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French ‘Burkini’ Ban Provokes Backlash

Bikini Burkini
The latest controversy sweeping France involves the effort of several towns located mostly along the Mediterranean coastline to ban women from wearing the so-called ‘burkini,’ a full-body swimsuit that many French Muslim women have adopted in an effort to enjoy the beach while remaining faithful to their religion’s requirements regarding acceptable forms of dress. As the ban has been adopted, there have been reports of police forcing women to essentially disrobe on the beach in full view of others as well as other reports of harrassment of Muslim women and girls who are wearing swim attire far less revealing than what is common on beaches in France. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in something of a backlash:

PARIS — Armed police surrounding Muslim women on beaches and ordering them to remove their modest clothes or leave. Calls from onlookers to “go back to where you came from.” Public humiliation and ostracism with echoes of the morals police of theocratic countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia, not a country that sees its values as a paragon of Western freedoms.

Those uncomfortable images have come to dominate the ongoing debate over identity and assimilation as France’s coastal municipalities attempt to enforce new bans on the “burkini,” the full-body bathing suit designed to accommodate Islamic modesty codes.

On Wednesday, photographs flashed across the globe on social media of French police officers forcing modestly clad Muslim women on beaches to pay fines, leave or disrobe. A storm of criticism erupted, followed by some political backpedaling a week after the nation’s prime minister, Manuel Valls, had denounced the little-worn burkini as a tool of “enslavement.”

At least 20 municipalities on the Mediterranean, as well as several in northern France, have enacted bans against the garment on the grounds that it is not “appropriate,” “respectful of good morals and of secularism” and “respectful of the rules of hygiene and security of bathers on public beaches.”

Organizations including the Collective Against Islamophobia in France and the League of Human Rights have challenged the restrictions in local courts, but so far the rules have been upheld.

Now that the bans, which are vaguely worded, have apparently hit not just women wearing burkinis but others in a wide range of modest clothing, some French organizations and politicians that previously had said little have begun to worry that the new rules are discriminatory and unenforceable.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who met with the French Council of the Muslim Faith after an urgent request from the organization, said that the enforcement should not “stigmatize” people or “set one against another.”

Mr. Valls’s own Socialist Party said in a statement that the enforcement was putting the country in a “particularly dangerous downward spiral,” citing “the attitude of the crowd” that gathered around a woman being confronted by three officers in Cannes last week.

The officers surrounded the woman, who was wearing a tunic, leggings and a head scarf, fined her and ordered her to leave the beach. The woman was at the beach with her children, and said she was a third-generation French citizen from Toulouse.

A crowd gathered. “I heard things I had never heard to my face,” said the woman, who gave her name only as Siam to the French magazine L’Obs. “Like, ‘Go back to where you came from,’ ‘Madame, the law is the law, we are fed up with this fuss,’ and ‘We are Catholic here.’ ”

Tearfully, the woman said that “because people who have nothing to do with my religion have killed I no longer have the right to go to the beach.”

(…)

Aheda Zanetti, the Lebanese-Australian designer who first marketed the burkini in 2004, said officials who sought to prevent women from covering up had misconstrued the purpose of the swimsuit, which allowed modest women to swim and participate in sports more comfortably.

“They’ve misunderstood the burkini swimsuit,” Ms. Zanetti, 49, said in a telephone interview from Sydney. “Because the burkini swimsuit is freedom and happiness and lifestyle changes — you can’t take that away from a Muslim, or any other woman, that chooses to wear it.”

However, former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is vying to be the center-right candidate in the 2017 French presidential elections, told Le Figaro Magazine that “doing nothing” against the burkini would be “another retreat” for France.

He urged that the ban on religious clothing and symbols in government jobs and at French public elementary and secondary schools be expanded to universities and private companies. The full face veil and burqa are already banned in public places.

