Thursday, July 17, 2008

What it takes to become French!

Let's give up fireworks and move on to a more controversial debate that has been going on here since last Friday. On that day, the newspaper Le Monde, revealed that the Conseil d'Etat (Council of State) refused to grant French citizenship to a Moroccan woman even though she was married to a French citizen. Why? Because, according to the Council of State "She has adopted a radical practice of her religion, incompatible with essential values of the French community, particularly the principle of equality of the sexes." Most obvious sign of this ? She would wear a burqa during all her talks with the social services... Funnily enough I found this graffiti also last Friday, in a shop they are currently renewing at the crossing of rue du Commerce and rue du Théâtre.


  1. Assimilation issues must be one of the oldest debates in any state. Excellent illustration for this.



  3. Oh dear...
    How do you deal with a case like that?
    What if a French woman decides to become an extreme Muslim? Will she be thrown out of the country?

  4. When I first looked at this photo, I thought it was a knight in mail armor...until I saw the long eyelashes. Clever shot for this debate. I'd love to read what the French bloggers have to say about this before I add my 1/2 penny. :-)

  5. Considering a recent court decision (in Lille, maybe?) that granted a Muslim man a divorce on the grounds that the bride was not a virgin, I find this situation curiously inconsistent. I know that the divorce was described as a contract issue, but was it not rooted religious practice? And might it not be seen as "extreme" by much of the mainstream? This decision would appear to almost...criminalize (not the word I am searching for) a woman's right to choose to the role she will assume in her marriage. Now having said that, I can't for the life of me understand the desire to subject oneself to that treatment, but I am culturally removed from that mindset.

    I don't pretend to have all the facts. Still it is unbelievable to me that a society that values personal freedom and even more, personal style ; ), would object soley on these grounds. Is there something more?

    And now I have rambled on at the mouth. Sorry. Just ignore me. ; )

    I like the drawing though. Eric I found a book you might like by Fabienne Grevy called Graffiti Paris.

  6. > Rose. No, but there are laws that prohibit the use of burqas in public places (like no right to teach with a veil - not even a burqa for example).

    It's a difficult situation... How to allow freedom of religion and fight sexes inequity!

  7. Tough matter... but it seems obvious to me that a burqa is not compatible with the principle of equality of the sexes... I watched the film Persepolis from Marjane Satrapi(on DVD) last WE. It was not at all about the acquisition of the French nationality but it shows very well how hard it is to enjoy your life when you are a young woman in a country where and when the religious extremism takes away every freedom - especially women's one....

  8. BTW, quel oeil Eric pour trouver une telle illustration de ce sujet... :))

  9. Since when do the rights of the state to "protect" gender equality trump religious freedom. Women are not allowed to become priests (talk about your sexism), shouldn't the French government prohibit the Catholic church from operating in France? Does the French government consider Hasidic Jews to be practicing a radical form of Judaism because of the way they dress? What a crock!

  10. This is a good example of why people leave their countries and come to the U.S.

    By the way, France won't let me become a citizen either...something about having to actually live there. :)

  11. There's another element in such cases that often is overlooked. Hiding one's face may be a religious choice, but there is a public safety question when it comes to identification. While a veil or burqa may be considered a religious requirement, hiding the face conceals identity. This is not a good idea when dealing with citizenship officials. I don't see this as a sexist question as much as a public safety question. This may not be politically correct, but it must be considered. Of course, I am speaking generally and do not have all the facts of this specific case.

  12. James Madison, fourth US President, wrote the initial draft of the first amendment:

    "The Civil Rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, .... nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, nor on any pretext infringed..."

    Members of the Conseil d'Etat would do well to spend a few minutes reading Madison's words. Shame on them.

  13. Seriously, David, tell us what you REALLY think.
    Actually, I'm in agreement w/you -- in spite of being so opposed to the whole idea of women hiding their light under a burqa. And her French citoyen husband? I wonder what he thinks. But if it's solely HIS idea that she wear the burqa, then double shame on the Conseil d'Etat -- and triple on him.
    Eric, you've done it again!

