty consequences, but there will be positive ones too. I think the best position for liberals on our side of the sleeve, is to watch and wait. We will soon have evidence for whether this law id broadly liberal or illiberal.

51. Torquil Macneil

“So we’re going to have policemen policing women in the how they have their hijabs, and deciding if someone is wearing hers too low at the forehead, or dont like the way it covers the chin, or suggest that they wear it back further and show a bit of hair?”

We won’t, but the French will have to police it,yes, and there is a risk of absurdity.But, generally speaking, it is quite easy to decide if someone has their face covered or not, so I can’t see that being a big issue.

We should remember that many other matters of dress are policed in all our societies. Try walking down Oxford Street naked or standing outside a synagogue dressed as a nazi and you will discover that. But how naked is naked? Somehow we manage to get along because most of us never think to challenge this sort of law and those who do appear to be cranks.

52. Robin Levett

@AG1985 #37:

“In any case, it seems unlikely that [Turkey, Syria and Tunisia] banned [the niqab] for the reason it is being banned in France, namely to launch a symbolic attack on Muslims (akin to the Swiss decision to ban minarets).”

Two points on this.

Firstly, you apparently do not know your history. Turkey’s ban on religious costume (although not the ban on the niqab which i believe came in in 1982 – bear in mind though that I’m not clear precisely what as between hijab, niqab and burqa is *now* banned in Turkey) dates back to Ataturk; and was part of an attack on religious influence in public life. He was after all a secularist trying to secularise Turkish society.

Similar reasoning applies to both Tunisia and Syria.

Secondly, is your premise correct – that the French ban is a symbolic attack on Muslims?. ISTM that it this is an attack on those who impose inequality upon women for purportedly religious reasons.

Used wisely, the majority of prosecutions would be for incitement to commit the offence.

@50 Another good question to ask is “who gets punished when a women violates the ban?”
If it’s the women then it kinda gives away the lie that the main concern is not “liberating women” but instead attempting to assert cultural dominance.

54. Chaise Guevara

Great post. I’ve always thought it was ridiculous that the French decided to liberate people by oppressing them and threatening them with legal sanctions if they decided to wear the “wrong” clothes. The phrase “stalking horse” springs to mind.

55. Chaise Guevara

@ 13 James Bloodworth

“I still don’t understand what is wrong with “islamophobia”. Can anyone explain? If it’s anti-Muslim bigotry you’re referring to then say anti-Muslim bigotry. ”

If you’re still reading this: the two terms are synonymous. The meaning of “phobia” has evidently broadened over the last few decades to encapsulate “hate” as well as “fear”. Hence “homophobia” may once have meant “fear of homosexuality”, but don’t tell me it’s not routinely employed to mean “hatred of gays” these days.

Therefore, it makes more sense to say “islamaphobia” that “anti-Muslim bigotry”, simply because it’s quicker and means the same thing.

“The term islamophobia is used purely to conflate the notion of religion and race and silence criticism of Islam.”

Absolute nonsense. That term doesn’t mention race at all – you might have a bugbear about people conflating the two, but it’s got nothing to do with the word itself. As for silencing criticism: some people will always accuse people making fair criticism of bigotry. That’s hardly a reason to pretend that the word is used “purely” for this purpose.

The Niqab ban in France does appear to be mainly motivated by islamophobia. It certainly isn’t likely to liberate women. Therefore, it’s pretty appropriate for people to call it what it is.

56. Chaise Guevara

@ 53 Cylux

“Another good question to ask is “who gets punished when a women violates the ban?””

IIRC, the penalty for wearing a Niqab is lower than the penalty for forcing someone to wear one. However, I doubt many women are actually forced into wearing one, and even if they were I reckon it would be pretty hard to prove. Ergo, if this law is enforced, it’ll almost certainly be the women suffering. Even more.

57. Torquil Macneil

” However, I doubt many women are actually forced into wearing one, and even if they were I reckon it would be pretty hard to prove. Ergo, if this law is enforced, it’ll almost certainly be the women suffering.”

It depends on your value for ‘forced’. We will see in a year or two how women in France react and then we will have a clearer idea, but I doubt many women freely choose to cover their face and I think it is significant that no men do at all.

Most laws reflect the values of society, including liberal societies. If the French are being Islamaphobe by banning the niqab, which seems to cause a problem for many liberals, why not allow French Muslims to marry nine year old girls, as is the custom in many Islamic countries?

59. Shatterface

The question isn’t whether the niqab is abhorrent – it is – or whether there are people *forced* to wear it – undoubtedly there are.

The question is whether people have the right to wear what they want: if people are forced to wear the niqab then that *coersion* is what needs addressing, not the niqab itself.

No State has a right to impose a dress code, no matter if it is against the niqab, the swastika, gimpmasks, minstrel blackface or t-shirts of Uncle Joe. If you concede power over your wardrobe to the State the niqab won’t be the end of it.

And Chaise is right – you can’t liberate women by passing laws that will almost exclusively punish women. A woman who obeys her husband or father’s instructions to wear the niqab is hardly likely to fall back on a defence of coersion if it means testifying against her family in court.

60. Chaise Guevara

@ 57 Torquil

“It depends on your value for ‘forced’.”

Agreed, but I don’t think that applying heavy social pressure and shunning people who don’t wear the veil counts as “forced” in any way that could or should be punished by law. Whole can o’ worms there.

61. Chaise Guevara

@ 58 steveb

“If the French are being Islamaphobe by banning the niqab, which seems to cause a problem for many liberals, why not allow French Muslims to marry nine year old girls, as is the custom in many Islamic countries?”

Um, for the same reason that children are “illiberally” forced to go to school – they’re considered too young to take responsibility for their own decision. I’m surprised that someone has to explain this to you, to be honest.

62. Chaise Guevara

@ Shatterface

“The question is whether people have the right to wear what they want: if people are forced to wear the niqab then that *coersion* is what needs addressing, not the niqab itself.”

Agreed. I’m reminded of the Daily Mail’s campaign to get hoodies banned: criminals and young people wear hoodies, y’see, and so if you banned hoodies all those evil criminals and horrid young people would evaporate…

Many good points are made in this thread. However, I cannot see that wearing the niqab or even the burqa harms anyone other than the wearer; so I can see no reason why it should be banned (except in certain circumstances – passport control, banks, etc, – when special arrangements should arguably be made to accommodate cultural/religious sensibilities). Britain, and particularly England, has a long tradition of tolerating unusual and eccentric behaviour; and covering your face falls into that category. Here, we can wear what we like! As so often, the French have got it wrong!

Which is not to say that Islam should get a free pass, on the spurious grounds of multi-culturalism. This we no can do! Islam is not only a religion but also a socio-political ideology, and elements of that ideology must be must be tactfully confronted. For example, intolerance of homosexuals, and the mistreatment and forcible subjugation of women, are utterly unacceptable in the UK. To attempt to close down discussion of such matters with cries of ‘islamophobia’ is authoritarian political correctness at its worst.

64. Torquil Macneil

“No State has a right to impose a dress code, no matter if it is against the niqab, the swastika, gimpmasks, minstrel blackface or t-shirts of Uncle Joe”

And yet all states do. I don’t really see why clothing should necessarily be outside of the concern of the state. Not wearing a niqab is not a ‘dress code’, which I agree would always be going too far, it is a restriction on a particular ‘clothing’ item because of its symbolic value and the fact that it is used to coerce and denigrate a weak section of society.

“Agreed, but I don’t think that applying heavy social pressure and shunning people who don’t wear the veil counts as “forced” in any way that could or should be punished by law.”

And yet we do use the law to combat this sort of pressure in other spheres, such as sex and race equality legislation. I know there are liberal arguments against that sort of legislation too, but I am guessing that you don’t agree with them.

If the French law passes and, after a year, there is no plausible, independent call from Muslim women to see a restitution of the right to wear niqab and no evidence of violence against women as a result of the law, will we all agree that it is a liberal measure after all? Or is this a point of principle purely?

65. Torquil Macneil

” I cannot see that wearing the niqab or even the burqa harms anyone other than the wearer”

If the harm to the wearer is serious enough, and there are grounds to believe that her freedom to choose has been seriously restricted through some mechanism,, that might be serious enough. But the niqab also serves a symbolic purpose and it is reasonable to ask whether this symbolism should be permitted in the public sphere (more obvious in France than the more classically liberal UK). An analogy might be the display of pornography. We can agree that it cannot be banned in a society that places a high value on freedom of speech but also that it should not be displayed in public places if it is considered offensive enough by reasonable people arguing reasonably.

