The French are discussing outlawing the burqa from the public eye. Can anyone think of a better tit for tat?
Extremely orthodox Muslims want to eradicate the female image from the public eye, and now some in the French government want to eradicate all signs of that eradication.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy says the burqa “goes against what we in France understand by the dignity of women.”
I notice he’s not aiming his guns at the glass ceiling in the workplace, the “tits and teeth” spectacle at the tired old Moulin Rouge, or the clients who patronize the poor freezing mini skirted hookers in the “seamy sexual bazaar” of the Bois de Boulogne. Nope. He’s going to integrate society by forcing certain segments into a dress code. Let’s hope he never decides that any woman who refuses to show her legs is also going against the dignity of women - then I’ll never be able to take my sari wearing mother to Paris again.
The thing is – I’m no friend of the burqa.
Hate the things myself; hate the idea that little girls in Afghanistan can’t run and play as freely as children should, that women in ultra Muslim communities live in stifling heat dressed like loads of black washing, that a woman should be expected to show her love for God by rendering herself invisible.
But what I hate more is the hypocrisy that punishes women for a choice of garment that in the end, harms no one, changes nothing in one troubled aspect of society. And all the time, he continues to ignore the real problems of integration: for example, clearly biased employment policies in many Western countries that leave gangs of Moroccan and Algerian boys to loiter on the street, to commit crimes, to face stronger punitive measures and to end up in jail in relatively greater numbers.
The fact is that many second generation Muslim women in Europe are making a conscious decision to put on the veil or burqa. These are girls who used to wear tight jeans and short skirts, who like rap music and who are sometimes going against their parents’ will by doing it. And these girls are ready to tell us why they’re doing it, but we just don’t want to listen.
In The Netherlands, our own far right Freedom Party leader, Geert Wilders has proposed a tax for women who choose to wear a headscarf. He did of course have to face return quips about taxes on silly blond male hairdos. But let’s not get distracted from the real issue.
Why do governments insist on punishing the very members of a society who may well be the best educated, the most likely to integrate well, to grow out of the need of a youthful urge to rebel? By locking them out of schools, jobs, and now, any public space, we are closing the door on the idea of an integrated society.
Bad move Mr Sarkozy. Very bad move. Its going to explode in your face.