A piece of cloth? (2013)

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A piece of cloth? (2013)

Postby Mike » 26 Jul 2013, 01:30

Interesting TD piece from The Australian. I'm posting it in full here because the articles in the Oz (as we call it over here) tend to go behind a paywall quite quickly.

Torn apart for more than a piece of cloth
Theodore Dalrymple From: The Australian July 26, 2013

A YOUNG woman was peacefully breaking the law in the town of Trappes, not far from Versailles, last Friday evening, when the police asked her to identify herself. So outraged were the young people, les jeunes, of Trappes by this denial of her fundamental human rights that they spent the next two nights throwing stones at the police and burning 39 cars - that is to say, more than they usually would have burnt on two successive nights in summer.
The law that the young woman, a convert of French West Indian origin to Islam, was breaking was no ordinary one: she was not shoplifting, robbing or trafficking in the normal way. No; she was wearing the niqab, a garment that covers the face and has been outlawed in France since October 2011. The law states that: "No one may wear a form of dress in public designed to hide his face." There are no prizes for guessing at whom this law was aimed.

As is usual in such cases, there is a dispute as to the finer points of what actually happened, a dispute that will never be settled to everyone's satisfaction, and everyone in the end will believe what he already wants to believe. The husband of the woman, who was with her, protested at the police action, allegedly by trying to strangle an officer. A spokesman for the Committee Against Islamophobia in France claimed the couple had been the victims of police violence; and no one who knows the conduct of the French police in such situations will automatically exclude the possibility that they were not very polite.

What is not in dispute, however, is that the woman was breaking the law.

It is hardly surprising that polemics erupted immediately, exerting a less than calming influence on the situation. Interior Minister Manuel Valls was firm that nothing that happened could have justified the subsequent (or was it consequent?) conduct of les jeunes. He was one of only 20 French deputies in the National Assembly to have voted in favour of former president Nicolas Sarkozy's law - the others abstained, thus firmly nailing their colours to the wind.

The other members of Valls's party, now in power, preferred to talk of the social conditions prevailing in Trappes than of the louts of whom Valls's opposite number in Sarkozy's party, Brice Hortefeux, spoke even more uncompromisingly.

The argument of the Socialists is that the riots had nothing to do with Islam, but rather with the economic circumstances of the people in Trappes; and, in so far as religion had anything to do with those riots, it was as Marx's famous "sigh of the oppressed", that is to say as a distorted ideological response to a cruel world.

Certainly unemployment in Trappes, at 22 per cent, is more than twice the national average; among les jeunes it is 40 per cent; and three times the proportion of people in Trappes live below the poverty line as in France as a whole. And there is also little doubt that people with Muslim names are discriminated against in the job market.

However, the existence of many well-integrated and employed people of Muslim background, and the fact that historical evidence shows that discrimination (within limits) does not by itself prevent the ascent of social groups, means that other factors must be in play. Among these are the rigidity of the labour market, the entrapment of people by social security, and the popular culture of the people involved, which is not one that favours the self-discipline necessary for mass escape from relative impoverishment, to put it rather mildly. Suffice it to say that the combination of ideological dreams of restoration of the seventh century and the US ghetto way of life is not a happy one.

The Left in France - from which in this matter the Right does not in practice differ much - can think only of centrally controlled methods of alleviation: raising the minimum wage, subsidising employers to take on staff they neither need nor want, creating posts in the public sector that give people the false impression that they are working, building more recreation centres for those who remain yet unemployed, and repainting (for the nth time) the surfaces that les jeunes deface for something to do. In short, anything but real reform.

No amount of sociological sophistication, however, will reassure most Frenchmen that a violent religious fundamentalism is not at fault. The head of an organisation, ACLefeu, dedicated to calming spirits in les zones sensibles (sensitive urban areas), Mohammed Mechemache, said people were being excluded from French society because of "a bit of cloth" (the niqab).

I once had a patient whose girlfriend tried to kill herself because he wouldn't marry her. "I don't understand it," he said to me. "It's only a piece of paper."

"If it's only a piece of paper," I asked, "why don't you sign it?"

And if it's only a piece of cloth, why wear it? That's what most Frenchmen would like to know.
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Re: A piece of cloth? (2013)

Postby Andreas » 26 Jul 2013, 23:54

Thank you for posting this. This is not the first time there has been an incident like this in France. It does not bode well. This is one area where the West and Islam will just never get along or agree; I wonder if the French are going to end up caving in on this.

Not surprisingly, in an editorial in the left/liberal Le Monde , a sociologist from one of the highest scientific institutes in the country, the CNRS, blames the French themselves for not "recognizing religious diversity."

Il faut reconnaître la diversité religieuse

Ce qui s'est passé à Trappes révèle d'abord l'absurdité de contrôles opérés en plein ramadan et de l'application littérale de la loi de 2011 interdisant la dissimulation du visage dans l'espace public. Cela témoigne de notre incapacité à construire un espace public véritablement pluriel et une laïcité ouverte.

We must recognize religious diversity

What happened in Trappes reveals first and foremost the absurdity of police checks carried out in the middle of Ramadan and the literal application of the 2011 law prohibiting hiding one's face in public. This demonstrates our inability to create a truly pluralistic public space and a secular society that is open.

http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/201 ... pes&xtcr=4

How many people in France really believe this? I want to ask Mr. Lagrange (the author): if one doesn't apply the law literally, how is it meant to be applied? Should punishments for murder, theft, rape, embezzlement, etc., be only figurative? What is "secular" and "open" about a custom that robs women of their individuality?
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