Banning the Burqa: Modern-day Witch Hunts

From Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansa anymore:

If we took away the suits, cameras and sunglasses from this photograph we are left with a worrying picture. There is something medieval about this image despite that it was taken today in Paris. Is it reminiscent of what scenes from a witch hunt may have looked like hundreds of years ago? Surely, in a developed country like France, we have moved on a little from the this very public victimisation of women.

In France, women caught in public wearing the niqab or burqa will now be fined £132 or be faced with citizenship lessons. Does good citizenship not come from freedom and respect?

For more: French woman defies burqa ban as law comes into force (Times Live) and France’s controversial burqa ban takes effect (CNN).

Also, this:

[image of a tweet from @LailaLalami: “France bans the burqa; joins Iran and Saudi Arabia in the league of countries who legislate women’s clothing.  Charming company.”]

[UPDATE: I’m still stewing over this.  Here are my two thoughts:

1) If a woman wears a burqa because either she wants to, her religion asks it of her, or her husband/father demands it of her, banning it is not going to stop her from doing it.  It’s what she wears to the GROCERY STORE!  And especially in the last case, if she is being forced against her will to wear a burqa (which I don’t even like writing – as if I could ever understand this situation from the point of view of the woman being arrested in the picture above), then oppressing her via her clothing choices in order to fight against oppression – what kind of sense is that?  Well, it only makes sense if…

2) You don’t like Muslims and you need a convenient way to go after them.  So, you decide to control their women and, especially, their women’s bodies.  THAT story, that is as old as fucking time.  “The Traffic in Women” – it’s a piece that historians and feminists and feminist historians constantly go back to when things like this arise because Gayle Rubin was onto something, something that has happened throughout history and that we still see operating today.  Society often operates on or is even BASED on struggles and exchanges between men over women’s bodies.  And sadly, she’s right, once again.  This time it’s 2011 and it’s taking place in France, that bastion of liberty.

Makes me sick.

Mona Eltahawy’s take on this ban: right action by the wrong group.]

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One thought on “Banning the Burqa: Modern-day Witch Hunts

  1. The ban plays along with the oppression. What the men who want their women covered would prefer is that they not go out at all. So if they face arrest, that just helps keep them home.

    But I think what’s going on here is that France has always been very much about intentionally deciding what it means to be culturally French, and then going so far as to legislate it. I understand there are laws about the language, and the theatrical verties used to be legally actionable. There are lots of Muslims moving into France, enough that they are starting to affect the culture. And the burqa is a rather prominent cultural artifact. There is nothing so obvious to identify a Muslim man. (If I were a Muslim man, I’d find that disturbing.) I haven’t been to France in a while, but from what I remember, I’d suspect that what’s going on here is not so much about women as about fear of French culture starting to include Islamic elements.

    As an American, I am a member of a joyously eclectic, randomly evolved, uncontrolled culture and laugh at their silly pretensions, but I see what they are trying to do. They will fail, as they have so often before (I have enjoyed Le Hot Dog in Paris, despite the legalities of language) and women will be hurt in the process. I do not laugh at either of those facts.

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