66. Jonathan Phillips

@63. paul ilc

All good stuff, but… If I go round wearing a balaclava which shows nothing but my eyes, I can be fairly sure that a police officer will stop me – and quite right too. It’s true that banning the niqab in streets and parks would cause more trouble than it’s worth, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t objectionable or risk-free.

Publicly advocating the murder of homosexual men and women – or of anyone else, including apostates – is illegal and should be punished with the full rigour of the law, not “tactfully confronted”.

More generally (& I speak as a practising Anglican), why should religious beliefs and practices be accorded some kind of privileged position, trumping any more secular considerations?

67. Jonathan Phillips

@65

“it should not be displayed in public places if it is considered offensive enough by reasonable people arguing reasonably” – y-e-e-s, but. That fact that some (many) people find something (very) offensive is not in itself reason enough to ban it. You can’t build laws on the basis of not wanting to upset people. If there are good reasons for permitting some kind of display it shouldn’t be banned just because some folk don’t like it.

Big problem comes when a particular group threatens violence if some perfectly legal activity occurs (publishing cartoons, for example – or performing abortions). Should a legal activity be curtailed because some people threaten to behave illegally? Or would that be accepting mob rule?

68. Chaise Guevara

@ 64 Torquil

“And yet we do use the law to combat this sort of pressure in other spheres, such as sex and race equality legislation. I know there are liberal arguments against that sort of legislation too, but I am guessing that you don’t agree with them.”

It’s not the same. Firstly, you can prosecute a firm if you have evidence of prejudice being systematically applied to recruitment/promotion behaviour, which really requires the firm having enough employees for you to be able to point to obvious trends. It’s a far cry from that to “you have been found guilty of saying nasty things about someone and making them field ostracised for not wearing a niqab”.

Secondly, I’m ok with firms being prosecuted for (genuine) prejudice, but not for legally determining what people can and can’t say to each other, outside of abuse and slander. It seems to me that any attempt to enforce this seriously would be a huge attack on freedom of speech.

“If the French law passes and, after a year, there is no plausible, independent call from Muslim women to see a restitution of the right to wear niqab and no evidence of violence against women as a result of the law, will we all agree that it is a liberal measure after all?”

Of course not, because it isn’t.

I’m suspicious of the words “palusible” and “independent” in this context, but it’s by-the-by, as I don’t believe that we should arbitrarily remove people’s rights just because they don’t demand that they keep them. What if a yet-unborn French Muslim woman wants to wear a veil? Do we say “tough, nobody complained enough about it in 2011″?

69. Torquil Macneil

“I’m suspicious of the words “palusible” and “independent” in this context, but it’s by-the-by, as I don’t believe that we should arbitrarily remove people’s rights just because they don’t demand that they keep them. What if a yet-unborn French Muslim woman wants to wear a veil? Do we say “tough, nobody complained enough about it in 2011??”

We would say “I am sorry but even though wearing the veil would do you personally no harm, we have found that permitting it in general led to more abuse than banning it, so it stays banned, you are only free within the bounds of this and every other law that exists in your society (you may not walk naked down the champs elysees either, or teach in school wearing a bikini).

If the law leads to a greater increase in liberty than the cost in liberty (all other things being equal), it is a liberal law almost by definition, surely.

And the race and sex discrimination legislation really is analogous, as you implicitly recognise when you admit that language that amounts to ‘abuse’ can be against. A company need not explicitly discriminate against minority groups, but can do it through non-explicit means. How many women really feel comfortable working in a warehouse decorated with pornographic images, for example?

70. Torquil Macneil

“That fact that some (many) people find something (very) offensive is not in itself reason enough to ban it.”

Not to ban it, but, if the many people can make a reasoned case, it is reason enough to ban it in public spaces. At least in principle.

@42 – No I wasn’t thinking of Pope Joan. That is legend.

72. Chaise Guevara

@ 69 Torquil

“We would say “I am sorry but even though wearing the veil would do you personally no harm, we have found that permitting it in general led to more abuse than banning it, so it stays banned, you are only free within the bounds of this and every other law that exists in your society (you may not walk naked down the champs elysees either, or teach in school wearing a bikini).”

Non-sequiter – we were discussing whether or not this law would be ok if nobody complained about it after a year.

But in any case: no, I think we should crack down on the abuse rather than ban any blameless action that we think might indirectly encourage abuse. Or would you support a mandatory 7pm curfew to reduce muggings?

“If the law leads to a greater increase in liberty than the cost in liberty (all other things being equal), it is a liberal law almost by definition, surely.”

OK, but assume my idea of liberality needs a certain amount of justice to be acceptable. With the utilitarian kind of approach you’re using, you could possibly create a more liberal society that nonetheless removed the rights of 10% of the population and used them as slaves. I personally wouldn’t accept that any law increasing the total amount of liberality was right.

“And the race and sex discrimination legislation really is analogous, as you implicitly recognise when you admit that language that amounts to ‘abuse’ can be against. A company need not explicitly discriminate against minority groups, but can do it through non-explicit means. How many women really feel comfortable working in a warehouse decorated with pornographic images, for example?”

OK, if a woman is claiming in court that her workplace is a sexist environment, it’ll help her cause greatly is she can prove she was called “babe” and was the subject of sexual innuendo. But how do you go from this to a workable system that punishes people for pressuring women into wearing a veil, without just attacking freedom of speech? What’s the link here?

73. Chaise Guevara

@ 70 Torquil

“Not to ban it, but, if the many people can make a reasoned case, it is reason enough to ban it in public spaces. At least in principle.”

What do you mean by “reasoned” in this context? Who decides what is reasoned and what is not when it comes to banning things in public?

74. Shatterface

‘And the race and sex discrimination legislation really is analogous’

No, it really isn’t. The niqab is something you either wear by choice or are forced to do so (in which coersion is the issue not the cloth) while, a racist or sexist epithet can be directed agsinst someone against their will – in which case it is offensive and discrimination legislation might apply – or it might be adopted within a group willingly, and ironically (black people and the n-word, for instance, or women and ‘bitch’, homosexuals and ‘queer’, etc). There are exemptions depending on context.

75. Jonathan Phillips

@70. Torquil Macneil

The “reasoned case” is the problem. Does “We find it offensive on religious grounds” constitute a reasoned case? What if the Jedi Knights suddenly decide to find stuff offensive? or the Scientologists?

(How odd! My spellcheck objects to “Scientologists” but not to “Jedi” – someone at Apple has maybe been doctoring their dic!)

61
Well yes, they are considered too young based on our own values and our laws, such as the Education Act and the law on consent reflect those values. But it is not the same in many Islamic countries where children as young as nine are allowed to get married. Taking your own logic, France are discriminating against Muslims for not allowing it to happen. Furthermore, there have been cases where young children have been sent to places such as Pakistan to enter into forced marriages, consequently they are punished by being forced to another country because our laws do no allow it.
62 As far as I am aware, France does not ban hoodies.
63 Well at least you had the sense to put in a caveat, but it begs the question of which caveat?

77. Torquil Macneil

“Non-sequiter – we were discussing whether or not this law would be ok if nobody complained about it after a year.”

What I was driving at was that a lack of protest from the affected groups would be a good indicator that little or no oppression was experienced, and we can be confident that there must necessarily be some experience of liberation. Surely if no-one wishes to re-instate the niqab, it is hard to argue that any great injustice was committed in banning it given the great injustice suffered by those forced or coerced into wearing it?

I agree with you that no purely utilitarian measure will do for settling matters of justice, my point was that when the question of principle is a blurry as it is here, we are better off taking a utilitarian approach all other things being equal.

Questions of ‘what is reasoned’ cannot be answered in any formulaic way, but that does not mean they are meaningless. A reasoned case would have to rest on more than a simple assertion of values, for example and would have to be persuasive to any reasonable person who accepted the premisses of the argument.

78. Torquil Macneil

” “We find it offensive on religious grounds” constitute a reasoned case?”

No, it is pretty much the definition of a non-reasoned case. Is the idea of ‘reason’ ‘really so fuzzy?

79. Chaise Guevara

@ 76 Steveb

“61
Well yes, they are considered too young based on our own values and our laws, such as the Education Act and the law on consent reflect those values. But it is not the same in many Islamic countries where children as young as nine are allowed to get married.”

Um, we’re talking about the niqab ban in France. I don’t really see what that’s got to do with ridiculous marriage laws in other countries.

“Taking your own logic, France are discriminating against Muslims for not allowing it to happen.”

No, i think you got to that conclusion using bizarre logic of your own. Or would you like to explain what you mean?

“Furthermore, there have been cases where young children have been sent to places such as Pakistan to enter into forced marriages, consequently they are punished by being forced to another country because our laws do no allow it.”

