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#1 of 29 Old 05-10-2010, 01:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh please help!

If you "know" me from my posts (or even if you don't) I'm recap; I live in France, married to a Frenchman.

Right now there's a storm brewing over the headscarf the Moslem women wear here. They're banned from French public schools and now they want the hajib banned, etc.

For crying out loud, why are these people so concerned about what others wear on their heads?!? I'll stop my rant here since I'm probably preaching to the choir here.

When I hear people going on about this, I try to put make a "dangerous territory when the gov't starts telling people what they can and can't wear... soon it will be tattoos..." Then there's the "well we were told we HAD to wear yellow stars" which falls a bit short since not everyone knows I'm Jewish but they DO know I'm not originally from France so that kind of washes out...

I actually am NOT hearing this from fellow Jewish people since they know that their unusual dress (or those of their relatives if they, themselves aren't that religious) could be next, not to mention the yellow stars many remember having to wear...

I've also tried the practical argument. I read about how Iranian women found it so difficult to go out in public when the Shah banned the scarf and look what happened there. I guess French people aren't as up on Iranian history (and/or threatened by Iran as Americans are), so there I am, giving a little lesson and losing the whole point...

Then I go for the "...and while we're at it, why don't we ban the tiny bikinis that some of the French women wear at the public pools when they really shouldn't..."

What's weird is that they are actually quite casual about dress in general. At my high school, if your but hung out of your shorts, you were sent home to change. High school girls here often look like being a student is just their day job (if you know what I mean). An AA girlfriend who grew up in the projects scolds her French dd "I could have stayed in the hood for this. Why did I bother getting an education and making sure you didn't grow up like I did if I let you walk outside like that?!?" She does come up with some good lines herself...

Large loop earrings are worn by preschoolers here to school (impractical, not to mention tacky). In the "objections to what other people wear" category, I can start naming things and never even get to an attractive piece of material that some women wear for very personal and significant reasons. Get those earrings off your kid when she goes to school first!

I heard one woman in my German class objecting to seeing restaurants advertising the fact they serve Halal meat. Now why on earth would that be objectionable?!? Good news for me because although we're not Kosher, we don't eat pork so it's a green light for us... Kids, eat anything on the menu!

I told my Moslem girlfriends that if they staged a protest, I would be happy to put my two little girls (with Israeli names) in headscarves in defiance. They found this rather entertaining and demonstrative of my California, grew-up-near-Berkeley roots. I was told simply the gesture would not be needed though.

For now, I just need some good points or lines-that can be translated into French.

Thank you for letting me have that little vent here...
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#2 of 29 Old 05-10-2010, 02:18 PM
 
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I disagree with the French policy about headscarves too. But I think if you are going to argue against it, making comparisons to bikinis or the Star of David misses the point. Those are both apples to oranges comparisons. The Star of David was imposed on Jews to mark them, to make them stand out, whereas the law banning headscarves is designed to force muslim women to fit in. And bikinis are an issue of modesty, again nothing to do with the headscarves. The French are banning the headscarves not because they feel they are too modest or not modest enough, they are banning them because they are trying to erase all religious symbols from the public arena in a (misguided, I think) attempt to avoid conflict.

Do I have the right? The stated purpose of the policy is to encourage people to fit in, to look like each other. To keep potentially inflammatory issues like religion safely within the confines of the home.

If that is the case, then to attack it you need to attack the assumptions underlying the law. The assumption that people cannot be tolerant and get along peacefully with people who do not dress like themselves or who obviously belong to a different religious group. The French policy, I think, basically treats people like children who can't possibly learn to live with others who are different from themselves. And honestly, if diversity in clothing/religion is something to be feared and banned, what will come next? We all know that people sometimes attack others who have a different color of skin or who engage in certain legal pursuits (say, a religious ceremony or challenging an academic dogma); will those be banned next? To me, the really insidious thing about the law isn't that the government is dictating what a person can wear -- let's face it, government already does that by banning nudity in public -- but rather that the French government has such a low opinion of their people's ability to act like civilized human beings when faced with others who look/act different than themselves. They should be setting the bar higher by demanding decent behavior from their citizens regardless of people's appearance, not lowering the bar by demanding everyone look the same and "fit in" so that there won't be any conflict.
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#3 of 29 Old 05-11-2010, 01:15 AM
 
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Maybe I'm overly cynical, but it seems like the ban is a clever ploy to avoid dealing with the real issues. Get everyone het up about what people wear on their heads, and that takes up the public space/energy to debate issues with regard to persistent discrimination in France and the creation and maintenance of an immigrant underclass.

