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This article provides a more visual idea of why I lauded the French government's move to bar all manner of overtly religious clothing and symbols from entering schools and the public sector. Although, I wouldn't quite call the sentiments from the Muslim community here merely anti-Semitism. From my experience, I would affix it to a larger picture of religious fundamentalism, a very dangerous version of conservatism not because it is simply conservative (that actually strikes me as the ridiculous fear of far-flung liberalism; free speech applies to everyone including the people you'd love to hate), but because it is the mindset under religious conservatism that can veer between being a normal, well-adjusted citizen who has a conservative view and the angry, irrational citizen who has a conservative view and isn't afraid to push it on other people, sometimes at great costs. This is the hypothetical equivalent of a normal, well-adjusted liberal citizen who loves animals and discourages people from strife and liberal citizen who is also angry at all real or perceived worldly wrongs and who isn't afraid to hurt plants, people and even other animals that don't succumb to being saved. I'm saying that now because there are simply too many liberals out there who think being liberal means disrespecting the very foundation of the idea of letting people be individuals.

I also believe the French have a liberal, secular history to uphold, and the influx of migrants means the migrants must conform to those liberal, secular values because that's exactly what adopting the citizenship of that country means. The French haven't actually stopped people from believing what they will, merely staunched the overt showing of that belief according to their secular values. That's not a stomp on freedom of expression. That's a government imposing, within its rights, a national policy that's been in place for centuries of their history in slightly more detailed lettering updated for the times. There is much to be learnt from multiculturalism, and I believe just as much that one must learn to respect and understand different cultures to survive in this day and age. But, in that same vein, I believe there has to be a basic respect of the culture you moved into on a permanent basis as well, and this includes conforming to the national policies based on that culture. In simpler terms, don't adopt the citizenship of a country whose values you don't fully understand or agree with. I truly do not believe any of these migrants in France did not realize they were accepting the citizenship of a secular country before they went about receiving it. To assume that would be to undermine an even more vital individual right, the one of being able to think for one's self.

Comments

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
ladyeuthanasia
Feb. 18th, 2004 10:20 am (UTC)

Very well stated, love. After visiting Paris and talking to the people there, I got a much better idea about what this was about and what they fear will happen to their culture. More than one Frenchman also told me there were concerns about the evangelistic nature of the Muslims in the schools and that they wish to convert France to a Muslim country. It was a difficult thing for a white, liberal Californian like myself to understand. But I think you have really nailed it. It's their goddamn country. They can do what they wish to preserve their culture and values. I loved being able to go there and appreciate it.
iculver
Feb. 18th, 2004 10:57 am (UTC)
You sound so ...rational and well adjusted.

There are two historical incidents that remind me of the current situation.

The first was that whole Fez thing under the Ottomans. The Greeks I know are still getting over that one.

And the early 20th century German requirement that Jews wear patches, etc.

The current situation is like that, only on a more secular level. It's as though the French are saying: "you can believe what you want, but if you do, you'll smart for it."
iculver
Feb. 18th, 2004 11:11 am (UTC)
And there's the whole timing thing. Here in the US we've conceded to the first generation of immigrants their need to get their footing on their own terms. If they can endure change, at their own pace, then the second generation has an easier time as well. But eventually the family line adjusts to the "American" way of things.

This is why we tolerate ethnic neighborhoods. And why I endure harsh looks from Vietnamese immigrants when the wife and I patronize one of their fine restaurants. Simply put, Americans are a strange lot, and they need a bit of getting used to. Unlike the Turks, Germans, and French, we're not in any hurry for immigrants to make that change. And we do remember Angel Island, and the Colorado of the 1940's.

Better to show yourself openhanded, to evoke a heart-felt change, than to be fisted, evoking fear and resentment. Which is the better citizen? Surely not the latter?
vampyrichamster
Feb. 18th, 2004 11:20 pm (UTC)
Re:
I would say to both "concede" and "endure" immigrants to your country is as much a form of discrimination against them as is openly preventing the practice of their culture on your nation's soil. Both require a level of condescension that merits the question, "Why even let them in at all?" It speaks of a complete lack of respect for the culture entering your own culture's fold. Accepting another person's culture as a recent addition to one's country's heritage requires first an understanding of that new culture, a sympathy for that culture's needs, and a common willingness to discuss what needs do not match with the local culture, from it, finding a middle ground upon which to mutually grow. There is no place for enduring or conceding on either side, but there will always be room for discussion, education and respect. Going to the local Vietnamese store or trying Halal food is a start, but it will be a false start if all one ever does is endure. If there is a feeling of unwelcome, ask what it's about. It is fairly easy to step on the toes of someone else's customs without quite realizing it. In the worst case, one will still learn something new.