How is this relevant to whether France should ban the niqab?

“As far as I am aware, France does not ban hoodies.”

Jesus wept. Did you set out to write the most irrelevant post possible or something? Who said that France bans hoodies?

This conversation is getting bloody strange.

From the OP:

Later that year, the Public prosecutor of Lille appealed and the couple was remarried, as the prosecutor argued virginity was not an essential quality of a spouse. The result was that a woman who did not want to remain married to a man anyway, was remarried to protect her rights as a woman.

The divorce was not overturned to protect her rights as a woman, but to protect the integrity of the law. In modern West European societies, virginity in the bride is not regarded as a prerequisite. The original grounds for divorce were therefore invalid. Whether the original outcome happened to suit the wife or not, you can’t leave precedents like that lying around.

81. Chaise Guevara

@ 77 Torquil

“What I was driving at was that a lack of protest from the affected groups would be a good indicator that little or no oppression was experienced, and we can be confident that there must necessarily be some experience of liberation. Surely if no-one wishes to re-instate the niqab, it is hard to argue that any great injustice was committed in banning it given the great injustice suffered by those forced or coerced into wearing it?”

As I said, you would lose that defense the moment that a woman decided she did want to wear a niqab. In the situation you describe, the right to wear one would be a total non-issue anyway. Women do want to wear the veil, and that’s the situation that needs to be addressed.

“I agree with you that no purely utilitarian measure will do for settling matters of justice, my point was that when the question of principle is a blurry as it is here, we are better off taking a utilitarian approach all other things being equal.”

True – but all other things are not equal, as there’s considerable injustice in restricting women’s right to wear what they want and punishing them for transgression. So pure utilitarianism won’t work here, as far as I’m concerned.

“Questions of ‘what is reasoned’ cannot be answered in any formulaic way, but that does not mean they are meaningless. A reasoned case would have to rest on more than a simple assertion of values, for example and would have to be persuasive to any reasonable person who accepted the premisses of the argument.”

What do you mean by “accepted the premises of the argument”? If someone’s already accepted your POV, they’re hardly going to disagree with you.

If that’s not what you mean, then any attempt to publically ban something can be blocked by one individual making a reasoned argument against it. Which would lead to most of the things we currently ban in public, such as sex, being legalised. I don’t think that’s where you want to be.

If THAT’S not what you mean, then we’re back to the problem of who makes the decision of whether or not to ban something as “undefendable by reasoned argument”. Politicians? Judges? A dedicated regulator? The people by referedum?

79
‘I don’t see what this has got to do with ridiculous marriage laws in other countries’

I was talking about how the different values of other countries reflect their laws and France is reflfecting its’ values by banning the niqab, I’m surprised that I have to explain this to you.
All of my posts have been in reply to what has been said in other posts including your own of which in@58 I introduced the concept of social values.guiding laws.
Next time I want to introduce a concept into a debate of which I believe to be relevant, I’ll run it past you, not.

83. Torquil Macneil

“True – but all other things are not equal, as there’s considerable injustice in restricting women’s right to wear what they want and punishing them for transgression. So pure utilitarianism won’t work here, as far as I’m concerned.”

I agree that all other things aren’t equal and I am not arguing for a ban in the UK, but the rights of women to wear what they want are already restricted without considerable injustice being evident. I think it is difficult to argue that the injustice of being prevented to wear a veil in public is anything like on the same scale of the injustice that the French law is designed to combat which is that of being forced or coerced to hide your face in public. If the cost of liberating the latter is a loss of sartorial freedom for the former, it doesn’t seem a hard choice to me.

“What do you mean by “accepted the premises of the argument”? If someone’s already accepted your POV, they’re hardly going to disagree with you.”

Premisses, not point of view. If I make a cogent argument from certain premises, you might agree with the logic without conceding the point.

84. Chaise Guevara

@ 82 Steveb

“I was talking about how the different values of other countries reflect their laws and France is reflfecting its’ values by banning the niqab, I’m surprised that I have to explain this to you.”

That’s an empty statement. So France is reflecting its values by banning the niqab. So what? Does that mean it’s automatically the right decision? If so, why? If not, what’s your actual point?

“All of my posts have been in reply to what has been said in other posts including your own of which in@58 I introduced the concept of social values.guiding laws.
Next time I want to introduce a concept into a debate of which I believe to be relevant, I’ll run it past you, not.”

Well, as long as you run it by someone. The fact that you replied to another post does not make what you say relevant. If it IS relevant, why not explain how? And I’m still waiting for an explanation of how by “my” logic France is being prejudiced by banning child marriages.

85. Chaise Guevara

@ Torquil

“I agree that all other things aren’t equal and I am not arguing for a ban in the UK, but the rights of women to wear what they want are already restricted without considerable injustice being evident. I think it is difficult to argue that the injustice of being prevented to wear a veil in public is anything like on the same scale of the injustice that the French law is designed to combat which is that of being forced or coerced to hide your face in public. If the cost of liberating the latter is a loss of sartorial freedom for the former, it doesn’t seem a hard choice to me.”

In that situation you might be able to make a rare argument for illiberality. I’d do something similar for gun laws. But the other injustices of banning the veil – penalising people who are doing no harm to others; making people feel as if they were being singled out for oppression; making women who are already treated badly feel forced to stay in their homes, thus making their situation even worse – would outwiegh it, I think.

“Premisses, not point of view. If I make a cogent argument from certain premises, you might agree with the logic without conceding the point.”

Fine, but what kind of premises are we talking about? Give me an example – what premises would you expect me to accept in a discussion on whether the niqab should be banned in public? How are these premises determined?

84
The French government was democratically elected, and if you think that somewhere there is a definitive culture with equally definitive laws well good luck.
Don’t you think that likening the Daily Mail reader’s poll to a democracy is bizarre, that’s why I mentioned the hoodie in the hope that you would recognise it, clearly not.
I mention child marriages in Muslim countries because this represents a particular set of values which differ from our own, it may possibly be repulsive to you but it is not to thousands of people. The niqab is also a social norm in Muslim countries it is not in France, and the democratic government have decided that it contradicts the very basis of which the republic was originally built on, they are entitled to do this, just as they are entitled to ban child marriages.
The concept of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ never entered my argument, and it’s a brave person who would enter that minefield in a debate about different cultures.

Jonathan Phillips @ 66:

“If I go round wearing a balaclava which shows nothing but my eyes, I can be fairly sure that a police officer will stop me…”

Only if they had something else (contextual or in your behaviour) to go on. And if they then stopped you, does that matter?

Should whatever excites reasonable suspicion from the police be banned?

Bansturbation is obsessive behaviour. If a woman wants to walk around covered from head to foot, good luck to her. Leave her alone: symbols have many interpretations. Her dress is her problem; not yours or ours. However, the moment her religious beliefs begin to impinge on the public sphere and affect other people, then…

steveb,

Which Muslim countries allow marriage at age 9? Whilst it might be accepted by ‘traditional’ laws (read ever changing bodies of wisdom designed to secure the continuation of power structures) I doubt it is legal in any country’s actual laws.

88
I believe that Pakistan still allows marriage at 14, and as I understand it, men can have four wives.
But my wider point is that the law reflects the social and cultural norms of society, it wasn’t until the end of the 18th century that England recognised a childhood state.
France is merely reflecting what the rest of the world’s societies do and their democratic government is entitiled to do. And as another poster has pointed-out, there has been little protest by Muslims and non-Muslims in France

90. Chaise Guevara

@ 86 Steveb

“The French government was democratically elected, and if you think that somewhere there is a definitive culture with equally definitive laws well good luck.”

I’m aware of that, strangely enough, and no, there isn’t a definitive culture somewhere with perfect laws. Again: are you saying that we shouldn’t criticise anything a democracy does? If not, what’s your point?

“Don’t you think that likening the Daily Mail reader’s poll to a democracy is bizarre”

Not when they use the same logic, no. It’s called an analogy.

“that’s why I mentioned the hoodie in the hope that you would recognise it, clearly not.”

Perhaps you should actually say what you mean, then? I wasn’t to know that pointing out similarilities between two different things made you cross.

“I mention child marriages in Muslim countries because this represents a particular set of values which differ from our own, it may possibly be repulsive to you but it is not to thousands of people.”

So be it. My opinion remains that it’s repulsive, and I’m really not sure why you have a problem with that.

“The niqab is also a social norm in Muslim countries it is not in France, and the democratic government have decided that it contradicts the very basis of which the republic was originally built on”

Last time I checked, France was build on a secular basis. Which means not oppressing people because of their religious views. But if you have evidence to the contrary, please share it.