Christian Estrosi, deputy mayor of Nice, backed the behavior of the police, saying that they had issued 24 fines for violations of the city’s ban on “inappropriate clothing” and that he saw women wearing such clothes as purposely trying to provoke the public.

The Washington Post notes that the bans, and manner in which police are enforcing them, have become the subject of legal action on behalf of the women targeted:

PARIS — Human rights groups challenged the legality of municipal bans on full-body burkini swimsuits before France’s highest administrative court Thursday, a practice that one lawyer fiercely denounced as reflecting “a reflex of fear.”

The three-judge Council of State heard arguments from both sides and said it would issue its ruling Friday over whether to overturn the locally ordered bans. They have elicited shock and anger worldwide after photos this week appeared to show police instructing one Muslim sunbather to remove her body-concealing tunic in Nice, scene of last month’s truck slaughter.

The legal fight over the right of Muslim women to wear burkinis has fired a national debate over the place of Islam in France, a strictly secular country, and fueled concerns at home and abroad that some French mayors are overstepping their powers.

Pleading in a courtroom packed with journalists, legal experts and ordinary citizens, the lawyers for two human rights groups expressed fears that the bans on wearing any religious garments on beaches, if upheld by the court, would be extended to public transportation networks and other public places.

“France has lost any sense of proportion in this matter. The Council of State must be a compass in the tempest and show the right way,” said Patrice Spinosi, a lawyer for the Human Rights League. “The bans have been issued by a reflex of fear.”

Spinosi argued that, before about 30 coastal towns and cities introduced the ban, there weren’t “any riots on the beaches.” He said the bans, by contrast, had stirred “disruption to public order,” driven by the sight of police issuing fines to Muslim women on some Riviera beaches.

Divisions have emerged in President Francois Hollande’s government over the bans, and protests have been held in London and Berlin by those defending women’s right to wear what they want on the beach.

Critics of the local decrees have said the orders are too vague, prompting local police officials to fine women wearing the traditional Islamic headscarf and the hijab, not burkinis. The bans do not generally use the word “burkini” but forbid any clothing that is deemed overtly religious.

Thursday’s arguments focused on a ban in the Riviera town of Villeneuve-Loubet, but Friday’s binding decision will set a legal precedent on whether any municipality can tell Muslim women what to wear on the beach.

Francois Pinatel, the lawyer for the town of Villeneuve-Loubet, acknowledged the mayor’s order had infringed basic freedoms but argued this was legal because the decree was intended to safeguard public order following the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice 15 kilometers (9 miles) away.

“There is a climate of absolute tension in the region with an extremely explosive situation,” Pinatel told the judges.

The laws have also prompted protests in other parts of Europe against what many Europeans are calling a clear violation of the rights of the women in question, and a step too far in France’s effort to force secularization on recent immigrants:

In London, about 30 demonstrators threw a “wear what you want” beach party Thursday outside the French Embassy.

Recent militant attacks on France don’t justify “men with weapons standing over a woman telling her what not to wear. That’s not a sight that any of us should stand for,” said church curate Jenny Dawkins, 40, one of the protesters.

In Berlin, about 60 people — some wearing burkinis, others bikinis — protested outside the French embassy in front of the Brandenburg Gate.

The Human Rights League and the Collective Against Islamophobia in France —the other rights group pursuing Thursday’s lawsuit — say the Villeneuve-Loubet mayor’s decree violates basic freedoms of dress, religious expression and movement.

(…)

On Monday, a lower court in Nice ruled that the Villeneuve-Loubet ban was “necessary, appropriate and proportionate.” The administrative court added that wearing “conspicuous” religious clothing on the beach may be seen as a “provocation” and increase tensions.

The Nice court said that burkinis can be viewed as “erasing” women from the public eye and “a lowering of their place.”

Religious clothing is particularly sensitive in France, where an unusually large part of the population has no religious affiliation. The first provision in France’s constitution declares it is “a secular republic.”