  14. See this http://Article BBC 1 and http://Article BBC 2

    And just a quote to feed the debate :

    "It is not a religious insignia but the insignia of a totalitarian political project that advocates inequality between the sexes and which is totally devoid of democracy" Fadela Amara (French Urban Affairs Minister)

  15. Seems to me like the women are on the short end of this whipping stick. Why aren't more "burqa" wearing women sounding off against such inequities? Probably because their "loving" hubbies will beat the hell out of them if they do. David makes some sound logical points, but David, we're not always dealing with "logical" politicians. The "burqa" to me represents female oppression and the sooner we get rid of this "so called order by god and husbands to wear it" the more freedom Muslim women will have. Anyway, that's my 1/2 penny's worth,and that's all I got to say about that!

  16. Alexa, sorry, I've put my soap box away.

    Eric, I've started looking for interesting wall art (shouldn't call such things graffiti)whenever I'm in Paris, it's everywhere. I like how this piece is framed by the metal grating.

  17. David, you might like the book I referenced above.

  18. Hiding one's face may be a religious choice, but there is a public safety question when it comes to identification. While a veil or burqa may be considered a religious requirement, hiding the face conceals identity.

    That's true!

    On the other hand, if someone wants to wear a small veil on their hair to go to school or to go out in public, who cares?!!!

    I usually try to stay away from debates concerning religion because I know next to nothing about any given religion so I don't see how I could have anything of value to contribute on that subject. I will say this, though, organized religions kind of scare me. I like it much better when individuals find their own communication with their God, follow good spiritual principles with others, rather than follow specific centuries-old rituals... but hey, maybe that's just me.

  19. One more thing. I'm also not impressed with the paternalistic attitude (prohibiting the veil or the burka to promote gender equality? hmmm , I don't know. about that. I have a hard time believing that it is the true and only reason.

    As to freedom of religion in the US, I would say yes, in theory people have come from all over the world for that but keep in mind that muslim people aren't exactly all that comfortable in the country right now, ever since 2003.

  20. I'm going to stay away from the controversy and just say I think the picture is intriguing because the painting looks like it was made somewhere else and then put up in this spot. The two halves of the face, on different sheets of plywood, match but aren't aligned and the little pyramids and whorls seem to continue off the board as tho they went further to the right. I wonder where this was and what kind of building it was put up in. Nice photo, Eric!

  21. Eric did present a particularly difficult conundrum. How can the State protect both religious freedom and equality of the sexes if a specific religion professes beliefs that are antithetical to such gender equality?

    Where's that Solomon guy?

    David has pointed out that the Catholic church, long established in France, also, falls into this category as a religion that does not respect gender equality. By the reasoning of the Council of State she should not gain French citizenship even if she were a bare-faced Catholic. Nor should anyone.

    There is, as well, the argument Jeff pointed out regarding State security and the need the State feels to identify individuals.

    "I want a driver's license but I'm blind. This is discrimination against the handicapped." No it is not. It is discrimination against those unable to drive satisfactorily. If it isn't her religion, per se, that is preventing her from getting citizenship is it her unwillingness to be identified? But that isn't what the Council of State said, is it? And instead of facial identification, for such documents as a passport, how about fingerprinting; iris or voice recognition?

    Ah, bureaucrats. They can be the same kind of blockheads in any country.

    At first I thought the wall painting couldn't have been done by a Muslim because it is representational but I have since found out that the strictures against representational art are often kept isolated to specific religious areas.

    Are those two little Egyptian pyramids at the base of the image?

  22. I find this very interesting, but I am not a person who likes to wrangle philosophical ideas and ideology, so I will just state what I think and leave it at that. I don't begin to understand the desire of anyone to wear a burqa or anything remotely like it. Here in the States there are those who think that women should only wear dresses, and I have acquaintances who believe this. I do not. For me, religion is a personal relationship with my Savior, Jesus Christ, something that I try to live out daily. It is not something that is a set of rules and regulations, but rather a way of living that is motivated by my desire to please Him. So, I disagree with the notion that women should be entirely covered to practice their religion. Modest, yes; enveloped, no. That's my opinion.

    Eric, interesting topic tonight. Thank You.

  23. The New York Times recently wrote an article about an Iranian dissident who, when he first arrived by plane into the USA, was shocked to see a muslum woman wearing a headscarf guiding the plane into its gate. The point? Who should assume the woman does or does not believe in the equality of the sexes just because she chooses to wear her burka?