“they are entitled to do this, just as they are entitled to ban child marriages.
The concept of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ never entered my argument, and it’s a brave person who would enter that minefield in a debate about different cultures.”

Um, the moment you talk about what people are and aren’t entitled to do, you’re speaking about right and wrong. Unless you’re just quoting the letter of the law.

Let me clarify:

I am aware that France is a democracy (thanks for the info!!!111).
I am aware that they have banned niqabs, and that they have the legal right to do so.
I believe that their decision to ban said niqabs is wrong.

And you still haven’t explained why my logic would mean France should legalise child marriages. It’s beginning to seem like you were talking nonsense, isn’t it?

90
Because I make a statement that governments are entitled to act in a certain way I am making a point of fact, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are value judgements.
Because I make the point that certain countries allow children of a certain age to marry, I am making a point of fact, not a value judgement.
I do not consider the French ban on niqabs as either good or bad, I think we are allowed to be neutral in debates, I do believe, however, that they are reflecting the values of the republic, nothing more and nothing less.and that’s why I do not believe that it is Islamaphobic.
I don’t think you understand hyperbole either, with regard to legalising child marriages, perhaps it’s like irony, it doesn;t work on the internet

92. Chaise Guevara

steveb

“Because I make a statement that governments are entitled to act in a certain way I am making a point of fact, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are value judgements.
Because I make the point that certain countries allow children of a certain age to marry, I am making a point of fact, not a value judgement.”

Then why make them? I don’t think anyone here is claiming that France does not have the legal right to pass these laws. What I and others are saying is that it was wrong to do so. If you keep parrotting the undeniable fact that France has a right to make its own laws, it looks as if you’re defending its actions. Indeed, I believe that was your intention.

So: France can pass its own laws, and marriage ages differ by country. No argument there. Do you have a point to make beyond that? Or are you just trolling?

“I do not consider the French ban on niqabs as either good or bad, I think we are allowed to be neutral in debates, I do believe, however, that they are reflecting the values of the republic, nothing more and nothing less.and that’s why I do not believe that it is Islamaphobic.”

You have a bad habit of ignoring what people say when you respond to them. As I said, France is a secular country. Therefore it runs AGAINST the values of the republic to pass laws aimed to attack particular religious minorities. And what would that have to do with whether it was islamaphobic, anyway?

“I don’t think you understand hyperbole either, with regard to legalising child marriages, perhaps it’s like irony, it doesn;t work on the internet”

LOL! I think you don’t understand the difference between hyperbole and a straw man. While we’re on that topic, mind explaining why my logic dictates that France is prejudiced because it bans child marriages? Or are you admitting that you were talking bollocks?

92
I suggest you re-read my posts, or is it you who are making straw men.
I don’t ignore what people say I respond to comments with my set of arguments not those that you dictate.
The OP sets out the premise that the left in France are being Islamaphobic because they support the French government in banning the niqab.
My position is that they are not, on the basis that the French government are reflecting the secular values which were determined at the beginning of the republic and this is what all governments do, the law reflects societal culture and values.
Because I do not choose to make the value judgement of whether this is good or bad, you seem to be sugesting that my point about consistency is somehow not legitimate.
The pre-revolutionary history of France in relation to religion was, to say the least, discriminatory, the republic banished all religions in the public areas but allowed people to follow their beliefs privately, imo the best of both worlds
Do I really have to explain your last paragraph, OK – if banning the niqab is Islamaphobic surely banning other cultural norms relating to Islam is also Islamaphobic.

A ‘phobia’ is an irrational fear.
Only stupid cunts like those on here consider a fear of Islam irrational!

Irrational is NOT fearing it!

Face it. ‘Socialism’ snuggles up to the daily medieval barbarity, sexism, bigotry and murderous homophobia of Islam because it shares a common hate…The ‘evil’, ‘capitalist, West.

You disgrace the very word ‘liberal’.

95. the a&e charge nurse

[86] “it’s a brave person who would enter that minefield in a debate about different cultures” – oh, I don’t mind having a go.

I say dressing women like a tent under some ludicrous religious pretext IS wrong – the question is what, if anything, should be done about it?

Personally I do not think legislation is the way to address the issue – it might be better if we chip away at the reasons why a rational world view is better than a medieval one – that and the fact liberalism tends to be preferred once people have genuine choice?

The problem of religious indoctrination in childhood is also a hard nut to crack – I agree with Dawkins that it almost borders on a form of abuse.

95
I don’t disagree with you but to ‘chip away’ at a person’s strongly held cultural views is easier said than done, as you state, we are talking about values that have been instilled since childhood, they have become internalized and feel ‘normal’. It is unlikely that any liberal country would ban religious symbols and the practice of religious beliefs in private as well as in the public areas.
As for Dawkins, I tend to agree with a past contributer who questioned his (Dawkins) ability to reason, when he found that attacking the parents of children who had been brought-up in a religious family, made them quite hostile towards him.

97. Chaise Guevara

@ 93 steveb

“I suggest you re-read my posts, or is it you who are making straw men.
I don’t ignore what people say I respond to comments with my set of arguments not those that you dictate.”

Yeah, but repeating a point when someone’s already addressed it counts as ignoring/trolling.

“The OP sets out the premise that the left in France are being Islamaphobic because they support the French government in banning the niqab.
My position is that they are not, on the basis that the French government are reflecting the secular values which were determined at the beginning of the republic and this is what all governments do, the law reflects societal culture and values.”

…And you’ve done it again! Please explain how secular values can possibly be reflected in an attack on a religious minority. Hint: “secular” does not mean “anti-islamic”, or even “anti-religious”. What the French have done is religious oppression, the very OPPOSITE of secularism.

But I’m sure you’ll just repeat the same illogical point a fourth time instead of trying to defend it. Seems to be your M.O.

“Because I do not choose to make the value judgement of whether this is good or bad, you seem to be sugesting that my point about consistency is somehow not legitimate.”

Two different things:

1) If you are literally just stating a fact about how national law works, I wonder why you’re going on and on about it when nobody’s disagreed with you. It leads me to suspect that you’re trying to suggest that we should not criticise the French for the decisions they make. You haven’t actually said that, but it’s the only reason I can think of for you repeatedly stating the obvious.

2) Your point about consistency is not legitimate, but not because of the above. It is not legitimate because the two things under discussion are very different. See below.

“The pre-revolutionary history of France in relation to religion was, to say the least, discriminatory, the republic banished all religions in the public areas but allowed people to follow their beliefs privately, imo the best of both worlds”

I’m not sure what bearing the pre-revolutionary history of France has on this conversation. It’s a little chunk of context, but it doesn’t argue for or against banning the veil.

“Do I really have to explain your last paragraph, OK – if banning the niqab is Islamaphobic surely banning other cultural norms relating to Islam is also Islamaphobic.”

Finally! No, it’s not, because of two very major differences between the two:

1) The women wearing the veil are adults with the legal and moral responsibility to make decisions for their own lives. I agree they don’t make these decisions in a vacuum, but by removing one of their options – and threatening them with sanctions if they fail to comply – you are heaping more oppression on them, not less. The existence of the sanctions also demonstrates that the law-makers don’t give a shit about these women’s wellbeing.

Children, on the other hand, are NOT considered to have full autonomy. That’s why they can’t decide not to attend school, and why they can’t sign contracts. The state has a duty to protect children until they become adults and can make decisions about their own lives, and that obviously includes stopping them from marrying at 9. And yes, I would consider legal sanctions against parents who forced their children to wear veils, assuming it was genuinely the most sensible policy.

2) France only banned the niqab recently, and it did it to garner the support of French bigots. The decision to ban it did not revolve around any practical concerns, although obviously some people will have paid lip-service to things like the public risk of allowing people to conceal their identities. The ban is not a secular law that happens to affect Muslims more than other people. It is a direct and deliberate attack on Muslims as an unpopular group.

Basically, reducing the French marriage age to 9 would be unfairly changing the law to accomodate Muslim sensibilities. Banning the veil was a deliberate change to the law to attack and isolate Muslims.

98. Jonathan Phillips

@95 96

The trouble with Dawkins’s writings is that they conflate the scientific and rationalist world view with atheism – as if there were no scientists or rationalists among practising Christians, Jews etc. This tends to push the more open-minded believers into closing ranks with fundamentalists in defence of their faith, and gives fundamentalists a pretext for attacking all science and rationalism in general as nothing but the public face of atheism. If you’re not with us you’re against us, that sort of thing.