We must also bear in mind there is a vast difference between the integration methods of America and France, indeed, between any one country and another. American migration policies seem to lean towards a very open-ended style, where the migrants are freely permitted to live as they will, with no real pressure to conform to national values, culture or even be an integral part of the national body politic. This is in keeping with American political history and style of administration. French migration policies appear to be similar to that of much of Western Europe (and certain parts of Asia). The stress is on centralization and integration, which, while somewhat culturally shocking to proponents of decentralized government, is perfectly alright for those whose histories support it. The typical tools of centralized, integrated migration policies are stresses on centralized education systems, a keen inculculation of national values, depending on the system, the equal inculculation of values based on the national religion and a very strong political will to ensure these programs stay in place.

In these systems there is usually also room for the appreciation of each unique culture in the fold. The new cultures themselves are not forced to lose their identity, but they are expected, on a public level, to conform to local values and national policy. This is the work of "big government", another image of democracy that is neither wrong or discriminatory in itself. As an example, a reasonably liberal nation might scoff the idea of arranged marriages and polygamy, and would discourage these practices on its soil for all its citizens. There would not be a differentiation between citizens who were born in that country and citizens who were previously migrants, and this is fair because a nation shouldn't differentiate its citizens by such lines. Proponents of polygamy or arranged marriages may argue that this is their (the migrants') culture and it does no harm (because it doesn't in the neutral sense; these are only different values attached to marriage, and different ways of bearing families; the actual problems with both these practices come from their abuse rather than their practice alone, and sometimes the natural bad-mouthing that comes from a culture that disagrees with them). The idea here is that no one asks this new culture that practices these things to denounce their culture wholesale, rather, refrain from practicing those aspects of its culture in direct conflict with national values or national law.
vampyrichamster
Feb. 18th, 2004 11:20 pm (UTC)
Re:
To understand the specific conflict regarding religious symbols, we must see France as a historically secular country in that same spot above. The values the people and government of this country have fought to uphold as their identity should not be subject to denouncement or even dismissal by migrants, people who do not necessarily have had to share that struggle to uphold or respect France's national values. That is direspectful of the host country. When migrants adopt French citizenship, they are accepting that they are joining other French people to uphold the secular national values. It may be in direct conflict to their own values, but that's what they signed up for.

A secular country with secular values should not have to bow down to religion by its nature and definition, anymore than a formally religious country with formally religious values should not have to bow down to secularism by its nature and definition.
mokie
Feb. 20th, 2004 05:21 pm (UTC)
Re:
That's one thing that didn't strike me until I read your post--the secular/religious conflict. Between the duelling popes, politically-minded clergy, Huguenots, and that whole mess with the Church of England, I think can see why some of the French want to take such a harsh stance, especially considering the brand of Islam they seem to be facing...
iculver
Feb. 19th, 2004 07:17 am (UTC)
To concede and endure
First off, I think it's wonderful to run across people who actually think and can articulate their opinions. It sure beats the hell out of "U n00b. OMG. Looser!" :)

Wow. Ah. I pushed a button.

Please allow me a moment to qualify, to reiterate.

Concede. Defined in context as allowing something to take place. Motives for this defined by the willingness to allow immigrants the opportunity to take their time in getting adjusted. It is exactly as you said: American migration policies seem to lean towards a very open-ended style, where the migrants are freely permitted to live as they will, with no real pressure to conform to national values, culture or even be an integral part of the national body politic.

Endure. Again, in context: when something negative is sent your way, and you choose not to fight back, you endure. You take it. In context: knowing it is better to let someone see you not be combative, to let them see you as peaceful, as peace-able, opens the door later for the angry or suspicous to have a change of heart. Sooner or later the angry will let you engage them in some kind of dialog, to take that next step just as you said.