This is hardly a new argument in France, of course. For years now, the government has sought to enforce bans against religious garb in public areas that has included not just the kind of coverings common among Muslim women but also veils and other religious symbols sometimes adopted by Catholics and other orthodox Christians. In recent years, however, the majority of the targeting in the enforcement of these laws appears to have have become focused on the nation’s Muslim population, which has grown thanks both to the arrival of refugees from conflict in the Middle East and Northern Africa and the growth in the population of immigrants from nations such as Algeria and Tunisia over the past several decades. To a large degree, women from all of these cultures dress in a far more modest fashion than the typical French woman. This is especially true when it comes to the beaches, where the bikini is commonplace and some areas allow women to go topless, or even nude, on the beach. The result has been years of conflict between the authorities and their effort to enforce ‘secularism’ even where it infringes on individual liberty and an increasingly vocal Muslim minority that sees the ban on more modest clothing as an attack on their culture and a refusal by France to accept cultural differences on the part of people it has supposedly welcomed into the country.

In his own post about this issue, Dave Schuler makes this argument, seemingly in defense of the French seeking to enforce the ban:

Over the period of the last two centuries the foundations of the modern French state have rested on a single French language, a single French culture, and secularism, laïcité. Rejecting the French language, conventional French dress, and French mores isn’t just a statement of preference. It’s a political statement and one that, from the point of view of many of the French, challenges the very basis of modern France.

Like it or not it is up to the French to decide what it means to be French. If you don’t like it, go elsewhere. Let France be France.

Dave’s points are well-taken, and I imagine that the average Frenchman likely doesn’t particularly care about my opinion regarding this issue. That being said, though, it strikes me that what we are seeing here is a manifestation of the conflict that exists internally in France that has helped to create the environment that has led to radicalization of its Muslim population to a far greater degree than what we’ve seen in the United States. At its core, this policy regarding clothing at beaches is about more than just what women in France should wear in the summertime, it goes to the fact that France has done a particularly bad job of assimilating the Muslim immigrants that have come to the country over the past several decades into French culture. In sharp contrast to the United States, the attitude toward immigrants in France seems to be one in which the immigrant is expected to abandon the culture of their country of origin and adopt the French language, French customs, and French styles of dress and deportment as soon as possible. At the same time, these immigrants often end up living in what effectively become ethnic ghettos where they are left to live on their own and essentially treated as a class of people who are not, and never can be, fully French. This attitude toward immigrants, while it may be the “French” way of things, has arguably helped to alienate a significant and growing segment of the population and push some of its more vulnerable members toward radicalization inspired by groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda.

In the United States, of course, a ban on religious garb on the beaches would be almost immediately struck down as unconstitutional, and indeed that’s exactly what has happened to various rules against such clothing in public school and elsewhere. Additionally, cases interpreting the ban on religious discrimination in employment contained in laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 have held that private workplace bans on religious garb must be reasonably based on work requirements in order to pass muster. That, of course, is a reflection of the differences between American and French law and the manner in which we have accommodated immigrants practicing different religions that have unfamiliar rules regarding clothing or other issues. At the risk of sounding chauvinistic, I would suggest that the United States has done a better job at handling these issues than France has and that a law banning women who wish to go to the beach, but don’t wish to wear revealing clothing, from even appearing in public is hardly in line with protecting individual rights. Indeed, the French seem to have decided that this is a situation where individual rights should take a back seat to mandatory assimilation even when it means publicly shaming women and forcing them to undress in public. In the end, this is not going to make French Muslims more eager to act French. Instead, it’s likely to increase the resentment that has caused many of them to become willing to radicalize and strike out against a country that doesn’t seem to really want them, except, perhaps, as cheap labor.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Matt says:

    The law is absolutely stupid. If a women wants to cover up because she feels no need to flaunt her body then let her…

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  2. Hal_10000 says:

    There’s also a bit of background from the French occupation of Algeria in that traditional Muslim garb became an act of defiance against the French.