A heavy-handed approach on the part of secularists etc. to Islamic beliefs and practices risks having the same effect. But tolerance *must* seek to counter intolerance, and those with open-minds must never stop “chipping away” at the beliefs of those whose minds are closed. And if you think that Islam does not, at least in some of its manifestations, pose a threat to civilised values, try listening to this:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/docarchive/all#playepisode3

99. Chaise Guevara

@94. DaveA

“‘phobia’ is an irrational fear.
Only stupid cunts like those on here consider a fear of Islam irrational!”

Oh dear. Deary, deary me.

islamophobia:
noun
prejudice against Muslims; “Muslim intellectuals are afraid of growing Islamophobia in the West”

Source: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Islamophobia

Maybe you should stop throwing insults around until you understand the words you’re using? Kthxbye.

So the right to wear what we like thats gone now, after all to wear what you like should be a fundamental right is it not.

We are stuck in a political union with a country that makes it illegal to cover your face in public. Can we leave the EU yet?

97
I’ve already explained that I am going to choose the arguments I put forward and I am certainly not going over the points that I have already made.
You need to understand that childhood is perceived in a different ways according to different cultures. Until the end of the 18th century ‘the state of childhood’ was not recognised in the UK, the age of consent, whilst not arbitary, has more to do with societal needs rather than some definitive criteria of ‘what constitutes a child’ and what are they able to understand regarding choice.
And this has been my argument from the very beginning, you seem unable to understand that culture is reflected in each society’s traditions, laws and values. A liberal society is the best of both worlds, its’ citizens can act as they wish in private (providing it’s not illegal)
Based on this, I say that the French government is not being Islamaphobic by banning a religious symbol in the public sphere.
I personally can’t understand why you don’t grasp the point.
98
No, I did not suggest that there are no practicing people of faith who are not scientists.
I also agree that a heavy-handed approach to any faith that is attacked is going to result in accusations of intolerence, that’s why a liberal society allows for many different and conflicting views and cultures to exist side by side.

103. Chaise Guevara

@ 102 steveb

“I’ve already explained that I am going to choose the arguments I put forward and I am certainly not going over the points that I have already made.”

Actually, yes you are. That’s what I keep telling you.

“You need to understand that childhood is perceived in a different ways according to different cultures. Until the end of the 18th century ‘the state of childhood’ was not recognised in the UK, the age of consent, whilst not arbitary, has more to do with societal needs rather than some definitive criteria of ‘what constitutes a child’ and what are they able to understand regarding choice.”

I’m fully aware of this. But so what? Some cultures think that it’s ok to treat women, or homosexuals, or ethnic minority groups, as anything from second-class citizens to subhumans to be ensalved or destroyed. In my opinion, those cultures are wrong, and should be criticised and, where possible, opposed. Similarly, I understand that different cultures treat childhood in different ways, and I believe some of those cultures are wrong.

You seem to be coming from the extreme end of moral relativism that is prepared to excuse any injustice on the basis that it’s “cultural”. I’ve never seen the logic there.

“And this has been my argument from the very beginning, you seem unable to understand that culture is reflected in each society’s traditions, laws and values.”

Sigh. The fact that someone disagrees with you does not mean that they cannot understand some pretty basic truths about the way of the world. Get over yourself.

Again, just to make it clear: I realise that culture is reflected within society, because I’m not an idiot. However, I disagree with the actions taken by some countries, and I don’t think “it’s cultural” is a magic phrase that can excuse any evil.

“A liberal society is the best of both worlds, its’ citizens can act as they wish in private (providing it’s not illegal)”

I wouldn’t recognise that as a liberal society. For a start, it leaves no support for freedom of speech. I’d like to be able to express my views and wear what I like in public, thank you, not be forced to obey the ruler’s whims everywhere except my own home.

“Based on this, I say that the French government is not being Islamaphobic by banning a religious symbol in the public sphere.”

Which makes no sense. The cultural modes that led the government to pass this legislation are themselves anti-islamic. Otherwise they wouldn’t have passed legislation aimed at hurting Muslims. Either the people who passed the law are bigots, or they’re trying to get the votes of bigots, or both.

104. Watchman

steveb,

I believe that Pakistan still allows marriage at 14, and as I understand it, men can have four wives.

Spain allowed female marriage at 14 till 1999 (and 12 with parental consent until at some point in the 70s or early 80s), and some US states had similiar low ages of consent until late in the twentieth century when marriageable age was made non-sex dependent. It is hardly barbaric, just rather early.

And whilst the Qu’ran allows a man four wives (perhaps only by implication (I haven’t read it) – it’s a much smaller volume than the Bible (I have picked it up and flicked through it) and therefore contains less direct instruction) this is not normally recognised by Muslim countries outside of Arabia, especially those with a British-inspired legal system.

I suspect you need to do a bit more research on your ideas of what actually is allowable in Muslim countries (as opposed to tribal societies, where marriage as a child is quite common – although sexual relations is generally not allowed to happen until the wife is an adult in such societies) – rather it is a form of engagement).

105. Robin Levett

@Chaise #97:

This:

“Please explain how secular values can possibly be reflected in an attack on a religious minority. Hint: “secular” does not mean “anti-islamic”, or even “anti-religious”. What the French have done is religious oppression, the very OPPOSITE of secularism.”

seems to be the starting point of your argument. But since that’s also essentially your conclusion, your argument does seem rather circular.

What the French have done is to ban the wearing of the niqab in public. Their stated justification for that is to reduce the oppression of women married to men who treat them as second class citizens by denying them certain freedoms which we think of as fundamental. The fact that the law provides for massively heavier maximum penalties (30k Euro fine plus 1 year inside as against 150 Eurofine) for the man involved than the woman rather supports that and makes clear the true target of the ban.

The niqab is itself both an instrument of gender oppression and a readily identifiable badge of gender oppression. The fact that the oppressive cultural norms legislated against originate from and are (at the present day) unique to a specific interpretation of a specific religion does not mean that the law is intended to oppress that religion – or even that particular interpretation of it.

As for the claim that many women choose to wear the niqab; we simply don’t know that – the gender oppression inherent in the relevant culture makes it difficult to make that claim with any degree of certainty. After all, societal pressure by other women is a major factor in the continuance of FGM, a practice that one would think would be far less likely to be the result of a genuine choice by the woman concerned.

I honestly don’t know where the better balance lies between the competing rights of gender equality and personal autonomy; but to suggest that there is no secular reason to ban the niqab is absurd.

106. Chaise Guevara

@ 105 Robin Levitt

“This [...] seems to be the starting point of your argument. But since that’s also essentially your conclusion, your argument does seem rather circular.”

That’s not the starting point of my argument. See 97 above. (“France only banned the niqab recently, and it did it to garner the support of French bigots. The decision to ban it did not revolve around any practical concerns, although obviously some people will have paid lip-service to things like the public risk of allowing people to conceal their identities. The ban is not a secular law that happens to affect Muslims more than other people. It is a direct and deliberate attack on Muslims as an unpopular group.”)

“What the French have done is to ban the wearing of the niqab in public. Their stated justification for that is to reduce the oppression of women married to men who treat them as second class citizens by denying them certain freedoms which we think of as fundamental. The fact that the law provides for massively heavier maximum penalties (30k Euro fine plus 1 year inside as against 150 Eurofine) for the man involved than the woman rather supports that and makes clear the true target of the ban.”

In theory, yes. But it’s very very easy to prove a woman is guilty of wearing a burkha in public. Much less so to prove a man forced her to do so. You can put a penalty as high as you like if there’s no reasonable way to convict.

In any case, women are still a target of the ban, because of the €150 fine you mention. I’m trying to figure out how taking money of someone as a punishment for following their religion is going to “liberate” them.

“The niqab is itself both an instrument of gender oppression and a readily identifiable badge of gender oppression. The fact that the oppressive cultural norms legislated against originate from and are (at the present day) unique to a specific interpretation of a specific religion does not mean that the law is intended to oppress that religion – or even that particular interpretation of it.”

No, but it seems the most likely explanation, especially given that Muslims in France are about as popular as they are here. And as I’ve said already, the fact that this ban aims to punish women, and has clearly been made without any thought to its true likely implications for their wellbeing, makes it pretty clear that the motives are not humanitarian.

“As for the claim that many women choose to wear the niqab; we simply don’t know that – the gender oppression inherent in the relevant culture makes it difficult to make that claim with any degree of certainty.”

That’s not an argument for banning it in any way I can see.

“After all, societal pressure by other women is a major factor in the continuance of FGM, a practice that one would think would be far less likely to be the result of a genuine choice by the woman concerned.”

Well, exactly – I’d expect more people to wear the niqab by choice than undergo FGM by choice. Not sure what you’re getting at here.