Yes, there is a certain snobbiness to the American ideal. We don't exactly live up to it, of course. But the underlying dictum compels us (in opposition to France, or so it seems): Rules are made for people, not the other way around.
ladyeuthanasia
Feb. 18th, 2004 12:57 pm (UTC)
Re:

I disagree. Americans are a vastly different sort than the Continentals in that our very identity entails diversity and tolerance, but that doesn't make us superior or more moral. Unlike the French, we didn't have to fight like hell to separate our government from the all-controlling Catholic Church. We started with a separation of church and state, albeit it's a difficult thing to maintain and some would debate we continue to struggle with it (re: Bush's "Jesus Day" et al). The French aren't banning religious symbols in any other forum except the public schools. People "smart for it" here, too. So, the same way a lot of Fundies here in America get pissed off when evolution is taught in public schools and enroll their kids to private schools, the Muslims are doing the same thing. They go to private schools where they can openly practice their faith as they study. It's not a perfectly mirrored comparison, I know, but it's close. And for a country that wants to preserve its identity, I think they're doing fine. I saw lots and lots of immigrants in Paris. They aren't refusing people refuge, especially China.

iculver
Feb. 18th, 2004 01:21 pm (UTC)
I disagree.

And you do it very agreeably! A nice change from the typical drama. Thank you! :)

...but that doesn't make us superior or more moral.

Okay, maybe we don't disagree that much.

(re: Bush's "Jesus Day" et al)

Not that I'm Jesus or anything, but if I were, I'd consider myself provoked. >:(

It's not a perfectly mirrored comparison, I know, but it's close.

Close enough. :)

One thing I've observed over the years is that religious people tend to view their religion not in terms of "applies here, but not there" but more like an all encompassing, wholistic worldview. To say "don't do this here" is to say in essence "check your soul at the door." To the religious, regardless of the State's intention, such behavior results in oppression, hence, they'd "smart for it."

The alternative to this isn't much fun either. If the religions had their way there would be no goth culture, or anything not representing the officially sanctioned version of "the Light." I'm not a goth, but I know I would've been executed years ago.

We tried theocracy once. And there were a lot of human tiki torches as a result. I do agree with you and V that there has to be a line drawn somewhere, otherwise the streets will run with blood. Muslim or otherwise.

I think the French are doing a wonderful job of preserving their culture and heritage. There has to be a bastion against the American media onslaught somewhere in this world... :)
ladyeuthanasia
Feb. 18th, 2004 01:47 pm (UTC)

http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=2404691

I just found this. It's a really interesting article about the difference between how the British are doing it and the French.

Yeah, the very nature of religion is that is totally encompassing of the individual. The French Government (or any other) can't say, "Look here, you religious person. We've respected your beliefs everywhere else. Can't you please respect us in this one way?" When I wandered north of Parmentier in Paris, I was in the heart of the Muslim district. I saw tons of shops, cafes, stalls, you name it, devoted to Islamic culture. There's got to be a way, but now that I see my biases, I'm really hesitant to suggest anything personally. It's been suggested that the ban would create extremists. (What do you think, V?) I think that's a valid fear, I think. It seems that Chirac is willing to take that risk, if it's true.
iculver
Feb. 18th, 2004 02:07 pm (UTC)
Good article. Nice contrast/comparison.

When my wife and I first heard the news about the French proposition, we both looked at each other and agreed: if this aint picking a fight we don't know what is.

I think the French have an understanding of the miltant propoganda machine. I agree with you that Chirac is taking a risk. But I also think the French are able to withstand whatever comes of it.

Oh, re: earlier in the thread... yeah, they also eventually had to weather the Presbyterian storm too. Brrrr.

Hey think about it. We did all this while V was probably catching some Z's. Can't wait for the responses...
vampyrichamster
Feb. 19th, 2004 08:49 am (UTC)
Re:
Splitting this up into two posts, sorry about that.

I don't think the ban would create any more extremists than there are already being created. Militant Islam, like any other encroaching militant religion, approaches with small signs we usually ignore until they become big. I know what can happen when those small signs are allowed to happen, and what the outcome might turn out to be. Malaysia in the 1980s, when I was very young, was a markedly more liberal place than it is now. Malaysia is politically a secular country with Islam as the official religion. Muslim women in the 80s were very much like every other Malaysian woman. They dressed decently without being too conservative, and women who did wear headscarves wore a selendang (a light, sheer scarf draped loosely over the hair or shoulders) or a sarong over their hair, both traditional Malay implements.