    Freedom to dress how you wish includes the freedom to wear traditional Muslim dress. Forcing Muslim women to disrobe isn’t going to smash the patriarchy or promote cultural assimilation. All it’s going to do is alienate a population that already feels pretty alienated.

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  3. Matt says:

    @Hal_10000: Then they wonder why there is more unrest among the Muslim population there…

    Integrating them is the key to destroying extremists among them.

    Among the Muslim women I know covering their body has nothing to do with the patriarchy and everything to do with avoiding attention. They’ll tell you that the only person who deserves to see their body is their husband the rest of us are irrelevant.

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  4. michael reynolds says:

    At the point where someone says, “So, we’ll send cops out to forcibly disrobe women. . .” some sane person should have stepped in and said, “Ya know, that sounds just a tad bit crazy.”

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  5. michael reynolds says:

    @Matt:

    No, sorry, it’s the patriarchy, those women have just absorbed their second class status and want to rationalize it.

    Telling a woman she must wear a burka is as offensive as telling a woman she must not. Women have a right to make their own clothing decisions without being hassled by cops or threatened by religious police or an angry God.

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  6. Matt says:

    @michael reynolds: They aren’t told they must wear it. I know in our hypersexualized society it’s hard to believe that some women don’t enjoy having their tits and asses hanging out. Believe it or not some women actually believe only their partner in life deserves to see them naked…

    There is litterly only a handful of areas in the world where women are forced to wear it. Interestingly enough some of those are areas where we bombed the locals for their own good. Afghanistan for example had no widespread useage of the burka until the Soviets and the USA decided to destroy their daily lives by fighting a proxy war in their back yard. Which then gave rise to religious extremists as the locals sought refuge in their religion.

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  7. PJ says:

    So, in Saudi Arabia the vice squad is running around punishing women for wearing too little, and now in France the vice squad is running around punishing women for wearing too much?

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  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Matt:

    That’s extremely naive. Do you maintain that women in our own society are not influenced by the patriarchy? How about 20 years ago? Or 30? Would you maintain that orthodox Jews don’t impose a male hierarchy? Would you deny that Roman Catholics impose a male hierarchy?

    Men impose fashion choices on women because men have carried over a tribal society horror of women choosing their own sexual partners, or seeing themselves as equals to men, or acquiring power. Thus always.

    To simply say, “Well, the women chose this religion,” is superficial. There is a great deal of social and personal and family pressure brought to bear on adherents to most religions, and not coincidentally, those religions are always male dominated. Total number of female imams or ayatollahs is exactly the same as the number of female cardinals or popes: zero.

    We can condemn the French without whitewashing a male dominated, oppressive and sexist religion.

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  9. stonetools says:

    This law is Exhibit #1 that the French can be as dumb or dumber than Americans in terms of politics. Now whenever any French person sneers at Americans about Trump, we have a devastating comeback.

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  10. Tyrell says:

    @PJ: Well, the public beaches in our state do not allow thong type bathing suits; and that applies to men and women.

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  11. Pch101 says:

    @stonetools:

    Failure in French is spelled M-A-R-I-N-E L-E P-E-N. And for what it’s worth, she’s endorsing Trump.

    Part of the blame can be assigned to the two-round voting system for president. The wingnuts don’t win the second round but they often end up making it through the first round by winning the support of protest voters, which gives them momentum for future elections.

    French secularism can run amuck, and all of the drama over Muslims illustrates how badly this goes. Much of the left and the center perceive Islam as a threat to the secular state and overreact accordingly while the far right indulges in its usual xenophobia, feeding a broad-based coalition of intolerance. They don’t realize that they are making things worse by turning assimilation into something that is undesirable — no immigrant or minority group can be expected to react well to being despised by his or her adopted homeland.

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  12. gVOR08 says:

    I yield to no man in my fondness for female semi-nudity, but what @michael reynolds: said, does no one in French officialdom have a lick of common sense?