“I honestly don’t know where the better balance lies between the competing rights of gender equality and personal autonomy; but to suggest that there is no secular reason to ban the niqab is absurd.”

I’m not suggesting that. I’m saying that, in this case, it hasn’t been banned for secular reasons. I’m saying it’s been banned as a deliberate act of religious intolerance, a way to win bigot votes by “putting the Muslims in their place”, so to speak.

Those who don’t believe that women could choose to wear modesty garments might wish to read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book Infidel. Where she choose to wear some of the most extreme coverings as a triumphant declaration of her virtuous superiority, of course she has since significantly changed her mind on the practice.

108. Robin Levett

@Chaise #106:

“I’m not suggesting that. I’m saying that, in this case, it hasn’t been banned for secular reasons. I’m saying it’s been banned as a deliberate act of religious intolerance, a way to win bigot votes by “putting the Muslims in their place”, so to speak.”

…and you’ve produced no evidence to that effect. You are still assuming your conclusion, and you have dismissed the stated secular reason for the ban for no other reason than that it doesn’t fit your conclusion.

“And as I’ve said already, the fact that this ban aims to punish women, and has clearly been made without any thought to its true likely implications for their wellbeing, makes it pretty clear that the motives are not humanitarian. ”

No; if there were no punishment for wearing the niqab, the argument that “I can’t wear the niqab, it’s illegal and you’ll have both to pay the fine for me and risk much greater punishment yourself” wouldn’t be available. The fact that the punishment for the man’s fine is 200 times the woman’s, and he risks prison as well, rather shows the true target of the ban.

Those judgments might be mistaken; but your argument both assumes that they are and also assumes that those putting them forward do so in bad faith.

“Well, exactly – I’d expect more people to wear the niqab by choice than undergo FGM by choice. Not sure what you’re getting at here.”

Try rereading. My point is that oppressive cultural norms often lead to individuals making a “choice” that is nothing of the kind. Do you really think that *any* woman in her right mind would “choose” to undergo FGM absent cultural pressure and conditioning; and yet many do. That shows the power of cultural pressure and conditioning.

To suggest that women “choose” to wear the niqab remains to be shown.

There is of course another issue here. Wearing the niqab apparently by choice enables forced wearing. Daughter: “I don’t want to wear the niqab”; Father: “But your (female) teacher wears one, why won’t you?”. It’s a similar argument (but IMHO with much greater force) to that against pornography; which is that individual women may do well out of it, but that their involvement enables a culture of objectification of women. Whether that argument is valid in the case of pornography may be in issue, but it is clearly a respectable argument as applied to the niqab ban.

104
I take your point but I was making a broader argument that it is a cultural difference and there is not definitive ‘right’, we cannot call any society/country whateverphobe because it bans what doesn’t fit into it’s own cultural beliefs/traditions. That’s the benefit of a liberal society, it does allow (to a great extent) the ability to follow a different culture, belief system, dress in the private sphere, with some caveats eg murder, unlike many other non-liberal countries that tend to ban, outright, any form of descent. I would also like to point-out that I have not made a value judgement about other cultural practices. This, it seems, is why CG is getting his knickers in a twist
103 It seems that you are very slowly getting the drift, you mention ‘cultural relativism’ As for bigots, I’m sure that many so-called ‘bigots’ would be in favour of banning a whole lot of stuff that you would like to see banned, you’re just making generalizations.
I would also like you to give some evidence that shows France is anti free-speech and how that relates to the niqab ban.
And you apparently still do not understand the difference between anti-religion and anti-Muslim.

110. Chaise Guevara

@ 108 Robin Levitt

“…and you’ve produced no evidence to that effect. You are still assuming your conclusion, and you have dismissed the stated secular reason for the ban for no other reason than that it doesn’t fit your conclusion.”

Direct evidence is impossible. I’d have to provide transcripts of French politicians’ inner monologues. I might as well ask you to prove that they were being honest.

I can, however, explain why I think this is the most likely true motive. Like I said, this law seems to have been brought in without any regard for the damage it is likely to do to the individuals who suffer most under this form of Islamic misogyny. I can’t see it benefiting women, but I can see it pleasing people who don’t like Muslims. Hence my conclusions, based on evaluation in the absence of solid evidence either way.

“No; if there were no punishment for wearing the niqab, the argument that “I can’t wear the niqab, it’s illegal and you’ll have both to pay the fine for me and risk much greater punishment yourself” wouldn’t be available.”

The smaller fine applies to the woman herself, not those who convinced her to wear the niqab, if anyone. You seem to be assuming that someone else would pay it for her. In any case, even if the guilty party is a husband who also controls the family finances, the extra £150 isn’t likely to add much of a disincentive compared to a much bigger fine and a year in jail. So the reason for the fine seems to be punishing women who wear a veil.

“The fact that the punishment for the man’s fine is 200 times the woman’s, and he risks prison as well, rather shows the true target of the ban.”

I’ve already argued above why this isn’t the case.

“Those judgments might be mistaken; but your argument both assumes that they are and also assumes that those putting them forward do so in bad faith.”

Yours assumes the opposite. As I said, it seems to me that the details of the situation argue against this being designed to help women and for it being designed to hurt Muslims.

“Try rereading. My point is that oppressive cultural norms often lead to individuals making a “choice” that is nothing of the kind. Do you really think that *any* woman in her right mind would “choose” to undergo FGM absent cultural pressure and conditioning; and yet many do. That shows the power of cultural pressure and conditioning.”

Sure, but I don’t think the answer to cultural conditioning is to legally force people to follow our preferred alternative. Free speech has to include views you dislike, even if that view is “niqabs/FGM is great”. Otherwise it’s not free speech.

“There is of course another issue here. Wearing the niqab apparently by choice enables forced wearing. Daughter: “I don’t want to wear the niqab”; Father: “But your (female) teacher wears one, why won’t you?”. It’s a similar argument (but IMHO with much greater force) to that against pornography; which is that individual women may do well out of it, but that their involvement enables a culture of objectification of women. Whether that argument is valid in the case of pornography may be in issue, but it is clearly a respectable argument as applied to the niqab ban.”

I disagree with the argument in both cases. You could apply it to almost anything. For example, I could ban you from drinking alcohol and eating fatty foods on the basis that by doing so you set a bad example for others, and furthermore keep the booze and sugar industries in business. I don’t think we should all be forced to be paragons of virtue for each others’ benefit.

111. paul ilc

Game, set and match to CG.

112. Chaise Guevara

@ 109 steveb

“It seems that you are very slowly getting the drift, you mention ‘cultural relativism’”

..yes? I’m not surprised the people around you are slow to get the drift when the “drift” consists of something like the above. I mention cultural relativism. So I do. What an interesting point.

“As for bigots, I’m sure that many so-called ‘bigots’ would be in favour of banning a whole lot of stuff that you would like to see banned. you’re just making generalizations.”

I assume this is mean to suggest that some non-bigots are against the niqab ban. I’m sure that’s true, but I wouldn’t agree with their reasoning.

“I would also like you to give some evidence that shows France is anti free-speech and how that relates to the niqab ban.”

I never said France was anti-free-speech. I said this particular law is an attack on freedom of expression. Don’t ask me to prove claims I haven’t made.

“And you apparently still do not understand the difference between anti-religion and anti-Muslim.”

Once again, just because someone disagrees with you does not mean they don’t understand obvious concepts. This will shock you, but your point of view is not correct by default. Other people can have different perspectives without failing to understand what’s under discussion.

So: a few attempts to be patronising and a straw man or two. Well done. I assume you have no answer to most of the post you’re replying to.

113. paul ilc

Now, please, can we just leave people to cover their faces in public, if they so wish? It’s none of our business: end of story. Leave people alone.

And I’m the last person to give Islam a ‘free pass’ – because it’s anti-western or whatever…

114. the a&e charge nurse

[113] “It’s none of our business” – that’s simply not true, I’m afraid.

Institutionalised oppression is a matter for us all – especially for children who are subject to such a distorted view of the role of women.

115. Watchman

steveb,

I take your point but I was making a broader argument that it is a cultural difference and there is not definitive ‘right’, we cannot call any society/country whateverphobe because it bans what doesn’t fit into it’s own cultural beliefs/traditions.

Well, we can, because phobia is not actually a perogative judgement, and cultural beliefs/traditions that make something taboo are generally an irrational fear, which is what a phobia is (albeit I am stretching the scientific definition by moving it to social science).

