Ten Years On: The Ban on the Muslim Veil in France Raises Continuing Questions

March 23, 2014

 

The report published by the newspaper le Monde on the 10th anniversary of France’s ban on the Muslim veil in public educational institutions in France deserves to be read and meditated to draw the main conclusion on the French model of secularism in facilitating discrimination against Muslims.

 

The editors of the report confirm that there has been wide compliance with the French law banning the wearing of the hijab by Muslim girls in public schools.  However, that result does not mean that the law has addressed or resolved the problems it was intended to address, and in fact it may have created more problems.  Indeed, the choices for girls are limited: girls either choose to adhere to their faith and permanently abandon their studies as has happened in some rare cases, or they move to private institutions with all of the related financial burdens, or they study by correspondence, or, finally, they comply with the law by removing the veil, and put it on again at the end of the academic term.

 

The effects of this law have not been limited to public educational institutions, but have expanded into the whole public space.  This broadening of the ban occurred in 2010 with new laws adopted in secular Europe, banning the Muslim veil in public places. It didn’t stop there, however.  As a result of actions of both the right and the left in 2013, the request was made to ban the veil in public halls and theaters, and also in private companies. And then things got even more extensive, reaching mothers accompanying their children to school:  should or shouldn’t they be allowed to wear their veils?

 

In 2003, the sociologist Jean Baubérot (the only one to have abstained from voting on the ban on veils in the Stasi Commission that is charged with implementing the secularism system in France) had a long-term vision because he believed that over time, the veil ban would lead to the demonization of this religious symbol and the despising submission of Muslim women… and if the veil were banned in public educational institutions, later inevitably the ban would be adopted elsewhere with further laws enacted. And this is what actually happened. Things began with banning the veil/headscarf in schools, then in public spaces, and now the regulation is becoming widespread everywhere.  And who knows, perhaps tomorrow there will be new justifications for imposing the French secular model into the private sphere!

But the truth is that this narrow view of the interpretation of the secularism notion in France, in opposition to the wider and more informed conception “in vogue” in several European nations, has found its starting point in the idea of protecting secularism. But such an approach will inevitably lead to a pernicious form of racism against Muslims, and it will extend to their private space, in violation of the principle of freedom of belief. More serious again, the veil will give rise to a dangerous phobia of Muslims in France, for no other reason than the active presence of people who prefer the safe approach to the application of secularism, without worrying about finding intermediate solutions and/or gateways between respect for individual freedom and the neutrality of the State towards religions.

So what would France have lost if it had bypassed the problem by considering the veil as a sign of cultural belonging and not a religious symbol, such as in the United Kingdom, where the government adopted a more intelligent attitude which harmonized the two great secular principles (public neutrality towards religions and protection of individual freedoms), but did not infringe upon the freedoms of Muslim women?

Great Britain and other European countries have succeeded in using this approach to avoid dangerous endeavors that inevitably lead to the demonization of the Muslim veil and then to the demonization of Muslims in general and, even more generally, the demonization of Islam as a religion. The failure of the French policy is that it arrives at exactly the opposite of secularism, namely racism and incitement to hatred.

Therefore, we believe that 10 years after the implementation of the law on the veil, and the events that have followed after that in France, it is necessary that French secularism not only revises its founding principles, but also its security approaches that have redefined somehow these same principles. The goal now in France should be to pursue a course that takes greater account of the more moderate and open European secular models.

 

Source: http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2014/03/126164/ten-years-on-the-ban-on-the-muslim-veil-in-france-raises-continuing-questions/

Football fan fined for ripping up Qur’an at match

February 28, 2014

 

A football fan that ripped up pages of the Qur’an during a match has been fined. Mark Stephenson, a Middlesbrough season-ticket holder, was ordered to pay £235 by magistrates who opted not to impose a football banning order.

The 25-year-old from Shrewsbury committed the religiously aggravated public order offence last December during Middlesbrough’s Championship fixture at Birmingham City. The purchasing manager was among a group of about 20 visiting supporters who were handed pages of the Qur’an by a woman during the match.

Jonathan Purser, prosecuting, told Birmingham magistrates court that Stephenson, who had no previous convictions or cautions, was seen with a lighter, apparently pretending to set fire to some of the pages. Stephenson told a steward who asked what the book was: “It’s the Muslim bible: we hate Muslims.” Other fans were shouting and chanting at the time of the offence, and the words Qur’an, Muslims and burning were overheard by a steward.