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  13. grumpy realist says:

    Someone should send the French authorities some pictures of what women wore for bathing in La Belle Epoque. (Would attach some, but they’re all on Pinterest.) A Burkini is much more body-revealing.

    The French aren’t any crazier than some of the things we Americans used to do during the 1920s, by the way.

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  14. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    Why is it that while I was reading this post, I kept hearing this ?
    (Cut to about 1:58 for the specific part I was hearing.)

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  15. Andre Kenji says:

    @Pch101:

    Part of the blame can be assigned to the two-round voting system for president.

    Nope. Two-round voting usually creates vanity candidates that solely exists for the purpose of losing in the First Round of voting(Generally some caricature Trotskyst or something like that), but that can´t be blamed for the LePens. In fact, one could argue that they would be even more powerful with One round voting.

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  16. Gustopher says:

    They aren’t going to start making the men wear less to beaches, are they? I burn easily so my beach attire is a brooks Brothers button down shirt, long pants, sneakers, and a broad hat.

    I look at the burkinis and I see sensible clothing for a miserably bright, shadeless hell hole near the water.

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  17. Matt says:

    @michael reynolds: You call me naive while you demean women by straight saying they have no independent ability to decide things for themselves. So all women need a man in their life to tell them what to do otherwise they are lost? My how 1950s of you…

    The women I know choose what they want to wear and in the case of my Saudi friends they wear a hijab here because the burka attracts attention which defeats the purpose of the burka (which is to avoid attention).

    We can condemn the French without whitewashing a male dominated, oppressive and sexist religion.

    All the major religions here are. Christianity and it’s various associated cults are without a doubt the leader in religious oppression here in the USA.

    I was raised in a conservative christian town and I want nothing to do with that religion or any other abrahamic religion..

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  18. Pch101 says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    Sorry. but no. Two round voting encourages more protest voting because the voters know that they can cast votes for the crazy guy during the first round without any real risk of electing him.

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  19. Matt says:

    @michael reynolds: I lost part of my post in an edit;

    In the end what we’re having here is a difference of perspective. I have a great number of Muslim friends here in the states and abroad (including ladies in Saudi Arabia who want to drive). Even in Saudi Arabia the matriarch tends to be the one in control of the household. It’s a really complex situation with strong forces added from the Monarchy on the top. The Monarchy is pretty desperate to stay in control and the religious clerics help them keep control. Restrictions are integral to that control (it effects men too). Regardless I’ve asked my muslim friends many questions regarding their religious choices. All the women in Saudi Arabia said they wore the burka to avoid attention. Not “to avoid death” or “because their dad told them to” or whatever you think is the reason. Now I’m sure there are plenty of the “told to do so” type but you can’t ignore that a sizable portion make that choice without excessive pressure. There’s always pressure though from society/media/peer/family.

    TLDR : While your perspective can be valid it also can be equally as invalid.

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  20. michael reynolds says:

    @Matt:

    That’s a silly response. Or a silly non-response. Do you really think I was exempting Christianity from being male-dominated? Did you think I was making some ‘my’ religion is better than yours argument?

    I’m an atheist, I have equal contempt for all religions. (Well, a little extra for those ancient Central American ones involving human sacrifice.)

    Monotheisms are particularly brutal in enforcing male dominance, but there have been few historical religions that were not male dominated. But that’s because the purpose of religion is to employ made-up creatures to enforce societal norms. Like male dominance. That’s what religion does: it acts as apologist for the existing order, so long as that order lines religion’s pockets.

    Religion is there for the purpose of enforcing the dictates of the state or the preferences of larger society. It is not always misogynistic, but mostly it is. Some religious women are there by choice, some are not.

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  21. Dave Schuler says:

    This:

    it goes to the fact that France has done a particularly bad job of assimilating the Muslim immigrants that have come to the country over the past several decades into French culture.

    goes to the core of the issue. The ethnic states of Europe need to make up their minds.

