France niqaab ban “not meant to help women”

France’s ban on the Islamic veil has little to do with female emancipation | Law |

Joan Wallach Scott, the author of The Politics of the Veil, on the real motivation behind the move to ban the niqaab in France:

The national assembly’s action came on July 13, as the country prepared to celebrate the birth of republican democracy in the revolution of 1789. Banning the burqa on the eve of the Fête Nationale provided a clear affirmation of true Frenchness.

It followed a year in which President Sarkozy included a minister of immigration and national identity in his cabinet. The title of the new post conveyed the message that if national identity were in trouble immigrants were the source. The president and his minister called for a countrywide conversation on the meanings of national identity. There were to be contests and town-hall meetings to articulate what it meant to be truly French. When that effort fizzled, they came up with more draconian measures. Sarkozy proposed, this month, to take away the citizenship of foreign-born French citizens if they were convicted of crimes such as threatening the life of a police officer. Children born in France to foreign parents (once presumed to automatically qualify for citizenship) would be denied citizenship if there were any evidence of juvenile delinquency.

This month, too, began the expulsion of the Roma, said to be illegally camped throughout the country and responsible for all manner of crimes. Despite an outcry from those who denounced the expulsions as echoes of Vichy (the government that collaborated with the Nazis in the 1940s), these activities have made “security” a prime focus for politicians and public opinion pollsters. Whether it will deliver another term to Sarkozy in 2012 remains to be seen.

The immediate effect is to conjure a fantasy spectre in which foreigners endanger France and are made to take the blame for all its economic, social and political problems.

The people advocating bans on veils on supposed women’s rights grounds are, she says, never normally supportive of efforts to improve the lot of women; some of them have opposed laws on domestic violence and sexual harassment. It’s all about forcing people of foreign descent to adopt white cultural norms, along with white feminists thinking that they have the right to dictate what liberty means for all women.

There is also the myth (which Joan Wallach Scott mentions but does not refute) that 1789 was somehow the “birth of republican democracy”. It wasn’t. After that came the Reign of Terror, Napoleon and a period of restored monarchy; republicanism did not become stable in France until the Third Republic.

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  • africana

    It’s about being seen, by those on the far right, to be tough on immigration. the niqab (or burqa as they insist on calling it)is equated, by far rightists, with islam…that’s why you will see graffitti with words like, “ni islam ni burqa”.

  • George Carty

    “ni islam ni burqa” (Neither Islam nor burqa)


    How many non-Muslim women wear a burqa?!

  • africana

    salam matthew, do you know what the classical arabic term for an attached face veil is? in algeria, for example, the term most commonly used for a face covering sounds something like ar-jarr but this is only for the typically algerian style of attached face veil(short white slightly pointed at the lower edge. amongst arabs (unless they’re well acquinted with the dicourse surrounding the ban on face veils)there doesn’t seem any understanding of the word niqab, probably because the word was, i understand it, created by western muslims and is derived from another related arabic word.

  • africana


    the paris fashion houses and cosmetic stores would be up in arms if the burqa ever took off as a fashion item..

  • ali khan

    i propose a ‘national poke carla bruni day’, all in the name of equality.

  • @ africana

    Check out this webiste:

    Bringing this discussion back to the point the writer is trying to make; the French government have always been hypocritical… They double-crossed the Algerians during the Algerian war back in 1962, created the divisions which exist in present day French society by building the high rise blocks in their “banlieus”… This is a situation that the French government has itself created… The reason the niqab is less of an issue in Britain is because people are more open - non-Muslims will ask questions, before denoucing people… Maybe the French should take a leaf out of our book!