However, the 80s also saw a boom in students sent to foreign institutions returning home, particularly, students send to Middle-Eastern Unis like Al-Azhar University in Egypt to pursue religious majors. These students absorbed the influence of their host nations, these nations being markedly more conservative than Malaysia. Among the things they brought back, along with dramatic consevatism, was the idea of the full headscarf. It started out with a very small sign. A minority of Muslim women began wearing small kerchiefs to cover their hairline. These weren't very far away from those French kerchiefs that have also been accused of being fashion accessories or religious implements.

Then, a minority of Muslim women began to wear full headscarves, the kinds that covered both the entire head and the chest. By the time I was seven, a minority of Muslim women were starting to go into over-sized headscarves reaching down to their waists.

By the time I was fourteen, the majority of Muslim women wore full headscarves, including teenage girls and preschoolers. The headscarf, according to all the major Islamic schools, was meant to be worn by women after their first menstrual courses. This marked their step into adulthood, and depending on who you ask, "protected" the girls from prying eyes. Also depending on who you ask, wearing the headscarf is a choice a woman can disagree with.

Presently, girls who don't wear headscarves are often pressured to by family or peers. I faced some of that when I was in high school. It's exceedingly creepy to be faced off by other fourteen-year-olds to wear a headscarf, who insist on this idea enough to present you with a headscarf and physically corner you. I spent the longest time trying to figure out why, even though I certainly wasn't telling people to not wear headscarves, they were telling me to wear it. We lived in Terengganu at the time, a particularly conservative state on the east coast. It was difficult. Even my mother received pressure from the locals to wear a headscarf. Neither one of us did, but it was difficult.
vampyrichamster
Feb. 19th, 2004 08:50 am (UTC)
Re:
Malaysia does not force its women to wear headscarves. Most of our most prominent female community leaders don't wear them. There are absolutely no laws anywhere in my country that dictates what any person, man or woman, has to wear.

My point here is that sometimes, letting things lie for the sake of mutual peace and diversity doesn't actually help out in the end. Militant schools of religion usually show up because they are left long enough to fester, because not enough efforts are done to educate people at the roots about their rights and choices. In Malaysia, and I think this applies in strange ways to other parts of the world, the most militant religious persons are usually not particularly well-educated, or have received the narrowest possible education, usually only in the field of religion. They are very seldom exposed to ideas from the opposite end of the spectrum, so they do not get as wide a range of views from which to draw their opinions as possible. Particularly conservative communities also like to reinforce this lack of worldly knowledge by staying shut-in, which only makes it worse.

The Malaysian government is actually struggling to make its already centralized education system even more centralized right now. The first move was to re-integrate public (Islamic) religious schools into the normal public school system. The second was to rehaul the curriculum of these Islamic schools to include or push more worldly subjects religious schools didn't typically stress on, things like computer studies, science and maths. The third was to watchdog the religious education of the entire society in general. Malaysia is a conservative country, but it is also an unprecedentedly liberal one compared with the vast majority of other Muslim nations. To put it lightly, a Muslim girl there can either cover up or wander around in low-cut jeans and any number of sleeveless, bra-less tops if she so chooses. In urban areas like Kuala Lumpur, where I grew up, no one would stop you on the street for it. No one legally can. In outlying areas where the grain is more conservative, you just have to be a bit braver.

And this brings me back full circle. The Muslim communities in France do not at all sound like they are being prevented from practising their religious beliefs. What their secular government is asking of them is only a small token for hosting them. There should not be an equation of cleanshaven boys and bareheaded girls with stopping Muslims from praying, eating, worshipping and celebrating as they will. In the case of France, there doesn't appear to be one. Because the idea of rampant beards and headscarves is not the entirety of Islam, and are concepts not even agreed upon by the sum of Islamic believers. In other words, it is a plaything of distinctly-more-conservative-than-the-average Muslims, really a stepping stone towards the more dangerous political motives wrapped around religion. And that's where extremists really stem from, political or nationalistic fancies that inadvertently get sugared over with religion. No one wants to strap a bomb to themselves after all, and religion alone will seldom help them do it. What really causes violent extremists is the prevalence of political, socio-economic injustice in the globalizing world; oppresions real, imagined or exaggerated.