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  22. grumpy realist says:

    @Matt: If the burka (or the hijab) is put on to avoid attention, then why the insistence to wear it in a location where they’re going to stick out like a sore thumb? (I’m not thinking of the burkini, but of women who insist on a) their right to drive and b) their right to be bundled up like mummies for the Driver’s ID picture.)

    My feeling is: when in Rome, do as the Romans do, even if that means unveiling your face.

    The problem with the French bathers is they went for a burkini, rather than La Belle Epoque dress. They would have covered up just as much and everyone would have been proud of them being so historically aware.

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  23. Dave,

    Yes that is the ultimate point. If nation’s like France and Germany are going to accept large numbers of immigrants from the Middle East and elsewhere, whether as refugees or as cheap labor, then they are going to have to find a way, both legally and culturally, to allow those people to assimilate into the culture that recognizes the fact that immigrants are still likely to abide by cultural practices different from the country that has taken them in, and to become more accepting of the idea that, as has happened numerous times in the United States, the immigrants themselves will come to influence and change the nation they’re now living in.

    The only other option would seem to be to not accept such immigrants at all. This is apparently the choice that the Japanese have made, although in their case there is also the excuse of distance and and arguably lack of space to accept large numbers of people.

    What’s clear is that what they’ve been doing for the past several decades isn’t working.

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  24. KM says:

    Like it or not it is up to the French to decide what it means to be French. If you don’t like it, go elsewhere. Let France be France.

    Except a good portion of these people ARE French. It’s just as rude to tell a woman in a burkini who’s minding her own business to dress skimpier as it is for someone to storm a nude beach and tell them to cover up. The swimmer isn’t imposing her values just by existing; she’s not standing around screaming that all bikini wearers are immodest whores who will burn in hell. It’s the viewers who are objectifying the swimmers and incidentally proving their point. The freedom to flash skin includes the freedom to deny that flash.

    Essentially this is a almost-entirely gendered legal demand from the government that you must bare X amount of skin in order to use a public facility. “You must be this naked to enter. We’ll check.” As a female, that bothers me severely because it sets a precedent that goes nowhere good. Unless the clothing is causing physical danger (too heavy to swim safely, obscuring vision, etc), this cannot be considered a law that fits with France’s stated beliefs about liberty, religion and sexuality.

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  25. stonetools says:

    As a religious person I do think you are unnecessarily attacking religion here, Mike. What’s ironic about your diatribe is that this is a case of the French secular authorities trying to impose their view of clothing on religious people.
    I think if we are serious about the idea of equality of women we have to assume agency on the part of women, including religious women. The sight of women clad from head to toe in black, trailing after some comfortably clad Muslim man in ninety degree weather does look to me like a living picture of oppressive religious patriarchy in action. However, these women say they WANT to dress this way.
    My view is that women should dress the way they d@mn please,subject to minimal standards of decency. If women want to dress that uncomfortably for whatever reason, it should be their choice. After all, some Western women go around wearing high heels all day, and we don’t tell them to wear sensible shoes.
    This French law is the worst sort of paternalistic overreach by a secular authority that is CERTAIN it knows what’s good for these poor, deluded religious women. It’s not a good look.

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  26. Liberal Capitalist says:

    OK… I see…

    We are on a libertarian website, that finds itself populated by somewhat a outspoken liberal following.

    I would say, rather a unique corner of the internet.

    However…

    Considering the phenomenal hoopla that has happened in the last 24 hors domestically, with a veritable pie throwing contest between candidates… I would think that would be the top story… rather than… burkinis ???

    Given: Passionately religious people will always do what appears moronic to other not of that faith.

    But seriously… Alt-Right, Racism, bigotry in a national election… and NOTHING?

    Harrumph.

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  27. slimslowslider says:

    How are nuns treated?

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  28. michael reynolds says:

    @stonetools:

    I think if we are serious about the idea of equality of women we have to assume agency on the part of women, including religious women.

