Friday, July 18, 2008

The Muslim Woman Denied French Citizenship - Encore

Last week I, among others in the blogosphere, commented on the case of Faiza Mabchour, a Moroccan immigrant whose application for French citizenship was denied because her "radical" practice of Islam was deemed to be incompatible with French values. Part of that radical practice of Islam was her wearing of a niqab, which is similar to a burqa, except that the niqab has an opening so that the wearer's eyes can be seen.

The New York Times has an article (registration required) that follows up with the Moroccan woman, only in this article she is called Faiza Silmi. The article quotes Fadela Amara, the French minister for urban affairs and herself a practicing Muslim of Algerian descent referring to the niqab as "not a religious insignia but the insignia of a totalitarian political project that promotes inequality between the sexes and is totally lacking in democracy."

As for Faiza herself, she claims that she abandoned the traditional Moroccan djelaba for the niqab because the djelaba "was not modest enough."

I don’t like to draw men’s looks,” [Faiza] said. “I want to belong to my husband and my husband only.”

Pardon my language, but I call bullshit on this. If a woman insists on wearing a niqab in a country where hardly any woman wears one, then she is guaranteeing that not only men, but just about everyone else, will look at her. This is not about dressing modestly. It is about making a public spectacle of oneself. "Oooh! Look at me! I'm so pious!" Dressing modestly means dressing in a way so as not to attract too much attention to oneself. Maybe Faiza Salmi should ditch the niqab and walk around wearing sweatshirts, baggy pants and drab colored head scarf.

Oh, any by the way, if these two pictures below are any indication, then djelabas totally rock!



8 comments:

tina FCD said...

I agree with you on this one, totally. :)

Chicken Girl said...

"“I don’t like to draw men’s looks,” [Faiza] said. “I want to belong to my husband and my husband only.”"

That pretty much says it all. She doesn't even want to be an equal, autonomous human being. She wants to be a slave to her husband and nothing more. France is right to reject her.

SFT said...

Is yours a satirical post lampooning misunderstandings of liberty, or do you perhaps not understand it?

So she refuses to be sexualized in the eyes of anyone other than her partner. So some other woman chooses not to wear make-up, shave her legs, or do anything interpreted as appealing to the male gaze. That is her choice. You can resent it, or not understand it. But do note that feminists everywhere do take active measures to be seen and interpreted as persons first and images or bodies second. And that is what this woman is doing.

Ideological criteria for citizenship in a nation is the worst form of tyranny, and that is why I am an American.

@ Chicken Girl: "France is right to reject her." ? If you live in the US, you are lucky that our nation does not deny or revoke citizenship based on phony, backwards, ignorant political philosophies, or you would be shipped out in a second. You are a selfish shit who cares nothing for the freedom of others.

Tommy said...

So she refuses to be sexualized in the eyes of anyone other than her partner. So some other woman chooses not to wear make-up, shave her legs, or do anything interpreted as appealing to the male gaze. That is her choice. You can resent it, or not understand it. But do note that feminists everywhere do take active measures to be seen and interpreted as persons first and images or bodies second. And that is what this woman is doing.

SFT, you must have skipped over this part:

If a woman insists on wearing a niqab in a country where hardly any woman wears one, then she is guaranteeing that not only men, but just about everyone else, will look at her. This is not about dressing modestly. It is about making a public spectacle of oneself. "Oooh! Look at me! I'm so pious!" Dressing modestly means dressing in a way so as not to attract too much attention to oneself. Maybe Faiza Salmi should ditch the niqab and walk around wearing sweatshirts, baggy pants and drab colored head scarf.

Where did I write that she should dress in a sexually provactive way? As I wrote above, she is dressing in a way that draws attention to herself instead of deflecting it. And it highlights a major flaw in Islamic fundamentalism, the notion that every male/female interaction in public is assumed to have a sexual subtext to it.

If that is the case, then Muslim men should wear burqas too!

SFT said...

I'm mostly a bit surprised that you presume to know what this woman intends. But I hear that such views are typical among people who do not know anyone in the category of the people they are judging, so it does not mean you are to blame.

