Sunday, April 17, 2011

The new French war on religion

It's the title of a column (hereby linked) published on April 15 on Hürriyet on line. The article could be the usual attack by a Muslim to a Western country, but when a Turk attacks France the issue is always larger than that, and in this specific case the author, Mustafa Akyol, shows a remarkably moderate tone, he makes his point without shouting, and with a certain amount of criticism towards Turkey itself.

The issue is, ça va sans dire, as follows:

The burqa, the all-covering face veil, which is worn by very few women in France, is now banned by law. So, French policemen are fining veiled women, or, far worse, dragging them to their headquarters to admonish them about the right way of life.

And Akyol's point is:

Meanwhile the zestful president of the French Republic, Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, is enlightening us about the virtues of this ban. It is for upholding "French values of equality and secularism," he says. I bet it is. The problem is that those "French values" do not seem to honor the right be left alone from government interference. Alas, they even justify a tyranny, which mirrors that of the Taliban: while those Afghan despots force women to put the burqa on, their French counterparts force them to take it off.
Now, what you and I think about the burqa does not matter here. In fact, I am among those who believe that it is a bad medieval tradition, which has nothing to do with Islam, and should better be abandoned. So, if the women in that excessive veil asked my opinion, I would advise them to take it off, too. But advice is the furthest point that I, and anybody else, can legitimately go. We cannot use state powers to "liberate" those women from what they wear out of their genuine convictions – just like the fact that an ideological nudist cannot claim to forcefully "liberate" us from our shirts, pants and underwear.

The attack to Sarkozy goes even farther than that:

Mr. Sarkozy, whose il-liberalism is only matched by his arrogance, heralds even more fronts in this culture war. He says he wants “no halal food options in school canteens, no prayers outside and no minarets.” Just replace the word “halal” with “kosher” here, and the “minaret” with “star of David.” You will get the poisonous French anti-Semitism of a century ago – the times of Captain Dreyfus. The difference today is just the change in the composition of the hated Semites – now they are the Arabs, and, by extension, all Muslims.

For a country where anti-Semitism is a sort of taboo (you might end up being label as "anti-Semitic" just by criticizing Israeli's politics), this is quite a blow.

But here comes the real issue, the one that Turks are sick of having to swallow all the time:

We in Turkey very well know that this rampant Islamophobia in France is the main reason why the majority of French society is categorically against Turkey’s accession into the European Union. That’s why we are not terribly impressed by the French critiques of our democracy, such as Ms. Marland-Militello, the parliamentarian who questioned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on religious freedom in Turkey in Strasbourg early this week. Erdoğan’s rhetoric was indeed a bit harsh in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, or PACE, meeting, and a few of his arguments were really not convincing. But his reaction to the self-righteous and overbearing attitude Turks have being facing from some Europeans, especially the French, was understandable.

Here comes now the self-criticism, and the reason why every attack to France from Turkey, and vice versa is more like the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.

We in Turkey are also realizing these days that some of our misfortunes in the past century stem from our big mistake of taking France as a beacon of modernity. We imported the fanatically anti-religious laicite of the Third French Republic, which not only brought oppression to our believers, but also paranoia to our seculars. Similarly, we imported the assimilation-focused nationalism of successive French Republics, and were drawn into a madness that our Ottoman ancestors would have never dreamed of: banning languages and cultures other than Turkish. Hence we created our own “Kurdish problem.”

Read the rest of it here.


jedilost said...

so, what do you think about it? should do the burqa be banned in France?

Selene Verri said...

Personally, I think it's another of the tricks the French government used to create a huge debate in order to hide more important issues. No, I don't think it should be banned, I believe this law is harmful towards the very women it is supposed to protect.
Thanks for your question.