Also I do think the historical importance of securalism as a cultural value in France is being understated in the posts here. My impression is that many of the French view it as an important part of being French, just as many Americans view the values set forth in the Bill of Rights as being an important part of being American. Not just that its a way to avoid conflict or some strange concern about head coverings.
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#4 of 29 Old 05-11-2010, 10:26 AM
 
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This business of banning hijabs (the headscarf) from schools in France has actually been going on for quite awhile. I remember when I lived in Europe it was already going on in the late 80s/early 90s.

I remember talking to my French friends about it and they expressed how strongly they, the French, felt about separating the Church from State and religion from public schools.

At the same time there IS a lot of xenophobia going on in Europe now and many French are definitely not happy about all the immigrants, in particular Muslims, living in their country.

One thing you could point out is that ( and I have observed first hand) is that the French, although many feel very strongly about foreigners living in their country fitting in, often make very little effort to do the same when they live in other countries. They certainly did not when they were colonizing North Africa.
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#5 of 29 Old 05-13-2010, 05:38 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Great insights! Thanks!

But this business about the French being so secular is a myth. Why are ALL our holidays here Catholic? Why do my children have to take religion classes? Why are there "consistoires" for other religions? It's annoying. Whenever the French say they're secular, I remind them of these! I ask French Jews why any official gov't body is needed. We have a strict separation of "church" and state in the U.S. and we don't need any official religious groups to deal with the government.

Good point about the French gov't undermining the French people's ability to get along and fit in. I've also heard similar that the French consider religion private and it bothers them to see a religious symbol on the street. I have trouble with that because I see plenty of nuns, priests and monks here, as well as religious Jews and no on is upset about them.

I think it's really about prejudice against N. Africans but I wont accuse them of that to their faces!
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#6 of 29 Old 05-13-2010, 07:56 AM
 
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"At the same time there IS a lot of xenophobia going on in Europe now and many French are definitely not happy about all the immigrants, in particular Muslims, living in their country."

It was very easy for Europeans to be critical of America and its various difficulties with race/discrimination, etc. when their minority population was small and the tipping point (population wise) for creating fear had not yet been reached. Now its a different game as demonstrated by the rise in power of certain extreme right groups which are anti-immigration, etc.
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#7 of 29 Old 05-13-2010, 08:35 AM
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Good discussion!

It is partially due to prejudice against West Africans and people from the Maghreb, yes. I think that's clear.

It's also a response to the perceived threat of religion on laicite in France. Most French are Catholic, but religion is considered a private thing, not a public one (and a cultural thing, as evidenced by the holidays and every darn store closing on Sunday) . The French see danger to laicite in the public practice of religion, not in religion itself. If Muslim women were only wearing headcarves at home, I don't think it would be an issue (but it would also defeat the purpose of the headscarf for the women, so...).

I did go to a colloque recently and the speaker was giving statistics about the disapproval and approvals rates in different European countries for the wearing of different religiously significant items - the veil, the kippah, and the cross. Not surprisingly, in France the highest rate of disapproval was towards the wearing of the veil, but a significant percentage also disapproved of the wearing of the kippah, and some of the cross as well. I think I wrote the numbers somewhere... but anyway, it seems to me that the additional disapproval is due to prejudices, but there is also a basic French disapproval of all public displays of personal religion beliefs.

I've found it interesting than many French Muslims seem to be in favor of the ban on the voile integral, including the CFCM... and my Tunisian French teacher.