That’s the benefit of a liberal society, it does allow (to a great extent) the ability to follow a different culture, belief system, dress in the private sphere, with some caveats eg murder, unlike many other non-liberal countries that tend to ban, outright, any form of descent. I would also like to point-out that I have not made a value judgement about other cultural practices. This, it seems, is why CG is getting his knickers in a twist

I think you are probably right you have made no value judgements (I tend to pick up on those), but you are walking the road to multiculturalism by so doing. For our systems of beliefs about society to have any value, we have to believe them better than other (non-compatible) systems, rather than allow them to coexist amongst or beside us. Effectively, it is you can believe what you like (and behave as you wish in a proper liberal society), but you have to respect that your beliefs and behaviours can affect only you – others are free of them.

The actions of the French are as illiberal as the actions of those who would force women to wear niqabs (what is the correct plural of niqab anyway?). Both are impositions of beliefs about what is right on others – and, as my teacher told me repeatedly when I was young (I can only assume I was a vengeful child) “two wrongs do not make a right”.

Can not SOMEone but ANYone explain how the niqab (no cap for me) is “progressive”?
The French left is… right in qsupporting the ban.
What the hell(?) are we fighting for when we’re supporting the uprising in the Middle East? Is it the Middle Age?
By the way, the article is misleading about what’s happening in France and other neighbouring countries on the continent.
Actually, there’s a growing -and worrying- tendency towards ISLAMOPHILIA among the progressive and left-wing parties, and not the opposite.
Except for chasing more votes, many progressive liberals -like yours truly- find it puzzling, to put it mildly.
The left fought for the seaparation of state and religion, secularism and liberties, not least for women.
And now we see the same left supporting or at least being very passive towards a religion that for many of its followers puts the state and society rules behind religious codes.
It is a big political mistake to let the fight against religious intolerance to the right.

117. Watchman

A&e,

Institutionalised oppression is a matter for us all – especially for children who are subject to such a distorted view of the role of women.

Whilst I agree, surely dealing with the problem rather than a manifestation (the clothes worn by the victims of oppression) is surely the answer? All targetting manifestations will do is cause a victim complex and thus reduce the liklihood of engagement (especially if women stop going out as a result).

And a PS that might vindicate my viewpoint.

I find it weird (a soft word) to see aan ad for an international muslim matrimonial site on a liberal site like this one. Promoting weddings within the same religion? How liberal! How progressive!

119. paul ilc

aecn @ 114:

No! One person’s institutionalised oppression is another one’s freedom, I’m afraid. Even though we in the West are surely right about promoting freedom for all, you simply cannot force people to be free (as in the demented Rousseau).

In matters of dress, leave people alone, and they might well eventually accept the host society’s norms, or simply prohibit any immigration from cultures broadly incompatible with our liberal culture. The latter is impractical, given current legislation; but, if that’s your opinion, I can see it’s not racist.

112
Well I’m glad that you appreciate that people can have different perspectives, unfortunately, you don’t seem to be including me in that statement.
115
Is there a problem with multi-culturalism? I have always believed that our liberal society can and does support this.

121. Jonathan Phillips

JS MIll, On Liberty (1859), could be helpful here. For quotations from various of Mill’s works, see http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/John_Stuart_Mill/.

122. Chaise Guevara

@ 120 steveb

“Well I’m glad that you appreciate that people can have different perspectives, unfortunately, you don’t seem to be including me in that statement.”

Bullshit. I’m not claiming that you must be incapable of understanding the debate just because I disagree with you. That’s your approach, not mine.

123. Chaise Guevara

@ 116/118 Mike Guillaume

“Can not SOMEone but ANYone explain how the niqab (no cap for me) is “progressive”?”

Um, is anyone claiming that it is? Being against banning something doesn’t mean that you think that thing is good.

“I find it weird (a soft word) to see aan ad for an international muslim matrimonial site on a liberal site like this one.”

The ads are by Google and not under the site’s control. They’ve also included “no to AV” ads, which is the opposite of what this site supports.

124. Chaise Guevara

BTW, cheers Paul. Meant to say that earlier.

122
Eh?

I don’t think this is even an issue worthy of debate. If you support the ban you don’t know what freedom is.

“If you support the ban you don’t know what freedom is.”

But then as Edmund Burke wrote: “Liberty, too, must be limited in order to be possessed.”
http://www.ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/burkee/maxims/chap18.htm

The “freedom” to wear head or body covering clothing is immensely convenient for those who want to use burqas as a disguise for conducting armed robberies as the international news reports linked @19 show.

128. Chaise Guevara

@ 125 steveb

“Eh?”

Sigh. Ok, let me rephrase: in what way do I fail to appreciate that you can have a different perspective, as you claim at 120?

129. Chaise Guevara

@ 127 Bob B

“The “freedom” to wear head or body covering clothing is immensely convenient for those who want to use burqas as a disguise for conducting armed robberies ”

The freedom to walk the street, the freedom to own communication devices like phones, and the freedom not to have a chip in your arm through which the government can track your every move, are also very convenient to prospective robbers.

So what’s your point? Or is it only freedoms that you don’t care about that should be sacrificed in the fight against crime?

130. David Hodd

I have watched this thread develop, incredulous at the lack of understanding of the Islamic faith. The Niqab and the Burkha are NOTHING to do with Islam. They are cultural. The Hijab is a reflection of the Koran. This is not being banned by France. France will have the same policy on the Niqab and Burkha as Turkey, Syria and Tunisia.

My money is on this thread being bereft of those with a muslim background contributing. Actually I gad a methodist up bringing, so I’m not actually placing a bet!

131. Chaise Guevara

@ 130 David Hodd

“The Niqab and the Burkha are NOTHING to do with Islam”

Funny how everybody who wears one is a Muslim who does so for reasons of faith, then.

Look, Islam =/= the Koran, just as Christianity =/= the Bible. Some Muslims believe, due to their interpretation of Islam, that women should cover their faces in public. It’s quite obviously a religious belief.

@3

“sally

As a woman, and a leftie I think France is taking the right steps. I hate all religions, because I see them as power for men to keep woman as second class citizens. ”

Sally really is a disgusting brownshirt.

133. David Hodd

131
“Funny how everybody who wears one is a Muslim who does so for reasons of faith, then.”
You make a presumption here. Perhaps some women who wear them do so because they are expected or required to by those around them (both male and female), or because they are doing so for political reasons. It is no longer then done out of a religous belief.

My distinction with the hijab from the niqab and burkha is that it is doctrinal, rather than customary. Just because Father Christmas comes to many people’s houses in Western Europe, it does not make them Christian.

134. the a&e charge nurse

[131] “Some Muslims believe, due to their interpretation of Islam, that women should cover their faces in public” – I am more inclined to believe that certain types of men are using a dodgy religious pretext to mask their own sexual hang ups.

Why on earth would god want women to dress like a tent?

135. Chaise Guevara

@ 133 David Hodd

“You make a presumption here. Perhaps some women who wear them do so because they are expected or required to by those around them (both male and female), or because they are doing so for political reasons. It is no longer then done out of a religous belief.”

I doubt many people do so for political reasons that have nothing to do with Islam. And if they are made to wear them because of other people’s Islamic faith, it’s still down to Islam, isn’t it?

“My distinction with the hijab from the niqab and burkha is that it is doctrinal, rather than customary. Just because Father Christmas comes to many people’s houses in Western Europe, it does not make them Christian.”

Christmas is fun, regardless of whether you believe in Jesus. I don’t think many people wear the niqab for kicks.

In any case, the niqab is still mainly worn by Muslims for reasons justified in terms of Islam. So to pretend one has nothing to do with the other is just silly, as well as self-evidently wrong.

136. Chaise Guevara

@ 134

“Why on earth would god want women to dress like a tent?”

If you try to interpret religion on the assumption that it’s sensible, you’re unlikely to get very far. Or anywhere at all.

137. Chaise Guevara

@ 134

“I am more inclined to believe that certain types of men are using a dodgy religious pretext to mask their own sexual hang ups.”

To be honest, I reckon it’s generally a mistake to ascribe overarching present-day conspiracies to religions (with a few obvious recent exeptions). Yes, the niqab and Islam’s attitude towards women in general are obviously tied into sexual hang-ups, but they’ve probably been in place for a long time – and indeed have probably survived so long because of the religion.

For obvious reasons, religious beliefs don’t have to be logical.

138. David Hodd

@135

I am trying to illustrate the fallacy of your argument: Just because something you see is only done by Muslims does not make it a thing of Islamic faith.

By refusing to query the legitimacy of the Naqib and Burkha as Islamic, you are freely giving them a legitimacy as an islamic article.

In fact those Muslims who do wear these items or expect others to do so, are confusing cultural items from religious ones. As discussed previously they are a custom of Wahibi Arabians: a ban might be Anti-semitic, but it is not Islamophobic.