Defence solicitor Ash Mistry told magistrates that his client had been drinking alcohol before the match and at half-time, and had very little recollection of his actions.

 

The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/feb/28/football-fan-fined-ripping-up-quran-match-middlesbrough

Zaman interview with Dounia Bouzar on radical Islam

January 16, 2014

 

Anthropologist of religion and expert at the National Observatory of Secularism, Dounia Bazar addresses the issue of radical Islam in her latest work, ‘Countering Radical Islam’ in which she delivers the fruits of her fifteen years of analyses on this minority phenomena that nonetheless often gets conflated with the entirety of the French Muslim population. In her interview with Zaman, Bouzar emphasizes that radicalism has nothing to do with Islam, but is the result of a psychological process.

Bouzar states that she wrote the book for two audiences: the Islamophobes and the Islamophiles (educators, intellectuals, non-Muslim thinkers of Islam). According to her, they are two sides of the same coin because both groups perceive Muslims as a homogenous entity, whether inferior or simply different, and ultimately they both contribute to the same line of thinking as the extreme right-wing party, the National Front.  Bouzar stresses how one needs to distinguish between Islam and its radical forms since maintaining the confusion benefits radicals and Islamophobes alikes.

Bouzar defines radical Islam as a discourse that relies on self-exclusion or the exclusion of others, and leads to a process of identity rupture. It deploys all the psychological tools of cultish movements: breaking with civilization, destruction of personal and family history, the myth of a purified group withholding ‘ultimate truth’, and the replacement of rationality with imitation. Young people under 30 in particular, who have no other form of religious transmission, are prone to being drawn to this kind of discourse on the internet.

Another characteristic of cultish movements is the establishment of indomitable symbolic barriers between members and the ‘evil’ society around them. This leads to an overt religious exhibition, such as the wearing of long beards and the niqab. These displays have nothing to do with testing the State, it is more about self-protection and the preservation of purity in today’s world in decline.  It also has nothing to do with Islamism – Islamists have a political agenda while radical puritans have an almost apocalyptical project to save the world.

Bouzar has in fact been a long-time supporter of religious visibility in France, and was one of the first to work on ‘Frenchisization’ of the headscarf. Taking into account that Islam is a culturally adaptable religion, and that the French wish to see a visibly ‘French woman’, Bouzar developed the idea of a scarf that would be esthetically compatible with France’s cultural heritage. She was equally against the move to ban headscarved mothers from participating in school trips, because it is precisely visibility – not hiding one’s Muslim identity due to already feeling at home – that is a sign of true integration.

Those attracted to extreme discourses have the feeling that society doesn’t offer them a place and role to play. Banning veiled mothers from schools sends precisely the message to children that their kind do not have place in society, and that they are in fact ‘banned’ from society.

Bouzar challenges the idea that French Muslims have an inherent sectarian attitude towards the rest of society. She affirms that a problem of social ghettoization exists, but it is not of the ghetto’s own accord. French Muslims in fact believe in the promises of the République, and the role of politicians should be to guarantee them a place in society.

 

Source: http://www.zamanfrance.fr/article/dounia-bouzar-on-diagnostique-lislam-radical-a-effets-rupture-7273.html?utm_source=newsletter-karisik-liste&utm_campaign=d99f3b8a60-Zamanfrance+17_01_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2d6e3a9a0e-d99f3b8a60-315962845&utm_source=newsletter-karisik-liste&utm_campaign=cf4a6c4c8f-Zamanfrance+21_01_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2d6e3a9a0e-cf4a6c4c8f-315948881

The faces behind the veil: Muslim women speak out against ban

Mainstream British media often depicts veiled Muslim women as oppressed, stay-at-home mums who spend their days shopping and cooking for their husbands. Yet, on the other side of the spectrum, there are Muslim women who wear the niqab, work, engage and participate fully in mainstream British society. While the niqab can be a symbol of oppression overseas in places where women have no choice in the matter, here in the UK it takes on a very different symbolism – one of women refusing to be part of the present-day society’s vapid consumerism and sexualisation.

