The hypocrisy of Fadela Amara

The Guardian today has an interview with French-Algerian “feminist” Fadela Amara. Here is described the second of two incidents which were influential in this woman’s career, which took place in October 2002:

French women may indeed have some rights, says 42-year-old Amara, but women in France’s poorer banlieues or suburbs - the French equivalent of inner-city ghettos - aren’t included. It was in a typical suburb, neglected and stuffed with unemployed, angry young men, mostly from immigrant families, that … a young thug called Nono, furious over being dissed by another local caid or hard-man, poured lighter fuel over his rival’s 17-year-old girlfriend Sohane Benziane, a vivacious young beurette (French woman of Arab descent), and set fire to her. She burned to death.

Amara accuses French feminists, who admittedly “had fought hard in the 1970s to win rights for women” (such as abortion, political parity and the right to choose one’s partner), had forgotten women in the ghetto:

French feminism, she thinks, has shirked the “social question”. They’ve never addressed the basics, like the right to wear a skirt and not get raped. Or like teaching young people about sex and love and boundaries, which NPNS did with its “respect guide”, initially distributed for free, then sold for one euro. It spent months in France’s bestseller list.

She also pulled her organisation “Ni Putes Ni Soumises” (neither slags nor submissives) out of the National Committee of Women because of their supposed cultural relativism, because they (or some of them) refused to object to things like FGM because it was “tradition”. She claims to be a practising Muslim and is supposedly proud of her religion, but does not wear the hijab and does not support the right of other women to wear it either:

Amara’s speech is strewn with fighting terminology: she talks of her combat and her battles. She is also certain about what she’s defending: a secular republic that allows for equality of the sexes. Anyone who obstructs that “is my enemy”. That includes, notably, Islamists. Amara is a practising Muslim, and proud of her religion, but she’s fierce in her condemnation of “political Islam”, which arrived in the suburbs in the 1990s, preached “by self-appointed imams in basements where nobody could see them.” Unlike Amara’s Islam, which “leads to the freedom of the individual”, she says this version advocates archaic traditions such as the subjugation of women and the wearing of headscarves.

She accuses French feminists of denying immigrant women the rights they themselves enjoy, but one right French women, and men of immigrant stock, enjoy is the right to be educated in their normal clothing. This is a right they have denied Muslim girls: that of receiving the education they are entitled to while wearing the clothing mandated by Islam, based on what was normal in the Muslim world until it was over-run by the colonials - principally, in the case of the countries the French Muslim immigrants came from, the French themselves.

All of which shows Amara’s “feminism” to be the sham that it is. Amara, and others like her, believe in women’s rights only for women like them, and they campaign against every form of oppression of women except the one they themselves perpetrate. Of course, rape and the evil and misogynistic gangster culture described in the article are both serious issues, but they have been dealt with elsewhere by taking on the men, and without attacking religious women who are not the people responsible for it. Experience in the English-speaking world shows that hijab in itself need not be a barrier to education and advancement in the world and that women who do not wear it (as with women here in the UK who wear shalwar-kameez without hijab); it is only become a barrier in countries like France where haters have made it into one.

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