When I argue against the ban here, I frame it in terms of women's rights - shouldn't women be able to choose what they wear? How can the government tell a woman what clothes to wear? It kind of works... at very least, it's an inversion of the way most French seem to see the voile (i.e., as something forced upon women).

I also think the French are far less concerned with modesty than, say, the Americans (for example, I was in Tati last month and all the the dressing rooms were full, so a couple of women just started taking their shirts off and trying on new ones in the middle of the store) and that makes the voile perhaps even more difficult to understand...

 
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#8 of 29 Old 05-13-2010, 09:40 AM
 
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OP--why did you say "islam followers please stop here"? Why wouldn't observant Muslims have relevant insights to share? Some wear hijab, some don't. In any case, Muslims would probably have more "lines" against the measure. I'm Muslim but not observant and hate the hijab, so am kind of torn about it. I thought this article written by one of the ban's advocates made interesting points: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/05/opinion/05cope.html
The article states it's not the hijab (headscarf) being banned, it's the burqa (full body including face covering)--is that right? Because then a ban certainly makes more sense.
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#9 of 29 Old 05-13-2010, 10:13 AM
 
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OP--why did you say "islam followers please stop here"? Why wouldn't observant Muslims have relevant insights to share? Some wear hijab, some don't. In any case, Muslims would probably have more "lines" against the measure. I'm Muslim but not observant and hate the hijab, so am kind of torn about it. I thought this article written by one of the ban's advocates made interesting points: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/05/opinion/05cope.html
The article states it's not the hijab (headscarf) being banned, it's the burqa (full body including face covering)--is that right? Because then a ban certainly makes more sense.
I think she meant, "Islam followers please stop here and read this thread and tell me what you think" not "Islam followers stop here at the title and don't read the thread."

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#10 of 29 Old 05-13-2010, 10:15 AM
 
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OP--why did you say "islam followers please stop here"? Why wouldn't observant Muslims have relevant insights to share? Some wear hijab, some don't. In any case, Muslims would probably have more "lines" against the measure. I'm Muslim but not observant and hate the hijab, so am kind of torn about it. I thought this article written by one of the ban's advocates made interesting points: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/05/opinion/05cope.html
The article states it's not the hijab (headscarf) being banned, it's the burqa (full body including face covering)--is that right? Because then a ban certainly makes more sense.
I think the OP wrote "Islam followers please stop here" because she did want to get some opinions from Muslims.
I am not Muslim but dh is, and he also disagrees about veiling and none of the women in his family wear one.
The article is about banning the Nigab (the total face covering not the Hijab, or head scarf) which many European countries and even some Middle Eastern countries are trying to do.

However in France schools do want to ban the Hijab.

The whole issue is very tricky because whenever something is banned, it becomes more desirable. It has become more of an issue of being able to express who you are and making a statement rather than religion.
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#11 of 29 Old 05-13-2010, 10:49 AM
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The laws about veiling in France are complicated.

France banned the headscarf in public schools maybe 5 years ago. Technically the law was against wearing "conspicuous religious symbols" and some French people argued that this also meant that the kippah and large crosses were banned. In practice, though, it has really only mean that girls wearing headscarves were not allowed and are still not allowed to attend school.

The more recent debate is centered on the public ban of the "voile integral", which is usually translated as burqa, but in reality seems to mean anything that covers the face. I think that a woman wearing niqab could also then be arrested under the ban. Interestingly, Sarkozy's planned law includes a fine of 15,000 euros for anyone would to have forced another to wear the voile integral, as well as a smaller fine for women wearing it. Clearly the underlying assumption is that the women wearing the voile integral are not freely choosing to do so.

As I understand it, the parliament has passed a non-binding resolution against the voile integral and they are in the process of passing a law. Belgium has already passed a law banning it.

 
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#12 of 29 Old 05-13-2010, 12:25 PM
 
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I think she meant, "Islam followers please stop here and read this thread and tell me what you think" not "Islam followers stop here at the title and don't read the thread."
Ohhh. That makes more sense! Sorry about that
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#13 of 29 Old 05-13-2010, 03:46 PM
 
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I'm not muslim (my sister is though & her family) but I'm French and I find it fascinating to read about other people's opinions ...