In this regard, the French Muslim community could be rallied around any number of better ideals towards radicalization, and in our current environment, that's a lot of big subjects to pick from. They don't need the headscarf issue. It's in fact very puny in the big picture. So I don't think the Chirac government has much to fear of an extremist backlash from this particular issue at all, no.
mokie
Feb. 20th, 2004 05:38 pm (UTC)
Re:
In this regard, the French Muslim community could be rallied around any number of better ideals towards radicalization, and in our current environment, that's a lot of big subjects to pick from. They don't need the headscarf issue. It's in fact very puny in the big picture. So I don't think the Chirac government has much to fear of an extremist backlash from this particular issue at all, no.

The headscarf may not be the entirety of Islam, but it is the most visible aspect of it, and is clearly very much tied in with the idea of Muslim identity. Those doing the rallying don't have to pick bigger issues or pursue questions of economics and politics; they just have to bolster the perception of this as an attack on Muslim identity, and it becomes as big an issue as they need it to be.
vampyrichamster
Feb. 20th, 2004 10:15 pm (UTC)
Re:
Not necessarily. My stress here is on the radicalization of Islamic principles, which is typically politics wrapped around a particularly extremist version of the religion. Headscarves are a sign of growing conservatism, but they are not necessarily (and usually not) directly extremism in and of themselves. In a more visual example, people who wear headscarves are not necessarily rioting potential terrorists. They do represent people who believe in a conservative aspect of the religion, who are unfortunately also in the same group of people who might allude to evangelism. Or in a equivalent example, the people who demonstrated against the Ten Commandments monument in your country were conservative Christians, but they were an extremely evangelical sector of those Christians, because certainly not all conservative Christians (I would trust not the majority of them even) went out to protest and rally, even if they did disagree with taking the monument down.

By the same argument, conservative Muslims may protest the idea of not wearing headscarves in secular public schools by demonstrations and rallying, or by simply disagreeing. However, the extremism implied by the Chirac government is of the violent, terrorist, rioting sort, which isn't going to happen however hard the exaggeration of the headscarf issue unless the Muslim audience that hears it is exactly the violently evangelical sort. Because...well, I think however the conservative the person, the penchant towards evangelism is always restricted only to an angry, often underexposed minority. The real majority of conservative Muslims will still want to keep the peace in spite of their personal disagreements. They will know the difference between demonstrating against the headscarf issue for its sake alone, and say, a minority that wants to use the headscarf issue and turn it into a holy spitfight on unrelated issues.

Conservatives have common sense too!
mokie
Feb. 21st, 2004 01:43 pm (UTC)
Re:
I'm not sure the Ten Commandments monument is the best example, as most conservatives were very much against taking it down, even the ones who didn't go protest. Many are also quietly against taking "Under God" off of the money and out of the Pledge of Allegiance, despite the fact that these were only added in the '50s during the Communism scare, haven't a damn thing to do with the Founding Fathers, and are clearly against the separation of Church & State. They think liberals want to take God out of America not in a "Let's be secular!" way but in a "Let's be atheists!" way, and to them, moving the monument was a direct assault by the government on their faith. In matters of religion and faith, common sense often just takes a vacation.

But anyway, back to French Muslims and the headscarf. :)

Depending on the current mood, I think it could indeed be a pretty explosive situation, but then I have to admit that I don't really know much about the current mood. An article I read yesterday discussed rising anti-Semitism and "Islamophobia" (illustrated, they said, by this French case), and then ladyeuthanasia's article talks about unemployment, ghettos, and racism; it sounds like a mix that could very easily erupt into violence even over such a minor issue as headscarves. But all of this is written in light of that headscarf issue, so how objective a view can those of us in the U.S. really get?

