French officials have denied citizenship to a man because he allegedly forces his wife to wear a full Islamic veil, the immigration minister said Wednesday.
“This individual imposes the full veil upon his wife, does not allow her the freedom to go and come as she pleases, and bans her from going out with her face unveiled, and rejects the principles of secularism and equality between man and woman,” Immigration Minister Eric Besson said he told Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.
Tuesday’s decision came a week after partial ban on veils covering the face — including those from a burqa — was issued by a French parliamentary commission. If voted into law, the ban would apply in public areas such as schools, hospitals and on public transportation, CNN reported.
Six months ago, Sarkozy told lawmakers France did not “welcome” the Muslim burqa, citing the issue of women’s freedom and dignity, not religion.
A 2004 French law banned Muslim girls from wearing headscarves in state schools. It also banned other religious symbols such as large Christian crucifixes, Jewish yarmulkes and Sikh turbans.
In my mind one of the more shameful aspects of the American Right in the early 2000s was our denigration of our Western European allies over the Iraq War, in particular France. Sure, their motive wasn’t pure, but motives rarely are, and the French were right. The anti-French mania was represented by repulsive schlock such as Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America’s Disastrous Relationship with France. Granted, the relationship with France in many elementary school curricula is inversely childish, with the Marquis de La Fayette serving as a saintly personal representative for the French nation, with whom our relationship was always complex and to a large extent driven by situational conditions (not to mention that different portions of the American populace had opposite stances toward France on occasion, as during the French Revolution, when the South was pro-French and New England anti-French). But teaching materials for children tend to be childish and simplistic by their nature; what excuse does a conservative intellectual such as John J. Miller have? Instead of elevating his readership, in this case it seems he appealed to their baser inclinations, and that appeal will surely not stand the test of time.
In any case, I point to the French attitude toward particular types of Muslim religious garb as illustrative of the fact that they certainly are not “surrender monkeys.” In fact, laïcité tends to make Anglo-Saxons uneasy, with its aggression and disregard for liberty. But in this case the reasons are clear. One the one hand, there are practical rationales for why people should not expect to go about in public with their face covered; facial expressions are critical signals which our species relies upon. In pre-modern Muslim societies generally it was elite Muslim women, who lived segregated lives, who could engage in the luxury of the full face veil. Today middle class Muslim women who wish to have careers take up the veil. This is an innovation, and I think there are prudent grounds to object to it. A Muslim woman in the past who took up the veil as generally not a public woman. Today many public women are now taking up the veil. The personal has been made political.
That being said, the big problem here is Islam. If everyone was honest it might be feasible for Europeans to propose a “grand bargain”: Muslims can practice their faith however they want, so long as Europeans can block all further immigration from Muslim lands, or, by practicing Muslims. Non-Muslims the world over can tolerate small Muslim communities, but they fear the rise of large minorities. I will not review the reasons for the discomfort, they are not premised on delusion. But if Muslims were like the Amish or Hasidic, a peculiar people apart, but no long term demographic threat, then objections to the niqab or burqa would disappear.