    David: I feel the same way about graffiti EVERYWHERE now and told Eric ,a while back in an email ,how he has influenced me.

  24. I probably shouldn't even start. But as GF, I did already mention my belief that "Assimilation issues must be one of the oldest debates in any state."

    France needs to figure this one out for themselves. James Madison might have been a terrorist insurgent, but dad gum it, he was our terrorist insurgent. I mean, freedom fighter. I mean for white guys. The richer ones. What I mean is, the US has come a long way, and I love my country. I hope it can get back to making progress in matters of justice.

    When I was born, six states still hadn't ratified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Women couldn't get credit cards or mortgages without a male co-signer. Women who wanted to work in non-subordinate jobs were man-haters. It must be true, because I've seen the movies.

    It's all cultural, and yet it gets wrapped up in rumours of religious dictates here too. So, like France, America is still trying to figure it all out too. Let's not preach. (Am I preaching?)

    Irrelevant factoid: The Kingdom of Morocco was the first country to formally recognized the independence of the U.S.

  25. P.S. While walking down rue du Four last month, I looked up and was shocked to see Feb.6, 2008 graffiti right before my very eyes. What a thrill.It made me appreciate Eric even more, as it was on a wall above a store and not at eye level.It provoked quite a discussion for us, and for that reason, became quite memorable for me. I hope some of you get to have that same serendipitious moment with a PDP pix.

  26. I find all of these comments interesting but very complicated.
    Eric, this may seem like an obvious question, but I have to ask, do you think this graffiti was in response to the debate?
    I think it is quite beautiful.

  27. I have nothing to add, but I want to have the discussion sent to my mailbox.

  28. While it's hard for Westerners to imagine why a woman would voluntarily wear a veil, many Muslim women choose to wear them not because their husbands force them, but because they see veils as symbols of their devotion to God and respect for their bodies.

    While I'm all in favor of equality and freedom, forcing someone to abandon a religious practice because you think it's oppressive is really just another form of oppression.

  29. I was thinking that since she showed up to the citizenship talks always covered in a burqa wouldn't it have been funny if she got citizenship and turned out to be someone like Bin Laden with well-applied mascara?

  30. The more I read about religion mixing with politics, the more I am glad our founding fathers were Deists and were of the mindset to keep church and state separate (though in recent years this may be questioned). Further, I suppose to a certain degree we all wear masks (our personal burkas as it were), but hopefully not "iron ones" that somebody else imposes upon us. Now as David says, I too will put away my soapbox.

  31. And I see Christie's and Kimberly's comments as illustrations of the various cultural degrees to which one country might interpret the ideas of modesty found in whatever scriptures they follow. Morocco is not the same as Turkey or Iran or Albania.

    What a woman wears in a expression of modesty, guided by faith, in Pocatello, Idaho could be different than an equally faithful woman in Lancaster, Pennsylvania or one in San Diego, California. That's the cultural part of it, not The Book.

    That's what I mean about France needing to work out the assimilation question. I don't know all the facts, history, and circumstances bearing on the situation over there. Is religiously expressive clothing outlawed in France? If not, I always hope for progressive decisions in every country.

    On the other hand, we could just do this.

  32. Yes, blaming Canada Ottawa rrant some consideration. If the west coast of Canada adopted strict clothing regulations Mr. Morrison would be told, "Van!couver yourself up!

  33. TG - LOL! At first I thought you were having serious typo-frenzy!

  34. Egalite. . .what does that term mean to the French? When were French women allowed to own property in their own right? Here in the States, that came very, very late in the game. And African American men were given the right to vote before any Ameican females were granted that right. Would it be correct to say France values the appearance of gender equity under the law over free practice of personal religion? What then does Liberte mean to the French?
    Intriguing questions.
    Seattle Daily Photo

  35. HOW is it possible to still have this kind of debate in France, 50 years after the Algerian war?! HOW?!

    Why is it such a problem in France to live with muslims, why is it a problem to wear a burqa in the street? I mean if you're neither a civil servant nor a student, where is the matter? Yes, the equality of men and women is the most important thing nowadays. And it's clear that the veil is not a proof of equality... But is it REALLY the point here? Why did they forbid this woman to become French? Because she wears a burqa? Please. I don't want to speak about politics but we all know that she was an "example" for the rest of the people who wanted to be French ("see, if you wear a burqa, you won't be French. Would not it be better not to wear it?") and it shows the immigration policy that they adopted in France. It's also a proof of a huge hypocrisy.

