Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sidestepping The Real Problem : Why France Should Stop Being Stupid And Lift The Ban On The Burqa

France just passed the law banning the wearing of the burqa and niqab (face veil) in public which, to me, is a slap in the face and a kick in the balls to the nation's founding words: liberty, equality, fraternity.

I'm not speaking out because I'm a Muslim. I'm speaking out because I deem this an insanely massive violation of human rights. The French are the first ones to lash out against anybody who steps into their personal space or deprives them of free speech. In fact, the most common phrase in everyday French is "je m'en fous" (I don't give a shit) followed by "c'est comme tu veux", meaning "as you wish". And the most common phrase used to win an argument is "je fais ce que je veux" (I do whatever I want) and it's guaranteed foolproof. Rest assured that saying this can get you out of explaining yourself in any situation where you've obviously made a stupid decision and your plan backfired, but you don't want to lose face or hurt your ego. It gets people off your back instantly.

So it goes without saying that the French come hand in hand with their existentialist ways: I make my own decisions, you make yours, and I don't give a shit about what people think of me. They've been raised to say no to any kind of submission and to see everything with a skeptic magnifying glass, which is why they rejected religion and, as a group, are highly sarcastic.

Which raises the question: If you can practice your freedom of expression, why can't these women practice theirs?

My friends told me it's because these women are pressured by their husbands into wearing burqas, which is against the gender equality policy for which France has been fighting for so long. The problem is, most (if not all) of these women wear burqas voluntarily because of their faith, not because a man told them to. If it's their wish to do so, who are you to say they can't?

In my opinion, the ban on the burqa is a veiled (pun intended) attempt at ignoring the big elephant in the room, which is France's fear of Islamisation, a term they coined to denote the growing number of Muslims (mostly Arabs) in France and thus, the expansion of their cultural influences on the French constitution. It has nothing to do with protecting Muslim women from being oppressed by their husbands, or the fact that burqas might present a threat to society in the sense that hooligans could use burqas to hide their Kalashnikovs and rob banks in broad daylight.

The simplistic argument most used by the French to discredit the burqa (or any type of veil worn by Muslim women to cover their hair and body) is that it's degrading for women. For them, religion views women as lepers who should cover themselves in public. Anyone who obeys to this religious exigence is thus submissive and an outcast of the society.

The first thing they should understand is that the burqa is cultural in Arab countries, hence it shouldn't be associated with all Muslims.

Secondly, if a burqa is degrading because it reflects women's submission to men, then let me ask you a question. If a non-Muslim woman wears a sexy, body-fitting dress which hugs her curves in all the right places, is it not because she expects a certain degree of validation from onlooking men (and jealousy from onlooking women)? Is it not because she needs her physical prowess to be validated by others? This woman is thus dependent on people's perception of her body, which in turn brings her self-esteem and confidence. If her confidence is determined by men's approving glances, doesn't this constitute submission to men? Can this woman be considered in total freedom, or is she a slave to men's extremely high expectations when it comes to feminine beauty? A Muslim woman in a burqa doesn't need men to acknowledge her existence by using her physical attributes, which makes her independent of superficial prejudice. In this regard, she is more in control of her freedom than the skin-showing woman, which is a complete turnaround from the original stance that the burqa is degrading for women.

This is exactly why I think the French should stop getting their panties twisted, wipe the hypocrisy off their constitution, call a spade a spade, and deal with the issue at hand differently. I'm going to lay it down for you real easy: the French society views the Arab population as poor people with lack of education, benefactors of the French well-oiled health and social security system without contributing to it. They are perceived as a nuisance in an otherwise peaceful country, and their culture is impregnating the French national identity deeper and deeper, slowly shifting the traditional French values. This imposition is more and more seen as an invasion, as the Arabs are very vocal, passionate, and demanding when it comes to their culture. The problem is, the Arab population is multiplying exponentially and so is the visibility of their generally disliked habits. In areas of low-cost housing where the Arab population is predominant (usually in suburban areas of big cities), crime rates are very high.

So clearly what the French want is lower crime rates, which translates into smaller immigrant population, which also means "we need to get those Arabs out of here". That makes sense.

What doesn't make sense is, the crimes are the result of lack of income and education, and the burqa is not in any way the cause of these crimes. If there is a pressing need for any law to be reinforced in order to curb the uneasiness caused by the Arab population, banning the burqa is certainly not the way to start. It will only cause even more segregation between the French and the Arab populations, and increase sentiments of hate among the people.

Sidestepping the real problem by nitpicking on a garment is nonsensical. Time to strap on a pair and man up, France. Say what you really want to say, and stop penalizing the wrong people. Who cares if people see you as a bunch of fascist bastards. You can do whatever you want and you don't give a shit, remember?