Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 26

Dear Mr. President,

Today a French commission offered its report on the full-face veil worn by some Muslim women. This report is an appalling demonstration of the ignorant, islamophobic hate-mongering that passes as political discourse in much of Europe these days. I hope that your administration strongly denounces the report, and any move to ban the wearing of the veil. How does a ban on the veil in public places liberate women who wear it? Doesn't this just prevent them from equal access to education, government services, medical care and transportation- necessary aspects of living independent lives as full citizens?

I feel this is particularly heinous because it discriminates against women, while claiming to be for their own good. This is the kind of paternalistic legislative overreach that begs a comparison to the regimes like Iran and Afghanistan under the Taliban, which require the veil for almost exactly the same reason, to "protect" women. I once read that high-heels are damaging to a woman's leg muscles. One could argue that they also impede a woman's ability to move quickly, and can be hazardous during emergency evacuations. Where's the French commission recommending a ban on stilettos?

Behind all the posturing, the legislative language and the outright lies from the French government, the simple truth is that this is nothing more than a manifestation of anti-Islamic feelings, of blatant racism. Muslims, be they immigrants or converts, make the French government nervous. The same way Jews made the German government nervous. Are yellow crescents next? Jim Crow-style legislation to segregate Muslims from public life? Where is the line drawn? How much of a woman's face needs to be visible before she can qualify for an education or medical care? Before she can take a bus to work, or shop, or visit family? How much of herself must she cede to the government's idea of what a liberated woman looks or dresses like?

The report says that all of France says "no" to the veil. What does that say to the women who wear it? You are not French. France says "no", to you. What a progressive, egalitarian thing to say. Mr. President, I beg you, do not ignore or condone this offensive behavior.

Respectfully yours,


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