    I'm ready to bet that her future would have been better as a French woman living in France, than a Arabian (Turkish, Algerian, Moroccan?) woman living in France.

    About the "hymen story", it's clearly an awful thing, but actually the judges applied the right texts and the right articles according to the Civil Code. Maybe we have to change the text and not to blame them (Btw it was not a divorce, it was annulment.).

    This debate is exhausting, tiring and annoying because it's always the same issue: Muslims are rejected, people stay reluctent to hire them, to be close to them.
    It partakes of the pervading racism in France.

    I'm absolutely sorry for this diatribe, but it really gets on my nerves.

    A part ça Eric, ta photo résume bien la situation et tombe à pic. Tu pouvais difficilement faire mieux. :)

    USelaine, if I can add my 50 cents, French women had the right to have a personal bank account in 1965 and had the right to work without their husbands' autorisation the same year...

    Oui, la France comme pays des droits de l'HOMME.

  36. I notice that Eric is playing with us by taking a malicious pleasure in choosing highly controversial subjects those last days, sex, politics, raw food .....
    What on your mind, Eric ?......

    Anyway, hard to debate on such a subject, especially in English and with the only information the media are (is?) willing to give you.
    It would be too simple if things were only black or white.
    I only wanted to ask the American readers how the American citizenship officials would deal with such a case. All I know is that that getting the American citizenship is no picnic either.
    Merci d'avance.

  37. marylene, eric just likes to keep things interesting and keep us thinking. He's wonderful for that!

    I think I wont hop on my soapbox since my feelings have been covered so well by all these wonderfully intelligent comments.

    Regarding urban art, my best friend pointed a piece out yesterday while I was driving us to class: a man holding a gun to a woman's head. Interesting, to say the least, and rather disturbing. Could the artist have been illustrating something similar to our debate or does he just have a beef against his girlfriend? Hmmm

  38. Marylene: about 5 yrs. ago in Florida, a muslim woman wore her niqab(fully covered except her eyes) for her drivers licence photo. She lost her case to keep that licence. The court said that having the face readily identifiable is a public safety issue. I remember them saying that a policeman needs to know it is YOU if they stop you.

  39. It's a law?! I don't like the idea behind the burqa either, but making it illegal is a little too much, I think. What happens to freedom of religion then? But you're right, it is a delicate balancing act and very difficult to perform well.

    I hope this incident ends well though. I'd hate for her to be separated from her husband just because of a burqa.

  40. Guille: I'm impressed you can rant in English. I can barely say "je ne l'aime pas!" en français.

  41. Is this standard operating procedure? Surely she isn't the first burqa wearing woman to apply for French citizenship.

    "As to freedom of religion in the US, I would say yes, in theory people have come from all over the world for that but keep in mind that muslim people aren't exactly all that comfortable in the country right now, ever since 2003." I agree Tomate and the recent cover of The New Yorker illustrated (literally) that point exactly.

    Another take on American politics:

  42. This is compleely foreign to me. Here you could never be denied citizenship on the basis of what you wear!

    Here’s what happens when you wait a couple of hours to see the pope pass by…
    Sydney Daily Photo

  43. For god's sake, women in Spain were wearing mantillas up until a generation ago. Are there no habit-wearing Catholic nuns in France? Or have wimples and veils been outlawed? Are nuns wearing veils allowed to teacvh in Catholic schools?

    Granting citizenship, and applying for a passport are two different things. You can (and Australia does) require a woman who usually wears a burqa to show her face from forehead to chin and ears when having a passport photo. She then decides whether she wants to apply.

    I have taught many girls in Sydney schools wearing hijab. in fact most (public) schools incorporate it as part of their uniform these days. It never inhibited their capacity to learn, or get along with anyone else in the school.

    Here’s what happens when you wait a couple of hours to see the pope pass by…
    Sydney Daily Photo

  44. PS The girls were wearing hijab, not me! Personally, i think it ludicrous, but I think it was a frenchman - Voltaire n'est-ce pas? - who said I may disagree with you, but defend your right to your view.

  45. I cannot find such interesting 'wall art' (Thanks David) here. All we have are simplistic 'tags.' I will keep my eyes open though...

