Who’s oppressing who?

I have been meaning to make this post for about a week, and now that it’s International Women’s Day, I think it’s almost fitting.

Since I read this article I have been trying to articulate the disappointment I feel towards the French Government. This law is completely dispicable. What right does any government have to suppress the expression of belief or freedom of citizens who are not breaking the law or not inciting religious violence.

I can understand restricting the rights of those who do break the law, but I find it entirely laughable that the French Prime Minister François Fillon can say with a straight face that the new oppressive law is in order to preserve the “principles of liberty, equality and human dignity affirmed by the French republic” and that niqab wearers place themselves “in a situation of exclusion and inferiority” compared to the rest of the French population. Can he not see that he is making these women inferior and excluded by banning them to their homes, or forcing them to dress according to a National ideal and not personal expression? Can he not see that he is making them inequal, denying their liberty and their human dignity?

The fact that so few women wear the niqab reinforces this, surely. The French government are being so selective in their choice of who to discriminate against that this can’t have anything to do with the overwhelming numbers causing trouble among the population, it’s just another way to whittle away at the freedom of French Muslims. It’s childish, not useful. And the fact that they have to widen the bredth of the law to “covering one’s face in public places” so as to include women and men in motorcycle helmets and balaclavas (who, significantly, can claim special dispensation) shows the inaccuracy of the law. It is meant to target Muslim women, not public order. Similarly, I cannot see how wearing a motorcycle helmet makes you inferior to the rest of France. It just doesn’t make sense.

This article not only deals with the proposal of a law to withdraw freedom from religious individuals, but also with the sheer childishness of the “Christian heritage of France”. There is nothing political, mature or constructive about hosting a “”rosé wine and porchetta” evening […] near a Muslim place of prayer in Nice on Friday night” – simply an outrageous display of bullying.

What I think this shows is an obvious display of discrimination against Muslim women. It has gone past claiming that Muslim women are all oppressed as a result of their religion and that the niqab is an example of oppression inherent in Islam – a whole other issue and one I’m not entirely sure I believe, although I haven’t done enough research to make my mind up entirely. It has just jumped straight to ‘this isn’t French, so you can’t do it’, which is ridiculous. And insensical.

So I wouldn’t hesitate too much in suggesting that this law oppresses the freedom of women to dress as they please. The French goverment don’t claim to be liberating the oppressed Muslim women by ensuring that she is allowed to show her face as well as all the other French women, they’re just restricting her movements and personal expression on account of her appearance. Aside from the obvious religious aspect to this; what right at all does any government have to suppress the personal expression of any individual who is not breaking the law or inciting violence? What right does any government have to suppress women in this way? Even if so far the law only effects a tiny minority, surely the principle of stamping down on women’s dress is something that we cannot stand for?

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