Tag Archives: burqa

News- and Blogwatch

France’s Burqa Ban
Yesterday, France’s so-called burqa ban went into effect. The decision was made last summer but from now on women wearing the burqa or the niqab in public can actually be fined, can be forced to attend civilization courses and be taken into custody if they refuse to remove their veils. Two women have already been arrested who protested the burqa ban in Paris. I have stated my position on this subject last year here and here. By now it has become fairly obvious that Sarkozy is only trying to gather votes from the right. His policies on immigration and the Roma have made clear that the only women he cares about, if at all, are white and born in France.
You can blame Feminism for everything
Every now and then scientists come up with these new theories regarding the differences between the sexes, that are somehow considered valuable for society because, duh, they’re scientists, so they must be true. Like this one: Why feminism is the anti-viagra. Neuroscientist Ogi Ogas claims that “gender equality inhibits arousal” because women are hard-wired to be submissive and cannot negotiate this natural urge with their strife towards equality, which therefore limits their libido. Now, I don’t quite understand what one’s personal sexual urges have to do with leading an emancipated life and enjoying equality in one’s relationship. After all, someone with a golden shower fetish is not likely to be urinating on people at work or his or her partner outside of “the bedroom”. But I was interested to find out what this scientist bases his theory on. He references research done on Norwegian rats. Enough said.
Needless to say, homosexual relationships don’t seem to exist in this guy’s universe. According to his theory, homosexuals would have a hard time finding a partner because the men would always want to be dominant and the women always submissive. Unless, of course, this theory doesn’t apply to them because homos are weird anyway, right?
Future Stalkers of America
When I first read about this video, I thought it had to be a joke, possibly even a trolling stunt by men’s rights activists themselves, who enjoy posing as “feminists” in order to ridicule the movement, even though their views of feminism are completely misguided and far from reality. But no, these guys are for real: a couple of new age gurus (they still exist?) thinking they are doing the world a favor by apologizing to women on behalf of all men who have done harm to women throughout centuries of masculine rule. The concept is already flawed in itself, but the execution really takes the cake. While I do agree with perhaps a couple of statements, the overall creepiness and obsolescence of the whole thing is just unbearable. The heyday of ecofeminism was nothing in comparison. If you cannot finish watching the video, for which I don’t blame you, but you still in need of a good critique, David Futrelle over at Manboobz has a great summary:
[…] no matter how earnest all the men in the video are trying to sound, none of them (except perhaps the two ringleaders) seem to really believe the ridiculous things they’re saying. Instead, they seem to be, with varying degrees of insincerity, mouthing a series of essentially meaningless New Age platitudes – in short, simply saying what they think women want to hear.

No one is buying this bullshit, guys. Give it up.


News- and Blogwatch

A French retiree has to go on trial for physically attacking a Middle Eastern woman because she was wearing a face-covering veil. The attacker defended herself by saying: “I felt it was unacceptable for someone to wear a niqab in (France), the country of human rights. It’s a muzzle, all that’s missing is a leash, it’s the negation of women.” Surely the best way to defend the human rights of someone else is by ”biting, slapping and scratching” that person. Thanks to the recently approved ‘burqa ban’, ‘human rights violations’ of this sort have been outlawed. Perhaps the retiree should join the French police…

More in French news:  gender equality exists on paper, not so much in the heads of the French people.

Raoul Hausmann: Der Geist Unserer Zeit - Mechanischer Kopf

I don’t know much about neuroscience and had to read this text twice, but this strikes me as particularly relevant: “[…] the significance of the Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab paper is really as much political and even legal as it is neuroscientific. If there are demonstrable and functionally relevant features in the brain that underlie beliefs or proclivities that determine a person’s behaviour from an early age, and may be immutable, then the case for a redefinition of gender and for reassignment surgery in transsexuals is strengthened.” (Herbert, 2008)

A great lecture by Tim Jackson on Prosperity Without Growth:

How is it possible for a continually expanding subsystem (let’s call it the economy) of a finite system (let’s call it the planet) to continue to deliver its system goals? […] How is it that we can consider an economy which, if it grows at the rates that it has done over the last fifty years will be 16 times bigger by the year 2100, or 80 times bigger than it was just five decades ago, and even this 80 times bigger economy won’t be a place which has delivered the poorest nations out of poverty and given them a hope, a chance of a western level of income. If you wanted to achieve that bigger goal, the goal of global equity, you need an economy that is 200 times bigger than it was fifty years ago. The resource implications, the environmental implications of such an economy are barely believable, really, and yet this is the default supposition for the direction of our economy.

Aral Sea Satellite Pictures

Breaking News: French Senate Passes Burqa Ban

I’ve dreaded this news but here it is: today the French Senate approved the so-called ‘Burqa Ban’, making it illegal for women to leave the house wearing a niqab or a burqa (or any garment that veils the face). To be honest, I wouldn’t support any law affecting immigrants that has been proposed by a government which obviously singles out specific ethnic groups to pursue its right-wing, racist and inhumane agenda. To me, this law appears like just another one of Sarkozy’s measures towards gaining the majority of votes from the right-wing constituency. Apart from that I cannot comprehend the urgency of passing a law that affects an estimated amount of 2000 people in all of France and a distinct religious group that lately has come under fire in Europe and the U.S. for various reasons (burqas, mosques, meat products, ability to integrate…).

Broadsheet@Salon mentions that the veiling of the face is not specific to the Islamic religion (and not to women either), as you can see in this article about a Jewish sect.

News- and Blogwatch

Some interesting posts to read over your morning coffee. Warning! Coffee might get bitter over most of them…

France’s leaning towards a ‘burqa ban’ is already showing some results, perhaps a bit different from what the politicians had anticipated.