 

Four Muslim-veiled women shared their experiences of wearing the niqab and considered what a ban might mean for future generations. All outlined their frustrations on common misconceptions of veiled women as “unintellectual” and “immigrants.”

 

Aysha, 23, is a master’s student from London who started wearing the niqab when she was 17.

“When wearing the niqab it comes down to the individuals involved. My teachers were very open-minded – they did not see it as a barrier to the British way of life but respected it and treated me like a normal person. I have no problem interacting with male colleagues or teachers; the veil is there to protect me as a Muslim woman.

 

“I think the ban by the college is criminalising and discriminatory. Hundreds of women across the UK wear the veil; by banning it you are taking away their right to education, alienating them and hampering community cohesion and integration. This is not a security issue at all – ask anyone who wears the niqab and most of us will remove it to identify ourselves.”

 

Saadiyah, 22, is a cover supervisor at a school in the Midlands and started wearing the niqab aged 13.

 

“A friend of mine inspired me to start wearing the veil. I was really young at the time and had to convince my parents I was ready for it. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Birmingham while wearing the niqab and never saw it as a barrier. “My lecturers treated me like every other student; I took part in classes, did presentations and interacted with students both male and female. People were curious and always asked me questions but never in a negative way.

 

“I now work as a cover supervisor at a catholic school and one of the requirements is to show your face while teaching. As a result, I remove my niqab while at work. “The way you dress should not determine whether you can access the right to education. One of the great things about Britain is that it is an open, democratic society. How can people respect other religions if our MPs and institutions are attacking this basic freedom?”

 

Samina, 35, is a full-time PhD student, researcher, consultant and mother of two, who decided to start wearing the niqab four years ago.

 

“It was very different when I started covering my face. While studying and at work, it was not an issue – most people understood why I was wearing it and respected it. Interestingly, male colleagues admired my decision and got along with me, while I had a harder time from some female counterparts. “When out in public, I’m always living in fear as people are very hostile towards me. I’ve suffered verbal abuse on numerous occasions and almost got knocked over in a Sainsbury’s car park because of the way I was dressed.

 

“The banning of the niqab will impact negatively on Muslim women – how a woman dresses should not define her. When conducting interviews for jobs, I don’t look at religion or the way people live their life, I look at their skills, abilities and intellect.”

 

Former chair for the Federation of Student Islamic Societies’ Welsh division, Sahar is a molecular geneticist for the NHS and began covering her face at 14.

 

“Wearing the niqab gives me a sense of strong Muslim identity, character, dignity and freedom. It’s totally a personal choice, I’m not oppressed, I’m not isolated, I’m highly educated and I’m a Muslim British and an active citizen. “There is no place for discrimination and racism in 21st century and actions like banning the niqab are destroying the fabric of our British society.”

 

Anti-Sharia Bill Passed In North Carolina Without Governor Pat McCrory’s Signature

(RNS) North Carolina became the seventh state to prohibit its judges from considering Islamic law after Gov. Pat McCrory allowed the bill to become law without formally signing it.

 

McCory, a Republican, called the law “unnecessary,” but declined to veto it. The bill became law on Sunday (Aug. 25).

 

The state joins Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Tennessee.

Supporters hailed the bill as an important safeguard that protects the American legal system from foreign laws that are incompatible with the U.S. Constitution, while critics argued that the bill’s only purpose is to whip-up anti Muslim hatred because the Constitution already overrides foreign laws.

 

Although the bill does not specifically identify Islamic law, critics argue that the bill’s only purpose is to invoke anti-Muslim sentiments since the US Constitution already supersedes foreign law. In an action alert [text] urging McCrory to veto the bill, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) stated “The bill itself is intended to marginalize and stigmatize North Carolina Muslims and will have a negative impact on the rights of people of all faiths and backgrounds.”

 

The North Carolina ban is limited to family law; bans in other states are broader, applying to commercial law, contract law and other types of laws.

 

Critics of sharia law, the very individuals who encourage banning it, would probably be the first to ask: If U.S. laws do in fact trump sharia laws for American Muslims who live in the United States, then why would a ban bother them? The answer to this question is simple: Because banning sharia law is unconstitutional and an infringement on their religious freedoms as American citizens.