    No, we do not have to assume any such thing. Are you unaware of the struggle going on within Islam between liberalizers and the extremists? Simply assuming that women are free undercuts the efforts of actual Muslim women to actually be free.

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  29. Lynn says:
  30. Franklin says:

    Sorry, did I miss some rash of Muslim women blowing themselves up on beaches? If not, then this is as stupid as banning transgender people from using the bathroom that they’ve always been using.

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  31. slimslowslider says:

    @Lynn: i think that piece is satire, but i am honestly not sure.

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  32. Ratufa says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    Considering the phenomenal hoopla that has happened in the last 24 hors domestically, with a veritable pie throwing contest between candidates… I would think that would be the top story… rather than… burkinis ???

    On behalf of the OTB community, I apologize for the interruption in our coverage of the election. While we try our best to provide the election news and commentary that our customers demand, sometimes even we require a brief respite from this Sisyphean task.

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  33. Rafer Janders says:

    @Matt:

    Among the Muslim women I know covering their body has nothing to do with the patriarchy and everything to do with avoiding attention.

    Umm..what? It has nothing to do with men, and everything to do with avoiding attention from men? That’s somewhat like writing “among the women I know locking themselves in their homes has nothing to do with rape and everything to do with avoiding rapists”….

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  34. grumpy realist says:

    The highest court in France just slapped down the burkini ban. The far right is harrumphing like usual, but I get the feeling that this is going to turn into a nothingburger.

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  35. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. and now back to our regularly scheduled gawking at the political mudfest called this year’s campaign season….

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  36. stonetools says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Hey, GR, what does your buddy Dreher over at TAC make of this? I know he has an opinion. Two of his favorite enemies are fighting-Muslims and secular authorities…

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  37. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: You weren’t making a “my religion is better” argument, you were making a “women don’t have the power/ability to decide” argument. It was one of the foundational arguments in feminist legal theory until about 1999. I wonder what happened that year?

    But I do note that you’ve managed to walk your statement back some now. Congratulations.

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  38. grumpy realist says:

    @stonetools: He’s gone back to worrying about transsexual kids aggravating the piss out of their parents.

    (Geez. It’s a FAD, guys, don’t you get it? Kids used to rebel against Mommy and Daddy with poodle skirts and listening to Elvis Presley, now they yank the chain by insisting that they’re transsexual. Probably a lot of them may even believe it due to hormones, not wanting to have to deal with sexuality yet, standard teenage angst reinterpreted, and it now being the new social meme. You used to be able to get a rise out of Mommy and Daddy by saying you were gay, now that’s old hat.)

    P.S. Not to say that there aren’t people who have biological aspects of the other sex, but the percentage of those who actually do so as opposed to those who just think they might is much, much lower. It’s like the number of people who claim to be intolerant to gluten: not so much.

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  39. Thor thormussen says:

    Like it or not it is up to the French to decide what it means to be French. If you don’t like it, go elsewhere. Let France be France.

    if France were a village in rural Albania, sure. Who gives a shit. But not a member of the EU.

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  40. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: And then you doubled down on the next comment. You sure you’re not related to one (or the other) of the people running for office?

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  41. michael reynolds says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    I’m not walking back anything.

    Do we maintain that people in North Korea have freedom of choice? Do we argue that people in Saudi Arabia are free? You can’t even make a case that women in parts of India are safe from crushing pressure – honor killings, acid attacks, gang rapes – and that’s a democratic country. Are women uniquely indifferent to pressure?

    Pretending that respect for women requires indifference to their oppression is nonsense. It is absurd. You figure women undergoing genital mutilation in North Africa are merely voluntarily following the dictates of their religion?

    This is political correctness turning into a repugnant moral indifference. To pretend that captive or intimidated people are free agents is to support the oppressors. It is blame-the-victim. The full-on burka, and even less restrictive clothing, is not a function of Islam, it’s a function of Salafism and Arab cultural oppression. Women throughout much of the middle east who choose to dress in a more western fashion face attack. That’s just the reality. If you are under threat you do not make free choices.