I wrote about radicals easily using that as a rallying point from a sort of extreme-possibility position. I know people as a whole tend to be very sensible, but mobs are stupid, and if the dissatisfied can stir up group outrage, I can easily imagine that being used to rally people into riot mode--but again, I admit that I don't even know how much of a sense of dissatisfaction and such actually exist in the community, so it's just my lack of faith in my fellow man sparking my imagination. ;)

I mean, if groups of sports fans can take to the streets overturning cars and setting things on fire because their team won or lost a game, I see no reason to trust people in political or religions situations. ;D
vampyrichamster
Feb. 22nd, 2004 12:59 am (UTC)
Re:
Once more, I bow to superior Mokie logic. Now, I'd like to think the majority of people out there know enough than to connect Palestine or Iraq with headscarves, because while there is a sort of connection here the people who would normally make those connections and the people who would adhere to them are from a fringe, but then again, there you have it. People will fight over football matches. So something like this, that can at least be connected to something bigger than itself, does run a risk of making martyrs.

From a personal standpoint, I don't quite trust anyone of a religious nature from that end of the spectrum either, and that solely from personal experience with them. So....back to my point. I prefer your take over mine.
mokie
Feb. 22nd, 2004 01:18 am (UTC)
Re:
I don't think I have superior logic, I think I have inferior information. In all likelihood, you're completely right, and this is just being blown way out of proportion in the non-French media. Take a look at the polls in that one article--the French Muslims themselves are split almost evenly over it.

Actually, it's probably not even the non-French media as much as it is the Islam-fearing media that puts on a show at fairness ("Muslims are just like us!") at the same time that they're reinforcing negative old ideas ("Except that they're all just an afternoon's disappointment away from taking up a vest of dynamite!").

But, as I said, I really just distrust human nature. People riot over stupid shit all the time.

Personally, I think the headscarf thing is misguided, but my bias is admittedly lazy American: by banning it, Chirac risks making a bigger deal of it than it might otherwise have been. They should have gone after it subtly.

Like maybe in terms of fashion--start with "gauzier headscarves are in this year," work up to shorter ones in a nice selection of prints, and in a year or two, French Muslim girls would be rolling their eyes and snorting because like, headscarves are so 2003.

I mean, seriously, they're the motherfucking French, man! Fashion has always been their mightiest weapon!
vampyrichamster
Feb. 22nd, 2004 04:17 am (UTC)
Re:
That's a....rather novel yet plausible idea, if I do say so myself. :)

Unfortunately, while headscarves might be something working in phases, like all fashions, the current trend in headscarves appears to be cover up more, not less. There is an entire fashion industry based around headscarves and veils in many Muslim countries that is *truly* disturbing to the third-party eye, this includes me. And the idea is to be more opaque and unseeable, rather than...the opposite.
mokie
Feb. 18th, 2004 04:56 pm (UTC)
Re:
The patches predate Nazi Germany in that area of the world--one source points at the same thing happening in 16th century Poland, for example.

But I would disagree with your bringing it up, based on one fundamental difference: identifying 'badges' aren't being forced on anyone here, they're being taken away. This isn't an attempt to single out members of society for mistreatment.

To me, it's more like the French are saying, "You can be/believe what you want, we just don't want to see it on the street."

As for Americans not rushing immigrants to make that same change--come to South St. Louis. Come listen to the local Americans when they talk about the Bosnian immigrants that have poured into the area, or the Asian immigrants that have colonized South Grand Ave. Hell, listen to the way some still refer to residents of the Hill (or "Dago Hill") which hasn't seen any new immigrants in quite a while.

I'd say more Americans share those French sentiments--"Just keep it at home and to yourself"--than you realize.
ladyeuthanasia
Feb. 18th, 2004 05:42 pm (UTC)
Re:

It's not really that the French don't want to see it "on the street." They don't want obvious religious symbols in their secular, publically funded government schools. The French I met in Paris last month didn't object to immigrants at all. Most of them worried about how the evangelistic nature of Islam would affect their secular government. They'd seen religion fuck up their government in the past and don't want to see it happen again. They're really afraid that, if they make one concession, it'll snowball into many more. A guy I met from So. France simply felt that the government didn't have to combat Islamic evangelism, but should rather use the liberal, educated Muslim women in political pressure groups to educate younger Muslim women about their subjugation. (I'm not interpreting. This is what he said, in fairly good English.)

