Thursday, 25 December 2003

France, Secularism, and Islam

originally posted Thursday, December 25, 2003

As a progressive woman, I certainly affirm the right of a woman to dress as she pleases - however, I also feel that men should cease and desist from their nauseating cries for women to constantly strip and pose for them, and to use our naked bodies so that their sorry selves can sell some corporate produce. Women are humans not commodities to enjoy and to use in marketing strategies.
All three of that which France banned could be used for political or nationalistic identification. In fact, the hijab was used exactly as such by many Iranian women during the dictatorship of the Shah. The sight of women wearing heavy makeup, smoking a cigarette, and donning a hijab was not uncommon. However, the same can be said for the turban of the Sikh, the red dot of the Hindu, the pro-Shah flag/shield of Iranian reformists, etc. Where does Chirac plan to draw the line? Or will he draw it? He is already known for his anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

Regarding the hijab, it is usually easy enough to distinguish the forced or cultural use of it: the scarf is usually loosely tied or attached and falls easily from the head; it is accompanied by a year's worth of makeup on the face, it is loosened immediately upon entry into the school or mall, the ponytail falls loose and trails below it, etc. This is not to say that every slipped ponytail is intentional or that every hijabi wearing lipstick or blush is immodest. These are generalities, and they have their exceptions; and I could also be wrong. Usually, however, when someone fights so hard for her right to wear the hijab, it is because she believes that it constitutes an integral part of her religion and code of modesty.

I am one of them.

I take serious offence that someone would presumtuously assume a position to determine just what constitutes a part of my religion, especially if it is not that person's religion. Obviously it is not: Chirac is a secularist. I also take offence when someone who is not practising Islam presumes himself to be in a position to tell me what my beliefs and practises really are or really should be, when I am practising this religion and he is not. What right have these people to dictate to practising Muslims what is our religion? None!

And when a non-Muslim secularist takes an article of clothing which I and so many other Muslim women use to protect our privacy and claims that it constitutes an imposition of our faith on him, then deems it unnecessary for us and prohibits us from wearing it while we pursue a right that is guaranteed to us by many countries, if not international law, I take even deeper offence. What then, is so threatening about us? Perhaps it is the fact that we are different and not ashamed of it. There is no sin in being different, unless one is fascist.

It seems, then, that those who view articles of modesty as items of religious identification and see objects of religious identification as threats to his own secularist value system does not even feel secure in his own identity as a secularist. One who needs to be surrounded at every stop by symbols and articles of his secularist ideology should be questioned regarding his own personal faith in the system. And one who feels the need to outlaw that which is different from him should be checked for other fascist qualities.

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