When I woke up Monday morning my clock radio went off and the first thing I heard on my local National Public Radio station was, effective Monday, April 11 a ban was put on facial coverings of women in France. It is now illegal to wear a burqua or a niqab in public. The French president defends this ban by saying this outward religious statement of a woman having to cover her face is not French. It does not support the French secularism or Laïcité (separation of Church and State). I personally could not imagine having to live a life where I would have to wear a covering over my face. I would find it oppressive. But, I am not sure how I feel about this ban. Is it just another anti-Muslim, nationalistic law/movement in Europe? Is it a human rights issue where France is standing up for women being oppressed by males/religion/culture? (I would say YES if this was female genital mutilation). Or are the women who choose to cover their faces, are they losing the right to privacy, their right to choose whom sees their face (which is of great cultural value to some women–that the only male that sees their face is their husband)?
The French Cultural Minister describes a burqua as a ‘walking coffin’. Not exactly the most P.C. way to describe another culture’s choice of clothing. :(
So, does France have the right to pressure its Muslim citizens and immigrants to assimilate? If you choose to live here, then you play by our rules? That does seem fair. But what about cultural relativism? That’s the whole idea of each culture having their own value, their own traditions, with none being better than the other, and not judging/viewing another culture in comparison to your own culture. I think France needs to realize that the definition of what is ‘French’ is different than what Sarkozy and other old, white male French leaders may believe. Like it or not, the people making up its country look a lot different than perhaps 50 or 100 years ago. I look to the USA and think about how maybe some things that my immigrant relatives wore/ate/said/did when they first arrived in the USA may not have been looked upon as ‘American’. As far as I know, nothing was ‘banned’ that they wore/ate/said/did though I am sure the pressure to learn English was there. I don’t think I would have liked to learn now that my Polish great-grandmother was banned from wearing a Babushka. (Maybe I’m being silly–who wouldn’t want to wear a Babushka!) That was part of her culture, her tradition, something that she brought with her from her home country. Basically I think it’s a slippery slope when clothing choices are banned. It will be interesting to see if this ban stays in place and/or if it is taken up by other countries in the EU.