  46. Religious freedom.
    Religious oppression.
    Gender equality.
    Gender oppression.
    Identification for public safety.
    I love this. Nothing malicious about it. Tough things to think about, but necessary to think about if democracy means anything to you.
    Thanks, folks.

  47. Jeff...I think you wrote a poem or a lyric for Jim Morrison to sing...he's still alive isn't he? ;-)

  48. Hilda : a little precision : there is only one Law in France that forbids the wearing of any "ostensible" religious symbols, including the Islamic veil, the Jewish kippa, and large Christian crosses.
    This Law (voted by the French Parliament in March 2004) concerns the wearing of those religious symbols in public primary and secondary schools.
    And there is no other prohibition concerning the wearing of veil, burqa, cross, kippa etc, in France...

  49. Morrison is still alive: did you see "Men In Black"?

  50. Soosha_q, my purpose was absolutely not critical towards Eric, on the contrary.

    Perhaps I used a "faux-ami", I was trying to translate the French words "prendre un malin plaisir", meaning he is always trying to tease (?) tickle (?) us in a good way, so that we learn more about each other, our feelings, our cultural differences throughout the world.
    Maybe "malicious" has a different connotation in English and I need to change my dictionnary !!

  51. I have been waiting for a faux-ami moment so I could bring up mine, please excuse this diversion!
    Last month, while waiting for my cafe au lait, I noticed they poured in UHT milk and made a face. I could not explain in French that UHT meant it zapped out all flavor to give the milk shelf life, so I got a brainstorm and said "Le lait a preservatifs." All it took was her bursting out in laughter for me to get a vision in my brain of the perservatif machine I took a picture of years ago in the Metro.
    False friends, false friends, indeed.

  52. I'm conflicted on this issue because I believe so strongly in gender equality and have so little sympathy for organized religion.

    My first response was: good for the French state.

    Then David makes this point:

    "Women are not allowed to become priests (talk about your sexism), shouldn't the French government prohibit the Catholic church from operating in France? Does the French government consider Hasidic Jews to be practicing a radical form of Judaism because of the way they dress? What a crock!"

    And Guille makes a strong case as well.

    However, it is no secret that women who wear the burqa in some traditional societies do so as a matter of personal safety and not because of personal choice. If this woman is not allowed to take off her burqa in a citizenship interview, what happens if she needs to go to the hospital and there are no women doctors available?

    Aaargh! Complicated.

  53. Guille
    Bravo for putting forward such a good argument !

    You love to stir trouble uhm... hehehe...

  54. Oh marylene, I understood! I just couldn't pass up an opportunity to compliment eric! You got your point across well. :)

  55. the debate reminds me of a paper in ''the week''. one day an english women wearing a burka knocked on the door of a solicitor begging for help she was beaten by her husband. apparently this is not an isolated case but how can you see that under the burka. women have been for such a long time victims and i strongly believe in the version of the film persepolis, which is a really nice animation, it is not a choice.

  56. [to lighten the mood a bit] There are some nuns I had in school who would have looked better in burkas, and some Arabic men I know who should be required to wear them. Of course, in my family it wasn't allowed to burka at the dinner table.

  57. LOL Coltrane...

    Did anyone want to talk about The New Yorker's recent cover instead? Just kidding!!! ;)

  58. Coltrane!! Excellent :)))!!!

  59. Guille - Thank you for bringing your heart and your mind to these comments. It seems then that not even France is free of the human impulse to xenophobia.

    1965 is a year I remember, and I can't tell if it seems like a long time ago to you or not. But because I'm 49, it seems very recent for such a change. It was the same time period for the changes here in the US, but I don't know the exact years for legislation. I hope it demonstrates that any western cultural vanity about already achieving complete enlightenment is unfounded. Women's self-determination and economic parity is not yet entrenched, and advancements have been "few and far between" (Engilsh idiom). Even though it had been federal law since 1920, Mississippi didn't ratify the 19th Amendment (women's voting right) until 1984. Yes, it was just a formality, but it tells you a lot.

