Tag Archives: religion

News- and Blogwatch

Also busy writing essays during the summer break? Stuck in the office while the sun is shining outside? Hung-over from last night’s party? Here are some articles that can get your mind off of just about anything, for better or for worse…

You’ve probably heard it already: a federal judge in San Francisco has revoked Proposition 8, ruling that not allowing gays and lesbians to get married is unconstitutional. Homosexual partners are officially allowed to marry in the state of California since yesterday!

Apparently the clothing company American Apparel has ceased to be the economic miracle it once was. In a way it is sad to see an enterprise fail that resisted the current trend of outsourcing labor and exploiting workers in poorer countries. Then again, politically correct shopping at AA has been ruined for me ever since the sexual harassment charges. One of Salon‘s commentators actually has a great evaluation of AA’s problems: “While it’s true that tastes change, if AA’s management had spent a fraction of the time they spent on sexually evaluating their workforce on developing products that reflect the changing marketplace and managing their business, they might have survived.”

The New York Times features an article on why a culture of machismo limits Southern European countries’ economies.

Why HIV/AIDS is a feminist issue.

“You feminists need to stop whining and get over your victim mentality!” Heard this one before? Here’s an article on why it’s necessary to acknowledge being a victim: because you often are!

Referring to the current debate about the building of a Muslim community center at Ground Zero, Frances Kissling at Feministe wonders why she feels more sympathetic to Muslim endeavors than to Christian ones. Perhaps it is because we, as feminists, feel more inclined to back up the marginalized groups within a society and I believe that is a good thing!

Have a good weekend everyone!

“Wehret den Anfängen”: “Pro Deutschland” jumps on the islamophobic bandwagon

"Pro Köln" demonstration

If you thought Germany didn’t have enough parties on the far right already (NPD, DVU, REP), say hello to Pro Deutschland! Pro Deutschland was founded in 2005 by members of the islamophobic initiative Pro Köln, which was voted back into Cologne’s city council in 2009 with a 5,4 percentage of votes ( http://www.taz.de/1/berlin/artikel/1/wowereit-ruft-zum-protest/ ). Lately, it has received more attention for trying to get into Berlin’s city parliament in 2011.

Even though Pro Deutschland locates itself on the far right, it refuses being connected to the other parties mentioned above, by distancing itself from all extremism and antisemitism. So why should this organization be considered dangerous?

Looking over the party’s program as presented on their homepage (http://www.pro-deutschland.net ), the critical passages are not easy to detect, as Pro Deutschland is eager to present itself as ultra-democratic and constitutional. Against the neoliberal trend, it strives towards a social market economy in favour of the petty bourgeoisie and strong nationalism instead of globalization. In fact, any issues faced by non-Western nations are not to be considered at all; international organizations such as Greenpeace and Amnesty International are discredited.

Since antisemitism is out of the picture, a new enemy has to be found and who would be more convenient at this time than muslim immigrants? Pro Deutschland claims that the multicultural society has failed and Germany has become an immigrant nation. It calls for a stop on ‘loose’ immigration laws, a stop on the building of minarets, and suggests separate classes for migrant school children. Patrik Brinkmann, the main financier of Pro Deutschland, has been cited to view Muslims instead of  Jews as today’s central issue. He has also had previous connections to NPD and DVU, but failed to connect with them on fundamental issues, among them his lack of antisemitism and his pro-Christian attitude (http://www.netz-gegen-nazis.de/artikel/brinkmann-patrik-3452).

I have to emphasize here that Pro Deutschland is a Christian party. This may not become apparent at first glance. While I would not criticize moderate Christian organizations that do not try to impose their values on others, this initiative is clearly fundamentalist in some of their views. In interviews Brinkmann talks about welcoming Muslims who want to convert from their ‘barbaric’ belief to Christianity. Naturally, these values are being transported into gender-related issues. It’s easy to read between the lines of the program statement that the family should be privileged over all other living communities. Pro Deutschland is openly homophobic and anti-choice. Other than that, their program features nothing on gender equality or women’s issues.

Pro Deutschland clearly distinguishes between good (Christians, ‘Germans’) and evil (foreigners, leftists). I cannot help worrying that in the future this party will have similar success like the FPÖ in Austria and PVV in the Netherlands…

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…