28 January 2017

The state and the veil

.... From this perspective, the government’s attempts to impose and elaborate a dress code are not just an affront to their freedom but further proof of male chauvinism. “I’m a feminist, I consider that I’m equal to men and I wear what I want,” says Fatima El Ouasdi, a student in finance, who wears her skirt short and her hair loose and runs a women’s-rights group. “But the burkini ban really revolted me.”

Yet the trend of “reveiling” among young French women is sincerely regarded by many members of their mothers’ generation and by many politicians as part of a fundamentalist political project.

They believe the government has both the right and the duty to oppose it. The French do not view the state merely as a provider of services but as a guarantor of norms. Lending legitimacy to certain individual choices is not just a matter of personal freedom but can have real social consequences.

For evidence, some say, look at the banlieues. The atmosphere in some heavily immigrant suburbs can curb freedom by making it hard not to wear the veil, argues Nadia Ould-Kaci, who co-runs a group called Women of Aubervilliers against the Veil. In recent years, she says, the spread of the veil in her district has reached “worrying” proportions. Girls of North African origin who do not wear it are insulted by being told that “God is ashamed of you.” [The Economist] Read more