I had no idea someone could argue that total face covering should be allowed in the name of women's freedom of choice ... I mean the countries that are the most observant of total covering (like Saudi Arabia for exemple) also forbid to women to drive ... so I cannot reconcile total covering with freedom ...

it's interesting to see what seems so shocking when we live in a country different from where we grew up => I gave birth to my last child in the US and was rather shocked when I was asked upon registering at the hospital
- what is your religion ?
- what is your race ? (I was clueless as what was the answer that was expected of me so I had do ask "what are my options ?")

I should think that talking about people' race like it's done in the US (I'm also fascinated by the threads about the census and people's reactions to it ....) could get you into serious trouble over here if you were in certain jobs ...
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#14 of 29 Old 05-13-2010, 03:48 PM
 
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it's interesting to see what seems so shocking when we live in a country different from where we grew up => I gave birth to my last child in the US and was rather shocked when I was asked upon registering at the hospital
- what is your religion ?
- what is your race ? (I was clueless as what was the answer that was expected of me so I had do ask "what are my options ?")
Usually it is optional to answer those questions. They do ask about religion at hospitals a lot in case you need last rites, or in case you need blood (Jehovah's Witnesses are not allowed to receive blood).
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#15 of 29 Old 05-14-2010, 01:18 AM
 
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Another non-covering Muslim here.

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#16 of 29 Old 05-14-2010, 04:14 AM
 
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I wear hijab. I just find it so ironic that these measures are often couched as saving Muslim women from being forced to cover. How is it any more liberating to be forced to uncover? And the assumption that Muslim women are only covering because their menfolk force them is a joke. Some women are forced, I am sure, but I also know quite a few sisters who cover in spite of their parents' or husbands' objections. I also believe a lot of Muslimas have started covering for solidarity, not necessarily just religious reasons. The more politicians push for bans, the more women are going to get hijabed up or niqabed up.
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#17 of 29 Old 05-14-2010, 02:45 PM
 
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There is actually an interesting book on this specific subject: Why the French Don't Like Headscarves: Islam, the State, and Public Space. (The book is better than the sort of tract-like title would indicate. )
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#18 of 29 Old 05-15-2010, 05:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm going to check it out! I bet I can get it on Amazon France under English language books (I have some credits on there). Thanks!

Oh and thanks to those of you who filled those in above. Yes, I wanted opinions from both Moslems and non. It was an invitation. And I said "please"...

This statement sums up how the French feel;

I had no idea someone could argue that total face covering should be allowed in the name of women's freedom of choice ... I mean the countries that are the most observant of total covering (like Saudi Arabia for exemple) also forbid to women to drive ... so I cannot reconcile total covering with freedom ...

Connecting these two is not logical. You are taking away women's freedom of choice by not letting them wear something they want to. In theory, women should be able to wear what they want on their heads without government interference.

Just because in some countries where women aren't allowed to drive and are required to wear the full hajib, doesn't mean a connection between the two should be mede in other countries far away. This is France, not Saudi Arabia and women are supposed to have more freedom. It's a different society. By banning something that some women might want to wear, it's basically doing what Saudi Arabia does in reverse. No connection should be made between the garment being worn and what they can and cannot do.

I would, support, a law that said that people's faces couldn't be covered in public buildings, while driving, or something more practical as that, on security logic. Bikers would have to remove their helmets in banks too. If some weird Lady Gaga inspired fashion came into vogue here, they'd have to push it to the side before taking their driver's test. That's how the article missed the point. If you want some sort of public security measure, put that in place. Don't go after a specific sex and religion in your society!

I hope that made sense.

France, by the way, has the highest Moslem population in Europe.

Sarkozy is wrong to declare that a piece of material "suppresses" women. Limiting what any woman can wear is real suppression.
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#19 of 29 Old 05-15-2010, 02:14 PM
 
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I think it would be more accurate to say that some women will be suppressed either way. Without the law, women who don't want to wear the veil but are forced to by their conservative families continue to be suppressed. With the law, women who want to wear the veil of their own volition are suppressed.