Hell, I saw all sorts of religious symbols in Paris. Notre Dame is not just a museum: it's filled with nuns and priests actively carrying out their religious duties to avid worshippers. (You can read about how this surprised me in my LJ. I posted my entire travel journal two weeks ago.) The French government is secular, but the people are not necessarily so.
vampyrichamster
Feb. 19th, 2004 10:32 am (UTC)
Re:
That's a very smart move, using liberal, educated people from the community to educate the community about other options. It is particularly heartwarming to know this approach is being used to support women's issues, and I think these sorts of personalized, focused programs do work easier and best with women in general. This isn't implying a negative at all, women do have a better propensity for sharing and listening over men, and it helps shape entire countries. In Malaysia, Muslim women's rights organizations and the Ministry of Women and Family Development do a lot of work educating Muslim women (and Malaysian women in general) about their rights as citizens and partners. The Muslim women's rights organizations in particular run a lot of dialogues and programs as well as legal aid to tackle in-community violation of women's rights under the Syariah court (Malaysia has a dual court system; Civil and Syariah for Islamic issues). One of the largest issues they've raised is the abolishment of polygamy on the grounds of the Quran specifically encouraging it. This is a topic that's actually been brought up by Muslim feminists in Iran and Egypt before. The line in the Quran that allows a man to marry one, two, three or four (the maximum is four) states in the same breath this is provided "if you fear you cannot deal justly (with your wives), marry only one (wife)".

From a personal standpoint, it is possible for the religious to live peacefully alongside the distinctly less so. Some of the most open, accepting people I've met are women in headscarves and men of the cloth. The idea here is that this takes education, mutual respect and a keenness to understand what makes each other.
ladyeuthanasia
Feb. 19th, 2004 10:57 am (UTC)
Re:

This guy's political group was especially fortunate, he told me, because they had three highly educated, independent Muslim women in their ranks -- virtually unheard of in France, apparently. Perhaps almost unheard of period? I don't know. (And I don't mind showing my ignorance. I'd rather be informed.)
vampyrichamster
Feb. 20th, 2004 07:55 am (UTC)
Re:
Well, this again could be one of those things dependent on school of thought and where it came from. Islam, like most religions, are very adaptable to local customs. I believe the Muslims in France appear to be mostly from the Middle-East and African sub-continent? In that region, yes, lady professionals are reasonably uncommon (they're not unheard of, just uncommon), or at least, the ones in vocal social positions are. Things are getting better; more and more women are getting chances to pursue very high levels of education and careers outside the home in what still are highly conservative Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran. In spite of this recent progress, the conservative nature of these countries still means many women still do not get chances to participate politically in the administration of their countries, or truly fight for their rights at a basic level.

But again, this is very dependent on the country. In countries within the Middle-East, and outside of it, there are liberal Muslim countries which accord full rights to both sexes. Indeed, there are Muslim countries with large numbers of women in significant social positions. The most prominent one right now is Indonesia, led by its President, Megawati Sukarnoputri. A little farther back in history, there was Pakistan, led by Benazir Bhutto. My home country, Malaysia, hasn't had the chance to have a female Prime Minister just yet, but it has in its 47 years of history had women in Ministerial positions through all its administrations. A couple of years ago, the Constitution was amended to specify equal rights for men and women, which makes me proud. :)

Regardless of the Muslim country though, the same things that horrify women elsewhere in the world horrify the women here too. I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is a firm need for more people to ask questions and share ideas, and I'm happy we're able to. I've learnt a whole lot from this thread alone. You've been really enlightening on what the stuff in France is like on the ground, thank you!
mokie
Feb. 20th, 2004 05:47 pm (UTC)
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I hadn't taken into account France's religious history before, this is true.

(Afi pointed that out to me! What ever happened with the creepy hotel guy?)
ladyeuthanasia
Feb. 20th, 2004 05:56 pm (UTC)
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Heh. The hotel people are suing him for something. They're pressuring me to write a formal letter they can use in court so that they can press their legal case. I keep telling them: refund me the four nights I paid for that I didn't stay, f-ers, and I'll give you a letter. They're not understanding. I wish I knew what they were suing him for. Must be something more than just the guy bugging me!
mokie
Feb. 20th, 2004 06:13 pm (UTC)
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But it sounds like your complaint plays into it in a significant way...so hell yeah, refund time! :)
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