JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: FRANCE’S NEW LAW ON WOMEN COVERING THEIR FACES   Leave a comment

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSES TO A COLUMN BY GIDEON RACHMAN IN THE FINANCIAL TIMES

This kind of legislation is just one more chilling aspect of the Islamophobia which has descended on Western society like a poisonous cloud of volcanic ash.

It really would be nice to get a break from all this mindless, anti-Muslim hysteria.

What do I care what my neighbor wears so long as he or she is a peaceful member of society?

My experience with Muslims is simply one a sweet-tempered people who pretty much mind their own business.

I wish their critics displayed half their excellent qualities.

A few decades back, in films, the niqab was viewed by our public as alluring and fascinating. There are many scenes exhibiting these aspects in old films and serials, scenes made to appeal to our sensibilities.

Now, it has completely turned around with people attributing the most outlandish motives. It’s just the backwash from America’s insane war on terror, fed by Bush’s lame stuff about women’s rights when what he was about was killing.

Women wearing the niqab or the burka – both not really common in the Islamic world – were admitted as immigrants to France with their garments and customs. What right does anyone have to say high-handedly, after they have moved their lives there, they must do away with it?

This is the attitude of the intolerant and those who do not understand what they are talking about, using flimsy excuses like women’s rights. A woman’s rights include wearing what she wishes, does it not?

The reasons for these garments among a minority of Muslims are complex – social, historical, and not just religious, but for devout wearers religion is very important, more so than secular critics can understand.

Almost all immigrants eventually give up their native dress. It is up to them to decide on that, not shrill accusers in a newspaper column.

Those shrill demands are the way Americans behave. It’s one of their most unpleasant qualities. Live and let live so long as people are not being hurt.

We have women being beaten in their homes by the thousands in all Western countries. We have a world packed with abusive practices towards women – bride burning and horrid shunning of widows in India to female genital mutilation (not a Muslim custom but an African one with 3 million victims a year) to the widespread acceptance of fathers and other elders raping young girls in Africa, and people focus on this insignificant phenomenon?

It wasn’t many decades ago that fashionable women in Britain and the United States wore veils with hats. Would anyone with manners have asked a woman then to remove her veil? Indeed a vestige of this practice remains in our wedding ceremonies with the bride wearing a veil only her husband lifts.

No wonder the Muslim world feels under assault from the West. We bomb their countries. We keep men in secret prisons. We say forms of torture are okay. And we interfere with their religious and cultural practices here. Can anyone blame them for feeling angry?

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