The assumption that 'every male/female interaction in public' has 'a sexual subtext to it' is not specific to Islamic fundamentalism, nor do orthodox Muslims think that *every* interaction is this way. Almost anyone who *thinks*, be she a pious nun or a radical feminist, has no greater dream than to overcome every last rotten bit of differential treatment caused by sexual identity. I, and most people, believe that gender hierarchy and racial hierarchy really exist and pervade our lives, and this sad fact cannot be changed overnight. It does not mean that *every* person is a potential abuser; but some people takes measures to prevent abuse and miscommunication, and choose to do whatever makes them feel safe, comfortable, and dignified.

If our social systems were not so fucked and male-dominated, and if men did not so often perceive women as objects, veiling would probably be obsolete, and I could say that I've never been sexually harrassed by a bastard professor. It just seems so paternalistic for someone to say to a thinking, autonomous person: this, and only this (i.e., flannel shirts, baggy pants) can make you feel comfortable and non-vulnerable.

One example of miscommunication: It is sick, unfair, and wrong that people interpret breast-exposure as an invitation for harassment. Unfortunately, many men and women see it as a clear message: "She wants men to fuck her and look at her! She wants attention!" And whether or not she intended to send that message, that is the message that society receives, and they treat her accordingly. Only a minority of courageous women and other marginalized groups are willing to redefine a certain kind of visual vocabulary (i.e., practicing and redefining non-shaving of legs so that it doesn't mean 'I am a filthy horrible person', or a black professional wearing traditional African clothing at risk of being thought of as 'primitive' or 'savage').

I know many American women who wear niqab. They are not attention-seeking or brainwashed. They are a bit 'nerdy' (a lot like some of the nuns I've known), and like many socially inept or nonchic people, have no idea how or why anyone should care what they or wearing. They would require some kind of shocking experience, like poor Faiza Silmi, to even realize that it draws any attention. They assume that others care what they think and say more than how they look. Here in Midwest America, it doesn't seem that they experience differential treatment in their daily lives or anything that would make them think that their clothing is making people look at them.

You may think, as many do, that baggy pants are a more rational strategy for deflecting male attention---assuming that was her only intent. But perfect logical coherence and ideological conformity cannot be requisite for citizenship. Sartorial genius most certainly cannot. I'm certain that you agree!

Tommy said...

Thank you for your continued comments STF.

If our social systems were not so fucked and male-dominated, and if men did not so often perceive women as objects, veiling would probably be obsolete

As someone who considers himself to be a male feminist, I agree with you. However, I reject the veil because I believe it legitimizes sexist behavior in men. It sends a message to men that women who do not wear a veil are fair game, rather than addressing the sexist behavior of the men. In Muslim countries where the number of women wearing a veil achieves a certain number, it creates a pressure on the remainder to conform because they are subject to increased harassment.

As I wrote in my first post on this case, I am inclined to support the French government's decision in this case, though I still have some reservations about it and am not 100% on board with it.

I also did a post discussing my own feelings about the veil. I will provide a link here later if I get a chance, though you are welcome to search this blog yourself. I wrote it during the spring.

Stardust said...

One thing that puzzles me lately with muslim women in our area is the wearing of the black headscarf with skin-tight jeans with a couple inches of flesh showing at the waistband or hips. Then on their faces they have more make-up than Tammy Faye. SO, they only think that men are attracted to HAIR? I would think the skin-tight jeans on their tushies would be more attracting than hair. And with the photos you show...even though the hair is covered, the women are attractively dressed to draw attention to themselves.

Why not stand up and be proud of being a woman. Why cover it up and hide? Be a woman and demand respect. Covering up is cowardly (or utter backwards, religious superstition.)

Tommy said...

SFT, here is my post laying out my thoughts on the veil.

And with the photos you show...even though the hair is covered, the women are attractively dressed to draw attention to themselves.

Star, that is what I like about them! :-) Seriously though, these are probably more stylized versions of the djelaba geared towards fashion shows and such. Still, I think they are kind of cool. The top one especially is something that women who aren't even Muslim could wear and look stylish.