Thursday, August 13, 2009

First The Burka and Now The Burkini, C’est Viva La Difference dans France

President Sarlozy and the French government have loudly been participating in  Islamophobia by attempting to ban burka in France.  Of course he missed the irony that he cannot claim to be emancipating women, when he is telling them what to wear. 

“The problem of the burqa is not a religious problem, it is a problem of the dignity of women. It is a symbol of subservience, of submission. The burqa will not be welcome in our French republic, "

In a typical Western bias he has associated the revealing of the body with autonomy.Regardless of how one feels about the burka, it must be acknowledged that some women actively choose to wear them.  The banning of the burka could also  mean women being forced to completely retreat into their households. If France truly supported Muslim women, the government  would attempt to work in partnership with them and allow them to take the lead on what reform, if any needs to be made.

image It would seem that it is not sufficient to ban the burka , now the burkini is under attack.  A woman who has been identified as Carole, has been banned from a pool in Emerainville, east of Paris. It seems that they had hygiene concerns (take a moment to roll your eyes).  Swimming fully clothed is banned in all public pools and this apparently has nothing to do with Islam.

Emerainville Mayor Alain Kelyor said, that “the swimsuit was not an Islamic swimsuit and that "that type of suit does not exist in the Koran”.

I suppose Mohammed did not foresee the Burkini but it is written in the Koran that both male and female, should be modest in their dress.  What was Sarkozy saying about women and freedom again?

"We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity,"

So, he’s concerned with dignity…yep, nothing encourages that like a bit of segregation.  By not allowing women to swim in burkinis, this amounts to legalized segregation.  This law may apply to everyone,however  it is designed specifically to oppress Muslim women.  Instead of increasing freedom it will reduce the amount of activities a woman may participate in,  Instead of emancipation, the state has decided to behave in a patriarchal manner  to oppress women. Freedom can only be gained by supporting choice. 

Perhaps, we should ignore that this is happening at a time when traditionally ethnocentric, jingoist France now possess the largest Muslim population in Europe.  The sudden swell in anti Muslim sentiment couldn’t possible have anything to do with the majority choosing to utilize power coercively, to maintain the hierarchal structure in its favour could it?   Nope, it’s about freedom and liberation.

The moment a man expresses a desire to control what women are wearing, he is expressing his male privilege. In  the west we understand that women’s bodies exist for the purposes of male pleasure.  Female bodies are under constant scrutiny and are forever being disciplined.  It is simply the exchange of one form of oppression for another.  I suspect that there will continue to be rise in anti-Muslim sentiment which manifests itself as saving women.  Whatever is understood to be weakest is always attacked first as prey.