July 12, 2008
France, Islam & Integration
As brought up in the open thread, a strange court case coming out Fransa: France rejects Muslim woman over radical practice of Islam, worthy of a moment of reflexion.
The headliner is
France has denied citizenship to a Moroccan woman who wears a burqa on the grounds that her "radical" practice of Islam is incompatible with basic French values such as equality of the sexes.although deeper in the article one may be able to pull out something more fundamental (or perhaps better put, reasonable, than her choice of clothing as the basis of the citizenship denial, notably lack of integration and mastery of French society.
Of no great surprise, the woman did not wear the Saudi style ninja costume in her native Morocco; apparently imposed by her husband in France. Without having further information, one would suspect a family arranged marriage of a country girl to a cousin or contact in France who's gone reactionary in France.
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The Islamic barbarians are going to force us all to wear burqas! That's why we, the freedom loving civilization, are going to force them all not to wear one.
The war over hatwear continues....
Posted by: matthew h at July 12, 2008 09:19 PM
Well, I think it goes a bit deeper than that. Actually what is US standard - one does have to pass an integration test right (whole civics thing, etc)?
If the woman shows a poor grasps of French civics, then I do not see the French are utterly wrong here. Partially wrong for the religious test portion, but more narrowly on civics, I am not sure I would disagree.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at July 13, 2008 08:48 AM
I agree if there was a civics issue. Citizenship means political membership.
US standard is -- loyalty oath to Constitution and form of government, willingness to perform national service, basic civics knowledge test, and (except for elderly) English language ability.
I am just annoyed at those out there who whine hysterically about one day being forced to wear burqas, and are probably now championing forcing others not to.
I get the civics thing, not the head (or face) gear hysteria.
Posted by: matthew hogan at July 13, 2008 10:19 AM
Well, then we are agreed. The hysteria over the fact she wears a goofy and idiotic bit of clothing and isn't a feminist a la mode de Francois Mitterand (irony mate, irony) is one thing - indeed should be irrelevant.
That the article implies she has apparently (and probably through no fault of her own) little to no clue as to the French secular republic, its civic standards (which she should be free to knowledgeable about and disagree with), strikes me as a genuine and fundamental issue.
Here the fault clearly lies with the community confines she is in.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at July 13, 2008 10:25 AM
I'll go with that, especially the last point.
Posted by: matthew hogan at July 13, 2008 10:39 AM
Would the same thing have happened for a Yemeni Jew who covers here hair in accordance to Orthodox Jewish practices?
As a Muslim I dont think Islam requires the burqa. However, I think this all unfairly targets Muslims and Islam.
One cannot say in one hand they have a secular government and on the other hand have a government that regulates religion. Either the state is involved in the practice or it isnt, France is clearly involved in the regulation of religion. Such a government has lost it's right to claim it is a secular government.
Posted by: Abu Sinan at July 13, 2008 07:27 PM
No, but then you're setting up a straw man. It's not just a Hidjab, it's the burqah - or the ninja niqab / Hidjab combo that attracted attention.
And like it or not, that's rather more extreme than simply a scarf over the hair. While I still find it inappropriate to discriminate on that basis, it is not wholly and utterly unreasonable, given the other civics issues that come along with.
As for your claim re France, you simply don't understand French secularism. It is not Anglo Saxon 'leave it be' secularism and never has ben. French secularism rose out of Fr. Republican hostility - indeed near civil war - with traditional Roman Catholic Clericism and interference in state affaires. It has for over 150 years been actively regulatory and actively interventionist. It is not only arising in response to Islam, although the current aggressiveness is clearly in part (not in whole, but substantial part) driven by religious reaction. In short, you're utterly wrong on this point unless you're defining willy nilly Secularism as English style Common Law Secularism. But that's merely being Anglocentric.
This being said, I prefer Anglo Liberalism, to French Statism, and that extends to the issue of Secularism.
But I return again to the underlying issue - that of the standard of civic engagement and understaning. Leaving aside the discriminatory over-focus on the woman's clothing (and her ... well forced per the article ... adoption of an alien form of dress), the French State certainly has not only every right but an obligation to ensure that new citizens have at least and as a prerequisite a certain understanding and acceptance (if not total adhesion) to the French society's version of secularism as the "order" or state of citizenship that is being requested by the foreigner.
There is much in this story that leaves non-trivial doubt as to either her or her Fr. side family's acceptance of the same. Without this excusing French discrimination in terms of ethnicity and religion - issues France has to live up to - this does not absolve incoming immigrants of a duty to compromise with the host State & Society. Or to put it differently, not every Maghrebine or Muslim immigrant should be expected to wear a mini and drink wine, but at the same time expecting to replicate Wahhabite practice in France and be made citizen is reasonably unacceptable for the French.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at July 14, 2008 09:17 AM
If a mastery of French civics and the French state's muscular ideal of what constitutes a secular state, plus equality of the sexes in the household, were a prerequisite for citizenship, you'd probably end up having to strip half the French population of their nationality. But no matter, harsher rules may necessarily be applied to immigrants and the newcomer does have a duty to compromise with the host state on a range of fundamental issues.
The argument that Muslims in particular are being singled out for special treatment at this particular point in time, that they are Europe's new Jews, is a more difficult one to dismiss out of hand.
Posted by: Maha at July 19, 2008 01:44 AM
I want to amplify this last point as it is extremely key whether discussing immigration in Europe or in North America.
People -- for better or for worse -- do not have a right to live in any country they choose. Still less do they have a right to become a citizen of any country they choose. While citizens may have rights, becoming a citizen is a privilege. We can certainly question whether a country is wise to impose a particular criterion but that's different than saying that a country has no right to impose a particular criterion.
In this case, the French decided that this woman had not adapted to French culture. While French citizens may have the right to wear a burqa, whether the French should allow women who wear the burqa to become citizens is a completely different issue.
For example, British citizens may be perfectly within their rights to advocate for disolving the Monarchy and replacing it with a Caliphate. I am sure, however, that no one would question the British government's decision to deny citizenship to someone who advocated disolving the Monarchy and replacing it with a Caliphate. The French decision in this case is analogous except it was predicated on the applicant's cultural views rather than her political views.
Many countries, especially in Europe, are starting to grapple with this exact point. Certain cultural and political attitudes are necessary for a functioning liberal democracy. Countries are not only within their rights to exclude those who do not share those attitudes, they should excluded those who do not share those attitudes.
Before I am pilloried, I hasten to point out that this has nothing to do with either religion or nationality. Countries might also be wise to refuse citizenship to such groups as racists, polygamists and Chelsea supporters.
Posted by: Anonymous at July 22, 2008 03:54 PM
a prerequisite for citizenship, you'd probably end up having to strip half the French population of their nationality. But no matter, harsher rules may necessarily be applied to immigrants and the newcomer does have a duty to compromise with the host state on a range of fundamental issues.
Well so the bloody fuck what? It's obvious that native born citizens are citizens automatically, but newcomers have to jump through extra hoops. That's really pretty standard, and frankly France compares favourably with most places.
The whinging about discrimination against Muslims in this instance is misplaced. Perhaps discrimination against salafi, but then the Salafi approach has earned its problems.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at July 26, 2008 06:58 PM