My question is, if that is the intention of the law (to support the women who don't want to wear the veil but are forced to by their families) does it even work? Do the conservative fathers and brothers say, oh okay, sis isn't allowed to wear the veil so I guess we'll allow her to go to school unveiled? Or are they more likely to say, sis isn't allowed to wear the veil at school so we are going to keep her home and not allow her to go to school any more?

It just seems to me that if that is the intention of the law, it might be well-intentioned but counter-productive. Have there been any studies about the actual impact of the law on women wearing veils, I wonder?
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#20 of 29 Old 05-15-2010, 03:36 PM
 
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I sort of agree with Thao.

In my experience it is not really even relevantly commonplace for a father, husband, or whoever to exert force in that sense when it comes to dress -- "not allowed to do otherwise under threat of direct repercussions" just doesn't come up that much, and when it does it's in the context of a pretty stock abusive relationship already ... neurotically controlling behavior is neurotically controlling behavior, you know? It doesn't start and stop on dress no matter what cultures the parties involved are members of.

What does happen sometimes is a strong familial or community pressure to dress a particular way, to go the whole nine yards, to be visible paragons of the faith by a certain standard ... to sort of put on a show if one's own convictions don't lead them to that same place. And that can be a really powerful pressure sometimes, even without clear repercussions for refusing. There is also often a very strong pressure to not change -- if one wears niqab, or hijab for that matter, to not change one's mind about it. The combination of which can lead to women or girls feeling like this is something they need to do to please other people moreso than themselves or god, and once they've done it that it's something they're stuck with.

Where I do agree with Thao is that trying to legislate against that pressure is doing nothing to stop it. Just as much as people who oppose the law trotting out lines about how women who wear niqab freely choose to do so by their own convictions are ignoring the fact that this is hardly a universal fact even in states where there is no legal requirement to cover (I mean if one wants to go with the Saudi example, there really is no law requiring niqab but the social pressure is undeniably HUGE), so too are people who propose to remove that pressure by legally preventing women from giving in to it ignoring that niqab is an established, respected way of demonstrating piety in Islam and that there are a great many women sincerely interested in following that tradition, sometimes doing so in direct opposition to the particular pressures of their family and their community.

In short: I wouldn't say people looking at niqab and responding with a "wow, that's oppressive" reaction are completely wrong. In certain ways it honestly can be used as a tool of oppression ... as a means of narrowing women's choices. But sometimes when one is witnessing oppression there is really nothing they can do to stop it that isn't just as bad or worse. You can't fix everything for everyone. On the community level the only people who can reduce the level to which girls feel pressure to adhere without regard to their own convictions is the community. On the family level, it's the family. And honestly it's not something that can be stopped entirely. The tradition of niqab in Islam, while not alien to the community at the time of the dawn of the faith, really began in earnest with the wives of the prophet of Islam. To entirely kill the sense that niqab is admirable (and the risk of being pressured inherent in that sense), first the sense that the actions of the prophet's wives were admirable would have to be killed. And that is never going to happen. (As a Muslim I would say "nor should it.")

(Then of course there is the argument that even women choosing to wear niqab by their own convictions are simply making decisions within the confines of an inherently oppressive structure and are not really choosing freely ........ which, you know, fine, but I hope we all would have the good sense to recognize the horribly ugly history that is already in one culture deciding that it knows better for the women of another culture than what they know for themselves. Again, sometimes people just have to learn to recognize when their opinions are not realistically actionable ones.)
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#21 of 29 Old 05-16-2010, 05:46 PM
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There is actually an interesting book on this specific subject: Why the French Don't Like Headscarves: Islam, the State, and Public Space. (The book is better than the sort of tract-like title would indicate. )
That's my professor's book - he's the reason I'm here in France now. His newest book is called Can Islam Be French? - I'm not sure if it's been published yet, but I've read it and it will be out this year some time - and he's currently researching shariya councils in the U.K.

I have to tell him that it was recommended here!

Also - I've found that the easiest way to order English-language books in France is from amazon.co.uk - shipping is pretty cheap and the selection of English-language books is of course much larger than at amazon.fr.

