Mullah Jacques

Pop quiz: What country meets the following criteria?

  1. Women are told how to dress
  2. Christians cannot profess their faith
  3. Jews cannot practice their religion

You gut instinct may be to think of some state with a repressive interpretation of Islam; perhaps Afghanistan under the Taliban; perhaps Saudia Arabia. If I told you that they had declared weapons of mass destruction – and not that non-conventional stuff dressed up – but real nuclear weapons. Your first thought might be, incorrectly as we know now, of Iraq.

What is this country and why haven’t we taught them a lesson yet?
Why have we not liberated the women?
When the people whom these country’s laws affect have been disenfranchised, why have we not gone into enforce a democracy?
With an irrational government in possession of WMD, why are we not ensuring our security?

Of course I’m talking about France, who today decided it would be a good idea to ban religion, for fear fanaticism would take hold in the country. Now some would argue this is laïc run amok, but I feel more like it’s racisme institutionalized.

As I understand the logic, Mullah Chirac has issued a fatwa that in order to make sure women are not oppressed by men telling them what to wear, he’s going to tell them what to wear. He’s also decided to make sure women get an education without any limitations, girls will be allowed into school provided they dress as he says. And of course, to make sure women have complete access to the public sphere, they must conform to a dress code, or be effectively confined to their houses.

He has also said Jews may not recognize God publicly, and should run with their heads uncovered, or fear being ostracized by society.

Petite crosses are welcome, but ostentatious ones are forbidden. Who decides that one? Will France become a theocracy? Or an aniconic state?

France currently has the largest Muslim population as a percentage than any other European country except Turkey. [Thanks for the link Ghost Dog. You are strong on the way of the samurai.]

I don’t think France is a bellwether for the rest of Europe. Turkey is moving away from the rabid secularism it previously followed, and no other country is outwardly hostile to immigrants, except perhaps Germany, which is looking at similar laws. Clearly institutional racism exists in all societies and state structures, but there is an engagement with the “other” that allows “the stranger” to settle into the host society. The further the marginalization by the state, the less possible it is for “the stranger” to become native. The logic in France and in Germany is that the stranger has remained strange and must therefore be put outside of society. It quickly becomes a downward spiral for denying the value of a group of people. In this case it is expressed as Islamophobia. Once this level of irrationalism becomes the norm, then other suppressed biases become acceptable again. The French law is incredibly Judeophobic.

Of course, we as Muslims have been held hostage by the nationalist struggle of the Palestinians, seeing it as a religious issue (sorry Edward Said and Hanan Ashrawi). Otherwise we might actually be forming coalitions with the Jewish communities in France to protest this law.

2 thoughts on “Mullah Jacques

  1. “I don’t think France is a bellwether for the rest of Europe.”
    Hmmm. Not sure about that. France and Germany are two very large countries in the EU. Only the UK stands out with a slightly different tradition to religion-state (which many want to change). Europe’s secularism is probably more aggressive, anti-clerical. Britain is probably more indifferent to religion, as long as it doesn’t hamper the pursuit of the general “good” it can be left alone.

  2. Salaam Thebit,
    I agree France and Germany are large, and they clearly form a center of European power together, with the UK as another center. However, they are not all of Europe.
    As I suggest above, I really think the situation in France is driven more by racism. This is not to deny the strong anti-religious sentiments present in the state structure, as witnessed by the hostility directed to the Catholic Church a decade ago. The conflation between race and religion can be witnessed by the reference to les pieds noir in discussing immigrants. It’s an economic/racial divide that becomes tied to religious identity. Of course it’s not unique to France, and in many respects Islam has become the religion of resistance much as it did in the US and UK.
    Germany’s xenophobia is extremely well-known, and their naturalization laws reflect that attitude. Over two generations of the gastarbeiter program, and Turks still cannot be citizens, but 4th generation Americans can.
    Both countries’ policies, I believe, as being opposed to the EU’s conception of human rights, and I would be surprised if the Human Rights Commission doesn’t temper some of the laws.
    Spain has an interesting formal relationship between the state and Islamic organization as can be this law.
    In 1998, an Ismaili Jamatkhana was opened with state cooperation in Lisbon.
    Greece is clearly having issues with their Muslim population, but because the issue of mosque building is related to the Olympics, I actually thing the pressure and focus will help the Greeks to a good short-term resolution.
    The Italians have been surprisingly open with their Muslim population, but I think it’s because they are so firm in their Catholic identity.
    You can’t forget Turkey, the “poor-man” of Europe, with the largest Muslim population in terms of numbers and percentage. It’s moving away from legislating against religion, in part for admittance to the EU.
    The Netherlands are more problematic, but I think with the death of Pym Fortyn some of the more aggressive rhetoric has died down. He actually did a bit to open the debate as to what it means to be Dutch.
    So, while I do agree France and Germany are important centers of power, I don’t think they represent the state of Europe’s acceptance of Muslims.

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