 

“France will always protect its Muslim communities”, declares Minister

Manuel Valls, the current government’s Minister for Internal Affairs, declares during the visit of the  mosque of Ozoir-la-Ferrière (Seine-et-Marne) which has been subject to racist inscriptions that ‘France never tolerated any acts or words directed against Muslims. France will always protect the Muslims of France”. The ministers speech was part of a set of speeches made in mosques during the holy month of Ramadan. The minister called the slogans depicted on the mosque’s walls in February as ‘despicable’ and ‘unacceptable’.

While the actions and threats against Muslims increased by 35% during the first six months of the year compared to 2012, the minister said: “I will never let anyone say, nor believe that the authorities […] would favour anti-Semitic acts over anti-Muslim or anti-Christian acts. We know of this kind of rhetoric. It is false. It is shameful. This is one of division of hatred which is often guided towards another. ” He continued to speak against radicalization as a response to an increase in Islamophobia by saying that ” the Republic will always oppose those who would make France a land of conquest, which would, in the name of a misguided belief, impose laws other than the law for all.” Referring to the riots in Trappes (Yvelines), Valls stated that “the law banning the wearing of  the niqab in public places should be applied firmly […] Those who continue to advocate for wearing the niqab challenge our institutions.”

Theresa May considers ‘second-tier’ banning orders

Ministers are “actively considering” a second-tier banning order that would outlaw groups that are not outright terrorist organisations but promote extremism and hatred on the streets, the home secretary, Theresa May, has confirmed. Ministers continue to be concerned about pockets of activity by Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is believed to have several thousand members in Britain, and is particularly active in radicalising young British Muslims on university campuses.

 

The Supreme Court rejects the burqa ban of Lleida’s municipality

10 May 2013

 

The Supreme Court has rejected the motion presented by  the city of Lleida to ban the burqa in public buildings. The council delegation had declared last March 22,  their intention to go to the Supreme Court, as in their point of view, the banning of the burqa aims to preserve the equality between men and women and to defend the dignity of women, of law obedience, of beliefs, and of religious freedom.

The Supreme Court on the other hand stated that “the burqa ban is a limitation on the exercise of religious freedom.”

Fears About Shariah Law Take Hold In Tennessee

It’s getting tougher to be a Republican in some parts of the country while also fully accepting the practice of Islam.

In Tennessee, an incumbent in the U.S. House found herself on the defensive after being called soft on Shariah law, the code that guides Muslim beliefs and actions. And the state’s governor has been forced to explain why he hired a Muslim.

Lee Douglas, a dentist just south of Nashville and an anti-Shariah activist, points to the Muslim woman hired in Tennessee’s economic development office as evidence of an “infiltration” of Islam in government. Douglas helped draft a resolution criticizing the governor and Islam. A version of the document has been signed by a growing list of GOP executive committees, from rural counties to the state’s wealthiest.

“By stopping this now, we’re going to save ourselves a lot of difficulty in the future,” he says.

The number of Muslims in Tennessee remains tiny, but it is growing. Many come as refugees. Others are college professors. They’re planting roots in one of only three states where, according to a Pew Forum survey, more than half of the population is evangelical protestant.

Douglas believes Islam is diametrically opposed to his faith.

Besides the federal legislation, more than 20 states have considered bills banning the use of Shariah law. The proposals are a solution in search of a problem, according to many. But to the anti-Shariah crowd, they are another way to get their fears taken seriously.

NY Times on France’s “Burqa Ban”

September 1, 2012

 

The French law banning the full-face veil from public spaces has been controversial from the start, with loud debates about the meaning of liberty, individual rights, the freedoms of religion and expression, and the nature of laïcité, or secularism, in the French republic.

While pushed by the center-right and former President Nicolas Sarkozy, the ban was not opposed by the Socialist Party, which largely abstained in parliamentary votes. And the current French president, François Hollande, has said he has no intention of discarding the law, which has been generally popular with the French.

To avoid charges of discrimination, the law was written without any reference to Islam or to women and was presented as a security measure, making it an offense to wear clothing “intended to hide the face’’ in any public place, including shops or the street. The police do not have the authority to remove full veils, only to fine or require citizenship lessons for those who violate the new law. A clause says that anyone who forces a woman to cover her face can be imprisoned for up to a year and fined up to 30,000 euros, or $37,000.