 
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#22 of 29 Old 05-17-2010, 01:25 PM
 
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Great post, Liquesce! Maybe this is the snappy one-line response that the OP was looking for:
Quote:
But sometimes when one is witnessing oppression there is really nothing they can do to stop it that isn't just as bad or worse.
Fighting oppression with oppression just doesn't work.

Here in the US, my experience in immigrant communities has been that the second and third generations assimilate no matter what, regardless of their parent's wishes. It's just a matter of time before the children and grandchildren are speaking fluent English, dressing in typical American fashion, and buying into the "American dream".

Granted, my experience has been in immigrant communities (Asian, mostly) that do not have the antipathy towards American materialism that Islamic communities do. But I wonder, is there a similar dynamic that happens in France? Do the immigrant communities tend to assimilate on their own, or do they isolate themselves to maintain their culture?
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#23 of 29 Old 05-18-2010, 12:35 AM
 
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Interesting article which claims that Muslims are not assimilating in Europe, and in fact in some areas are probably reaching a population level where assimilation isn't necessary because operation solely within the ethnic group is possible.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...2005Mar12.html

I find the distinction the author draws between secularizing and assimilating interesting. I think many have assumed that secularization would automatically lead to cultural assimilation.
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#24 of 29 Old 05-18-2010, 09:26 AM
 
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"antipathy towards American materialism that Islamic communities do"

I find this statement rather baffling. I can think of a lot of issues over which Islamic communities have claimed distaste for America (support of Israel, the war in Iraq, freedom of speech, etc.). Materialism is not one of them and I don't think of Islamic societies as being anti-"stuff". Abu Dhabi, the UAE generally, Saudi Arabia etc. don't spring to mind as being against "stuff".
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#25 of 29 Old 05-18-2010, 12:25 PM
 
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My general understanding is that there's a ghetto-ization issue going on with North African immigrants in France -- that they are heavily excluded from the broader culture, create a sort of reactionary insular culture in response to that, and that becomes a sort of a self-feeding "us vs. them" kind of thing. Not really anything I have personal experience of though so I could easily be oversimplifying things.

And yeah ... not an ascetic religion, not often treated as one by followers. Where one finds even an appearance of antipathy towards materialism what one has usually found is simply poverty.
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#26 of 29 Old 05-18-2010, 01:25 PM
 
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Hee hee, Jane91, thanks for mentioning Saudi Arabia. Yeah, they don't have much antipathy towards materialism, do they? I guess my comment there was incorrect.

Maybe antipathy towards secularism would be more accurate? The Asian immigrant communities that I am familiar with (Chinese, Vietnamese) are generally very secular before they even get here. They really buy into the American Dream. Thus, even though the parents may never assimilate, the children do.

But as I'm thinking about this, and after having read Jane91's article, it occurs to me that the reaction of the local people is a major factor in assimilation as well. I've noticed that in the US, Asian Americans are discriminated against much less than, say, African Americans, Native Americans, or Hispanic Americans. So maybe their easier assimilation is due to being "allowed" to, more so than an affinity with the dominant culture.

Whatever the reasons, I agree with the writer of Jane91's article that multiculturalism is the way to go.
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#27 of 29 Old 05-18-2010, 02:23 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thao View Post
But as I'm thinking about this, and after having read Jane91's article, it occurs to me that the reaction of the local people is a major factor in assimilation as well. I've noticed that in the US, Asian Americans are discriminated against much less than, say, African Americans, Native Americans, or Hispanic Americans. So maybe their easier assimilation is due to being "allowed" to, more so than an affinity with the dominant culture.
In contrast, the ever popular Chinatown phenomenon (and similar ethnic enclaves) came to exist explicitly due to the period of time in which access to the broader culture wasn't as "permissable."
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#28 of 29 Old 05-26-2010, 05:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think it's a pure case of numbers.

