Throwing things at politicians has been a preferred form of protest in France, a silent protest, a French kiss of sorts without using your tong. Since President Emmanuel Macron got into office in 2016, he has been slapped and hit by Tomatoes, Pies, strawberries, Clergy, and Eggs.; you would think President Macron should wear head coverage in public, not ban them. The French crusade against Muslim dress has been a modern form of Orientalism, where the West has been trying to liberate Muslim women from themselves since the French colonial era in the Muslim world. Every year at the end of summer, when students return to school in France, it triggers social conflict and debates not on the curriculum and quality of education but on how Muslim students should dress. Where the French are possessed of liberating Muslim women from their oppressed dress.
The crusade was first against hijab, then the headscarf, veil, and Burkini, now the Abaya, a loose garment favored in some North African countries. The Abaya is more of a form of modesty or comfort, not so much an Islamic dress; Muslim women wear an abaya during shopping or even parties (Abaya Party). According to the education minister, Abaya threatens French society’s social fabric and culture, not neoliberalism, Nike, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, and Starbucks. According to Al Jazeera, the number of students who wear abayas in school is less than 0.00005 percent of all students in the country. Gabriel Attal, 34, French education minister, announced that “the abaya can no longer be worn in schools.” But why, young man!!, “You should not be able to distinguish or identify the students’ religion by looking at them.” Mr. Attal explained. But you can distinguish their social classes, races, genders, fashions, and the latest American Jeans and Victoria’s Secret brands. There are no official uniforms worn in these schools. If my name is Samira and I am wearing a kimono or Abaya, it is religious clothing; but if my name is Sophie and I wear the same kimono, then it’s not religious clothing,” he told BFM TV. This is the latest in French long imperial colonial history of trying to undress Muslim women. When the civilized West went to Africa, the black naked women were savages, and the overdressed ones were the savages. As the Palestinian-American intellectual binately explained this modern form of Orientalism, “The essence of the Orient is the ineradicable distinguish between Western superiority and Oriental inferiority.” Europeans went south to invade the Muslim world with their guns and armies for not just economic domination but cultural domination that justified. During the French occupation of Algeria, they forced Muslim women to take off their veils to be liberated but also raped them. In 1959, anti-colonial author Frantz Fanon wrote the following about French colonial rule in Algeria: “If we want to destroy the structure of Algerian society, its capacity for resistance, we must, first of all, conquer the women; we must go and find them behind the veil where they hide themselves in the houses where the men keep them out of sight.” When the British invaded Egypt, women used hijabs as a symbol of liberation and resistance. In the Arab Spring, women with hijabs and niqabs stood hands with their male counterparts in Tahrir and toppled dictatorships, which inspired the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US. What is striking about all this is that controlling and undressing women’s bodies is not very feminist and anti-feminism. Still, the silence for the feminist movement in France and the US is shocking. The Malala lovers and the crowd who are up to Arms against the Taliban oppressing women in Afghanistan, but when it comes to French secular Taliban, they are silent. French feminists are the enablers of this racist and Islamophobic legislation and policies in the name of feminism. As Edward Said wrote in Orientalism: “The West has culture, but Islam is a culture”. Orientalists think Muslim women can’t choose what is right for them. French feminist Elisabeth Badinter wrote in 2009 about Muslim women who wear the full-face veil: “Are you not aware that you arouse mistrust and fear? Why not go to Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan, where no one will ask you to show your face?” This French colonial attitude and political hypocrisy are appalling; MBS is letting women in Saudi Arabia show their faces but still not able to show their opinions. In Egypt, the government banned Niqab in schools and public places. We invaded Afghanistan and destroyed the country to liberate women there. The Niqab is not the biggest threat to the French ethnocentric culture; It’s the political niqab.
Host and producer
Arab American TV
Lives in Minnetonka, MN USA