Sad but true: Not all women are peace-loving creatures who can do no wrong. We are just as susceptible to ideology, no matter how cruel and inhuman, as any other human being.

On to a more contemporary regime of cruelty: Uzbekistan and the secret terror of forced sterilization.

The trouble with ‘Fast Fashion’.

10 Things That Feminism Could Do Better. One thing feminism is already quite good at: self-criticism. Maybe Sarah Palin, self-proclaimed ‘feminist’, should look into that…

…before she continues claiming to fight for women. Yeah, these all-white middle-class ladies sure look like they have it really bad…:

Update: France’s ‘Burqa Ban’ and the False Notion of Freedom

France has taken the next step towards the ‘burqa ban’. A majority of votes in the lower house of Parliament has approved of a draft bill which will go to the Senate in September. This act has made France the second European country after Belgium to suggest this ban.

By now it should be clear that this law has not been introduced in order to protect women’s freedom and dignity, even though French politicians in favour of the law claim otherwise. How strange, then, that the ban does not specifically address Muslim women wearing the burqa or niqab. In order not to be accused of criminalizing a specific form of religion, the law punishes the hiding/veiling of the face in public in general, making it sound like a security measure in order to protect people from potential gangsters and terrorists (meaning muslims). However, the ban excludes the wearing of helmets for motorbikes, face masks used by the police and carnival costumes (see: http://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/nationalversammlung-stimmt-burka-verbot-zu/1882882.html or http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/13/france-burqa-ban-french-p_n_644433.html )! I agree with Judith Butler that this is not a matter of security and freedom, but a matter of securing hegemony (see my previous article on Butler’s lecture in Berlin). This also becomes obvious when reading comments of supporters of the law who believe in some sort of Islamic conspiracy which takes advantage of ‘our’ Western freedoms in order to infiltrate them and take over the world. The question of hegemony is also implied in the words of Joan Wallach Scott, Princeton historian and social scientist, who says that the law is “a way of insisting on a singular version of national identity that necessarily excludes those whose beliefs and customs are ‘different’ from those of the dominant culture.” You can watch a very enlightening interview with her here: http://bigthink.com/joanwallachscott

I sincerely hope this law will be ruled unconstitutional, and that the rest of Western Europe does not succumb to this false notion of freedom.

Thoughts on the Burqa Ban

There seems to be a new trend going around in Europe: that of banning the burqa, or niqab, and other methods of the complete veiling of the body that a minority of Muslim women are wearing in public. France is strongly considering the ban, Belgium has already followed through with it, and just over a week ago the first Spanish city, the Catalan Lleida (Lerida), officially prohibited the wearing of the burqa in municipal buildings. These decisions are precedents for the rest of Europe, so I believe it is necessary to think about them and take a stand.

Here is what I think: as a feminist and an atheist I do support the idea of getting rid of the burqa as a means of oppression, not just in Europe but in the entire world. Being a (Western) feminist I find it hard to believe that any woman would wear this attire voluntarily, for obvious reasons. However, there are Muslim women who have claimed to do so, not in submission to men but in submission to their god. As an atheist, I naturally don’t care much for this explanation. At the same time, there are women who claim to have been pressured into it and that it is, in fact, a patriarchal tool imposed on women to silence and degrade them. As a feminist, I naturally want to render that an impossibility.

However, should there be a state legislation that prohibits women from wearing the burqa in public? I think, this question can be answered if we look at the possible consequences as well as the implications of such an official ban.

Most women who are forced to wear the burqa in public are already to some extent barred from society. Banning the only possibility they have to leave their homes – to cover up entirely – will probably lead to their removal from the public sphere. Either way, women will always be the ones to get punished. Fining them for wearing the burqa may never affect the men (or women) forcing them to wear the burqa to begin with. Therefore I am convinced that there may be many reasons why governments want to ban the burqa, but freeing women from oppression is not one of them. The real reasons have probably more to do with the common fear of the unknown, a latent (or not so latent) islamophobia and a false idea of security.

We should also consider that this ban is an official restriction of our freedom of choice. If we look at the burqa as a form of religious expression, we might want to ask ourselves which religions are still welcome in Europe. After all, I can think of one or two other religious traditions that imply the violation of an individual’s freedom of choice (for example male circumcision). Should they be banned? In my opinion yes, but that would take this discussion to a whole other level.

Makan Emadi's controversial art

It seems equally wrong to me to force women, or anyone, to wear or not wear something, especially when the question of choice is unanswerable. Is it really my choice to wear high heels? Or is there not rather a system behind it that tells me high heels will make me look long-legged and sexy? Who cares? If it is my choice, conscious or not, to reveal most of my body in order to look sexy, it should be someone else’s choice not to reveal her body or face in honor to her god or because she simply wishes for her body not to be looked at. What’s worse: women as bodies only or women as non-bodies?

I believe there are better solutions than imposing new regulations on people who are already extremely regulated (by their religion or their men). We should strive towards being an open and tolerant society. We should show people that there are different ways to lead one’s life. Are they any better? Well, the only thing that should matter is that everyone should have the possibility to find out. Therefore I strongly advocate that government measures should be positive and constructive rather than negative and debilitating. We should promote communication between the nations and religions instead of stigmatizing them with prohibitions. And we should give every woman who is oppressed, be it by her parents, her husband, or her religion, the opportunity to escape these constraints through women’s shelters, human rights organisations, education and job training, so that she can make decisions based on her own freedom of choice and not on a state law.

Here is a very interesting video that lets those speak who are concerned: Muslim women. I also like that, all the religious reasons aside, there is a fascinating post-body argument in what the woman in the niqab is saying…