In college, we learned about the "15% rule". This is the level where the majority population start to feel "threatened". If minorities stay small minorities, they are tolerated, even welcomed. The dynamics change when the numbers increase in a certain group. So observing increased racism in a certain group probably says more about their sheer numbers than any characteristics in their ethnic, national or cultural group.

Asians here, mostly Vietnamese, also have less discrimination. The numbers are lower and with certain exceptions, mostly spread throughout the country. The French say that they were more determined to integrate but I haven't seen that.

I feel, this is what is happening in France. I see it close up. I send my kids to a racially mixed school where no one group "dominates". I live a few miles away where there is a big Moslem population. Everyone's horrified about where we live but I want to say, the school is no different! Meanwhile, we have great BBQ's (Mergez and their maranades!) and everyone is so friendly. They practice their English with me and ask me questions about California. I'll be wearing my Star of David and I have a really Jewish last name but they're totally cool with it all.

I had a Moslem neighbor actually explain to me "I don't wear this because anyone forces me to. It's part of my religion and that's who I am..." It's such a dilemma especially for those who were born and raised in France. They don't want to have to compromise either their French-ness or their religion.

I actually see the culture dissimulating. The families are speaking French together and the children are less religious then their parents. It's also a conflict for young teenagers, like so many in America, Britain and elsewhere, sandwiched between their family's and their country's values. I see young women, wearing fashionable clothes, the latest footwear and a veil to match. They're also rail-skinny and I know what kind of academic pressure young people face here. It can't be easy to meet all those conflicting expectations...

I will explain that France is still a "Latin" country, with a lot in common with Spain, Italy, etc. France tries hard to undermine the system of succeeding thanks to connections. They rightfully should be proud of anti-corruption schemes and a certain equalization where money wont automatically help. The "distance" between the rich and poor is less here and stories abound of poverty-ridden childhoods ending up being the president of the company.

But connections do still have pull here, despite these efforts, connections minorities lack. Academics are highly regarded in a country where a child's future is usually set by the time they are 13 or 14. Academics aren't always valued by other cultural groups in such high regard. I've seen this in my own (all white) family where some religious people raise their children to be honest and hard-working, but don't necessarily push the grades in school.

So those are some other factors in this debate. Whipping off the women's head coverings wont mean that they'll suddenly have higher paid jobs, have fewer children or that those children will do better in school (or show up...) Difficult when there is no job waiting after their hard work... This is what I see bothers the French the most. The busting of their Equal Society myth (which actually can and does often work).

Can't wait to check out that professor's books! Also, thanks for the tip to whomever recommended Amazon.uk!
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#29 of 29 Old 06-12-2010, 03:07 PM
 
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And bikinis are an issue of modesty, again nothing to do with the headscarves. The French are banning the headscarves not because they feel they are too modest or not modest enough, they are banning them because they are trying to erase all religious symbols from the public arena in a (misguided, I think) attempt to avoid conflict.

Do I have the right? The stated purpose of the policy is to encourage people to fit in, to look like each other. To keep potentially inflammatory issues like religion safely within the confines of the home.


Let me first say that head coverings (in all the major religions in which they are practiced) are also a matter of modesty. In many communities and countries culture and religion are intertwined. Not all Muslim (or Catholics for that matter) wear head coverings which means that there is a cultural and societal element (just as there is with women who choose to wear tiny bikinis or go topless on French beaches).

I am not Muslim (or religious at all) and have no experience living in France. What I will say is that I have traveled to France several times and noticed that of all the industrialized nations with which I am familiar, France is one of the few remaining countries with such archaic and pronounced gender roles. Although modesty is less of an issue in France, beauty, weight, and "femininity" still play large roles in the upbringing and socialization of women and girls. I have heard French politicians make the argument that headscarves are oppressive to women which is part of the motivation behind the ban. I find this ridiculous. Women making their own decisions about appearance is a reasonable civil right. I think that many French people have very rigid ideas of masculinity and femininity and are uncomfortable with traditions that are seen as contradictory or in opposition to those beliefs.

I don't know what the answer is (in terms of getting through to people) but I might point out that no one is questioning nuns rights to wear head coverings and that this is obviously more of a cultural issue than a religious or legal one.

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