    In 1965, girls were required to wear dresses to school, and hemlines well above the knee were the only culturally accepted fashion of the time. So even in winter, I walked to school, chilled and pink-mottled thighs exposed. I could no more play on a "jungle gym" in such clothing than I could have in a burqa. I was born with un-stylish legs - knock knees, shapeless calves, top-heavy kneecaps - but had to expose them for review alongside my coltishly limbed companions. I've considered mini-skirts oppressive ever since. It wasn't until I was in high school that girls could wear jeans! These were all public schools, not private or religious! Along with that forced exposure, popular culture defined our bodies as consumer goods to be compared and evaluated. I currently don't even own a pair of shorts, but in this fleeting moment of American history, at least I have that choice.

    So when Kimberley points out the issue of having respect for our bodies, and the choice to do what may honor that, it resonates with me.

  60. I don't know. I'm still confused about your préservatif faux-ami, PHX. This looks quite a bit like an empty-of-milk baby bottle complete with nipple.

  61. Coltrane - I can think of a lot of white guys I would dearly prefer to see covered from head to toe, but I instantly remembered they have been known to abuse the practice.

  62. Can you put a photo of Notre Dame on the site??

  63. What a bunch of clever comments, you guys! Great thread!

    USelaine: I feel your pain!! You know, when I was a kid, they made us (University students, too, I believe?) wear a frock in public schools. The practice was eventually discontinued after the student's little outburst in May of'68.

    Eiffel-Tower Suzy: By the way, it is possible to be a French citizen while living outside the French territory, you know ;) Who knows for how long, though. Wasn't Sarkozy playing with the idea of doing away with that?

  64. Coltrane "Of course, in my family it wasn't allowed to burka at the dinner table." LOL!

    Sooooo... It was fun to see all your comments. Actually I know it's difficult to express yourself on such sensitive matter as it touches religion and Miss Manners has always told us not to deal with such topic in public... So let me thank you very much for your inputs.

    (Marylène, I'm not playing with you, I'm just dealing with what's on the news in Paris/France (well except raw meat maybe!!) LOL.)

    Here is an attempt to explain (and not to justify!) the reason why the Council of State acted this way.

    First, I think a lot of French people are suspicious with religion(s) in general.

    You have to keep in mind, that in France, until the late 60s, the Catholic religion had a pretty strong influence on the French society, especially on women : they had to dress in black if their husband died before them, no such thing as short skirts or "exposed" cleavage was allowed, going out without covering your head was badly considered, not to mention birth control or even divorce... Of course this was stronger in the provinces than in big cities, but still.

    From 68 onwards, they fought for equal rights and they had to win every single of them one by one. Even now, the are are still discrepancies between women and men.

    So when they see a woman in a Burqa they don't think "freedom of religion", they think "return to the times where they lived under strong man influence".

    Besides, I don't think a lot of French people believe that Muslim women wear a veil or a burqa of their free will. Everyone is convinced that they do it because their husband or their social environment gives them no choice.

    What we don't realize, though, we're all in the same situation.
    Take going to mass on Sundays for instance. If you ask a Christian he will probably tell you he goes to church because he decided to and because he wants to serve his God. But no one will tell you "it's because I've been told to do so since my very first age. My parents and all the people around me told me there is a God and I believed them".

    Third. Someone (David) mentioned the Hasidic Jews. I think it is different. The Jews are no proselytes, quite the contrary actually, therefore they are not considered as a "threat" to the average French woman. They remain in their community and do not try to convince everyone that they live the way everyone should.

  65. Eric, Thanks for an interesting evening. Let's see if you can top this one with today's post. David

  66. Goodness, such a refusal would risk being hung drawn and quartered in the UK i reckon. Anything goes over here, it seems to me. I have to say that complete freedom of the wearing of the burqa does raise questions in my mind, e.g. teaching young children, also just the other day, a trial showed how a terrorist was able to escape wearing one, thereby looking like a woman and being unchallenged - i believe it's claimed against the religion to be searched by police, though i'd have to check that, not entirely sure. Sometimes, one's own culture should be protected in one's own country is what i'm saying i suppose and i applaud France for doing so.

  67. I love the photo Eric. My daughter took a lot of photos of very colorful graffiti when she was in Iraq. The graffiti in many scenes is of family life. Women have on burqas and men have their heads covered as well.

    I have a friend in San Diego. She is a fashion designer. She has a woman posing in Provance, France on her home page.