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  42. MBunge says:

    This extreme highlights the problem a great deal of the West, including the United States, is having with the concept of assimilation. I heard Hillary Clinton recently talking about immigration and it was clear she was only thinking of America as an economy or a market and not a nation or a society. Or the rather infamous instance in 2011 when the U.S. soccer team played Mexico in the Rose Bowl and the Americans nearly got booed out of the building.

    This “burkini” ban fits in with some of the more egregious efforts at forced assimilation in U.S. history but the laissez-faire attitude toward it that dominates modern American thinking isn’t without its own problems.

    Mike

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  43. stonetools says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Yeah, my wife swallowed the gluten kool aid. She swears she’s sensitive. I have my doubts that stuff like that just happens to show up after several decades of no symptoms, when a bunch of alternative health folks start obsessing over the latest health scare. But enough of my problems….

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  44. stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Last time I checked Nice was neither in the Middle East or India….
    I’m betting the pressure is entirely the other way.
    Which of the two women in the above picture is less likely to face police harassment? (I’m betting the one on the left. ).

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  45. michael reynolds says:

    @MBunge:

    I think a lot of Americans are losing the thread in the aftermath of 9/11, of the Iraq fiasco, political polarization, intellectual stasis on the Left and intellectual and moral collapse on the Right.

    Despite all that, we still need to believe certain things as a nation. The United States is not a single ethnic or religious group like many nations, we are only us because of a shared ideology. If we toss out all core American beliefs or treat them as irrelevant, we toss out the very idea of our country. Then we really are nothing but consumers and no longer free citizens with common goals.

    Americans believe first and foremost in the rights of the individual. We believe in the maximum achievable freedom. And we believe those things because we make an a priori assumption that freedom is good. It’s a moral not a logical or pragmatic stand. And we don’t think our rights are given to us by government or by consensus, we think our rights pre-exist, that they are a condition common to all human beings.

    These beliefs do not require us to rush about forcibly freeing people who aren’t in any way prepared for the trauma of sudden Americanization. (I use the word tongue-in-cheek.) But they do require us to at the very least look with disfavor on any force – government, religion, culture – that denies the freedom we hold to be the gift of God (however secular) to all humans.

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  46. michael reynolds says:

    @stonetools:
    I know Nice well, and frankly, given the fact that the ‘beach’ is fist sized pebbles, I’d support wearing a Michelin Mankini.

    Yes, I know Nice is not in the middle east, but that does not settle the question of whether women are or are not the victims of patriarchal oppression. I suspect if we were talking popes and nuns you’d say those women are, to some degree, victims of patriarchal oppression – they can never hope for advancement solely because of their gender. But because we’re talking about Islam, you feel constrained. Both Islam and Catholicism (and all the rest, too) are not my religion, so I feel I should be able to criticize both equally.

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  47. Lynn says:

    @slimslowslider:

    It’s satire

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  48. Lounsbury says:

    Ahem:
    many French Muslim women “
    This mate is sheer utter bollocks.

    In fact the silly thing is astonishingly rare.

    i shall leave this to then the usual stereotyped maundering on about “patriarchy” and whatnot by people who know F*ck all about the actual folks in question.

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  49. Grewgills says:

    All Abrahamic religions are patriarchal, but that doesn’t mean that all practice is necessarily patriarchal. There are certainly women that are subject to considerable religious and social pressure to wear concealing clothes*. There are also certainly women who are liberated and socially liberal of all religious bents that choose to wear concealing clothes for reasons other than social and religious pressure. My very liberal feminist wife wants a burkini. You can’t look at any particular woman and know why they have chosen what they are wearing. Assuming you can, particularly sight unseen, without any real social contact is stupid.

    * This is true of Muslims, Christians, and Jews. The exact standards are different, but the intent is the same.

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