This matters because not bothering to distinguish between articles of faith and of culture is borderline Islamophobia.

In this thread this there appear to be some who seem more confident about spotting anti-Muslim bigotry, but who don’t show much awareness of the complexities of the faith and the cultures that practice it.

139. Davey Boy

The shaming of the word ‘liberal’ is saddening to see on here.

The Left has no morals, no values, it defends the most illiberal entity and all that goes with it purely because it hates America and has mostly non-white skin.

Shameful. You betray liberalism.

The Left has no morals, no values, it defends the most illiberal entity and all that goes with it purely because it hates America and has mostly non-white skin.

I’m beginning to think flyingrodent might be onto something when he says:

All somehow revealed that some nebulous LEFT that doesn’t appear to possess any political power at all beyond the ability to print articles in low-circulation newspapers was the heart of the problem.

I hate to say it, but it is sort of starting to look like this awful, despicable left is little more than a stick that a bunch of people with a very narrow range of political beliefs beat dissenters with. I throw it out there, for discussion.

141. David Hodd

@139
“defends the most illiberal entity” – not clear to what you are referring. France, Islam, or something else?

I have also seen very little discussion of America in this thread, so perhaps “purely because it hates America” is a bit of a leap?

142. David Hodd

Davey Boy

– just googled your name in Liberal Conspiracy, and all of the comments I could see you making, across a variety of threads demonstrated you have one message, which is a strong hatred for Islam.

Now we can discuss and agree that actions in the name of Islam have been the cause of many atrocities, and despicable acts of oppression. We can debate whether that is inherent in Islam, or that human wickedness will twist it to its own ends. We can also discuss that any other faith or ideology has has the same problem.

But the words you are saying are deeply dismissive of all the values of many people. I believe it is possible to be Liberal and Muslim, Centre left and muslim. American and Muslim. I am not a muslim. I hate that Muslims that riot over people’s right to criticise Islam, or issue fatwah’s for those they do not like. I also recognise that Islam can be a peaceful force for good.

I hope you address your hatred and ignorance.

And remember, that Muslims are people, like you and me, so perhaps you should talk with them more and find that out.

143. Davey Boy

The Muslims who do risk their lives to reform their religion have my utmost respect!

Sadly though they are stabbed in the back at every turn by the kind of false liberal scum on here who will have no criticism of Islam allowed and throw out farcical terms like ‘racism’ (What race exactly! You fucking morons!) and ‘Islamophobia’ and say that unless you tow the ‘Islam MUST be respected’ line you’re a BNP Nazi (avoiding of course the fascism seeping out of every pore of Islam).

You kill reform because you refuse to even think such a generally anti-West, non-White, entity could ever be in the wrong!

So don’t bleat on to me about Muslims who try to stand up for something resembling liberal thought (as much as it ever could) in Islam.

People like those on here betray them every day!

I find this funny too….Seems your Commie heaven Russia needs to do a lot more cracking down on your best friend Islam here….
http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14972764,00.html

WOW! You fuckers must be torn on who to support!

“”In the Russian republic of Chechnya, the clock is being turned back as Islamic law creeps into public life.
The state’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, is pursuing policies that promote polygamy and headscarves for woman.”””

144. Chaise Guevara

@ 138 David Hodd

“I am trying to illustrate the fallacy of your argument: Just because something you see is only done by Muslims does not make it a thing of Islamic faith. ”

But if it’s done for religious reasons by Muslims, it is. Like the niqab.

“By refusing to query the legitimacy of the Naqib and Burkha as Islamic, you are freely giving them a legitimacy as an islamic article. ”

I can’t assign legitimacy to things. But I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “legitimacy” here. The niqab is tied into Islam because it is worn by Muslims whose version of that religion makes them believe they should. You don’t get to tell Muslims that they’re not doing Islam properly, because “Islam” is not defined by your personal preference.

“In fact those Muslims who do wear these items or expect others to do so, are confusing cultural items from religious ones.”

Ah. So the people who wear it do so for reasons they consider religious, but you know better? Tell me, what is this definitive version of Islam, and how is it identified? How are the Muslims doing it wrong?

“This matters because not bothering to distinguish between articles of faith and of culture is borderline Islamophobia.”

Grow up.

“In this thread this there appear to be some who seem more confident about spotting anti-Muslim bigotry, but who don’t show much awareness of the complexities of the faith and the cultures that practice it.”

Yourself. You perceive a very simple, homogenous version of Islam, and think you have some kind of authority to declare that “proper” Islam. So if anyone disagrees based on, y’know, reality, you call them ignorant and borderline anti-Islamic. This is not a sensible or rational way to behave.

145. Chaise Guevara

@ 139 Davey Boy

“The shaming of the word ‘liberal’ is saddening to see on here.

The Left has no morals, no values, it defends the most illiberal entity and all that goes with it purely because it hates America and has mostly non-white skin.”

Nah. You’re just confused because you don’t see the difference between supporting something and supporting its right to exist. I don’t want to wear the veil, and I don’t like the fact that other people do, but that doesn’t mean I should force them not to.

That, in a nutshell, is the definition of “liberal”. The word isn’t being shamed, you just don’t know what it means.

146. David Hodd

145. Chaise Guevara
Whilst we will have to disagree on post 144 (though I concede I don’t have a full technicolor understanding of Islam, it is sufficient to see that my own and other’s knowledge of it lacking. I also know that because Naqibs are worn only by Muslims, it does not follow they are an article of islamic faith – just as the eating of Easter Eggs by christians does not mean Easter eggs have much to do with Christianity)

But I really want to endorse your comments On145. Liberalism is about supporting people’s freedoms, not necessarily the choices they make. Liberalism is however challenged where the choices people make are to seek to curtail the freedoms of others. Us Lily livered liberals are at our most vulnerable when defending the freedoms of rascists, anti-abortionists, climate change deniers and religious fundamentalists. I think many liberals are being logically consistent if they deny such people the right to curtail the freedoms of others. That is why some support a ban on the Naqib and Burkha. That need not be aIslam/ Arabic prejudicial line.

139.143
The OP states that the French left have upheld a ban on the niqab, and if you have read this thread, you will see that many of the contributors, who consider themselves to be ‘left’, have differing opinions.
Your generalizations are nonsense, read the OP again, it states that the French left have supported the ban.

148. Chaise Guevara

146. David Hodd

I’m beginning to suspect we’ve been arguing around definitions of words r.e. the niqab anyway – how you and I would define an “article of faith”, for instance.

Thanks for your backup r.e. liberalism, and I agree that liberals can end up in a quandry when granting one person freedom would lead to them restricting the freedoms of others. Quite possibly you and I just have differently weighted priorities in this case – the same principles, but with different emphasis.

149. David Hodd

148. Chaise Guevara

– agreed.

It is rather helpful to be reminded through the Davey Boy’s malice, that what matters most is to address the hatred.

If there is one thing I have learnt over the years, and that is when someone describes a group from afar (“false liberal scum”, “Muslims”, “Americans”, “Fascists”), there is a foreshortening effect, and they miss all the texture and nuance that changes the story completely (I see an old Grauniad advert being replayed here).

“The French Left is Islamophobic” is a ridiculously simplistic a view. cf post 4.

150. Chaise Guevara

@ 149 David Hodd

“It is rather helpful to be reminded through the Davey Boy’s malice, that what matters most is to address the hatred. ”

Hell yes! I think any group is likely to bicker internally in the absence of opposition, but rally together when said opposition appears.

“If there is one thing I have learnt over the years, and that is when someone describes a group from afar (“false liberal scum”, “Muslims”, “Americans”, “Fascists”), there is a foreshortening effect, and they miss all the texture and nuance that changes the story completely (I see an old Grauniad advert being replayed here).”

Agreed. It’s basically impossible to speak like that and not fall into generalisations. And in many cases, such as Davey’s, it just turns into the Two Minutes Hate. “Group X is evil! They are all hypocrites! They should be cast out!”

I have a Grauniad mug with the words “If you shout all the time, it’s hard to know what’s important” written on it, funnily enough.

“The French Left is Islamophobic” is a ridiculously simplistic a view. cf post 4.”

Agree here too. In the OP’s defense, I think it’s intended as shorthand (and bear in mind that Sunny normally writes article titles, not the author), but as a statement it commits bigotry while accusing other people of being bigots. It’s the equivalent of saying “all black people are racist”, or whatever.

I think President Sarkozy is aware of the fact that diffusing these nationalistic ideas and proposals will increase his popularity among his voters as the presidential election is approaching. These issues are very popular in France. Just look at the recent surveys which indicate the growing number of those who support the extreme right movement.


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