    Her clothing is out of this world. And you can purchase a matching burqa for each and every outfit. I have bought a lot of her tunics because of the needle work. Plus I like the way they fit -- they cover my bum.

    I don't buy the matching burqas though.

  68. Pretty cool stuff, Lois. I wonder how much these burqas cost in US dollars? Just curious.

  69. I would be curious to know what other signs (obvious or not) indicated that the woman had "adopted a radical practice of her religion, incompatible with essential values of the French community, particularly the principle of equality of the sexes." Surely the decision to deny this woman citizenship was not only about her wearing a burqa. (Am I mistaken??)

    Interestingly enough, just yesterday a co-worker and I were discussing how to address freedom of religion when it appears to be to be at odds with the protection of children. The most recent example of this in the U.S. has concerned practices of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints -- issues such as "spiritually marrying" young girls to older men and driving adolescent boys out of the community at "the Prophet's" direction. Not long ago, I saw a program about genital mutilation of young women from certain African tribes; the program indicated that this practice continues even in many African families who have immigrated to the U.K.

    Personally, I am very much in favor of allowing religious freedom. Even when I taught in France, I did not see that allowing a student to wear a religious garment such as a veil or a kippa would interfere with education -- even "laique" (non-religious) education. However, I do believe the government should step in when minors are put at risk of physical abuse under the guise of religion. In terms of denying citizenship ... hmmm ... Was the rejection of this woman's application more on a basis of philosophical differences, or did the Conseil d'Etat consider the woman to be a threat to France? I understand that a burqa may cover signs of abuse and may be a symbol of oppression to some, but the same could be said of other kinds of clothing in other situations.

    Eric, you certainly presented a photo that would spark discussion!

  70. I love PDP and the people who post here. These are wonderful, thoughtful, respectful comments about a very complicated issue.

    Dee, Illinois USA

  71. The photo is wonderful, Eric. So was your explanation toward the end of all these articulate comments. I read some fully, scanned others, so pardon me if I'm repeating something already mentioned by another...."Reading Lolita in Tehran: a Memoir in Books" by Azar Nafisi (a wonderful work) gives a strong and poignant portrayal of her women students' impressions of the veils they were forced to wear outside the home.

    I still like John Lennon's imagining "no religion, too."

  72. Lydia: I loved that book. It helped me understand not just the veil, not just the women, but the people of today's Tehran.

    Yes, imagine.

  73. May I intrude?

    I'm afraid there is a litle confusion over this particular woman's case.

    She was not denied French citizenship on the ground of her clothings, but because she didn't share enough our French way of life.

    Our condition to get French citizenship is : trying to belong to national community, trying to adapt to French way of life and adopt it.
    There is no exam to prove you know about French history, for instance, no need for that, nor knowing national anthem by heart.

    This particular woman told the commission :
    she did not mingle with other people,
    scarcely went outside home
    and when she did, wore this burqa, which is an oriental cloak covering her entire face whith just her eyes showing.

    This was not considered making enough efforts to belong to French community.

    So she is denied citizenship, and that's all she's denied.
    She can still live here the way she likes, with her burqa on.

    Bravo pour l'illustration, Eric!

  74. Great shots y ou always can find some interesting piece

  75. Fascinating comment thread. I agree with PHX-CDG and Guille, for the most part...
    Religious freedom is incredibly important, remember what happened to the Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries in France when it was not considered a priority.
    France does give Muslims equal right to practice their faith, however they conceive of it (yay France!) - and it's really nobody's business WHY the women want to wear a burqa, it's their choice and their battle to fight if they want to NOT wear a burqa.
    But public safety is also important, and to have people of whatever sex running about completely covered and thus unidentifiable isn't a good thing. It's too bad that hijab can't be considered enough by some. That's mostly what I see here in the US, in a small college town in PA.
    If I choose to wear a cross, as a Christian, why not other women a hijab? Who is to say that I am oppressed because I wear a cross? I don't see it that way. And it's my business whether or not I am oppressed!
    Bravo, Guille, for sticking up for freedom of belief and respect for belief, whatever it may be. I also equally believe that one should respect another's choices so I will NEVER be a proselytizer.
    It's fantastic that Eric's blog is an occasion for such great discussions. Thanks, Eric - I am reading ALL your blogs, going back to the beginning, because I learn so much from them. :-)