Monday, December 08, 2003

Time Magazine Europe, in this article, Seven Days Of Hatred , recounts the many and various kinds of hate crimes committed on the European continent -- especially against Jews, Roma, gay people, and Muslims (via Andrew Sullivan).

In the last few days I have read an article about prominent feminists in France who have called for banning the veil (hijab) in French schools and universities, on the basis that it furthers the oppression of women in Islam. I wonder what they are thinking. Do they really imagine this will free Muslim women? Instead it will make it further impossible for Muslim women to contemplate being both Muslim and modern, or Muslim and feminist. If the state officially opposes women wearing hijab, it makes the state seem anti-Muslim, and it makes wearing hijab seem like an action that strikes a blow for Islam.

It seems to me that we have here a contemporary example of the 19th century French "civilizing mission," in which Jews and other colonized peoples (especially in the French North African colonies) must conform to what the metropolis considers to be "civilized" in order to attain a modicum of acceptance. When the French Assembly was debating whether to emancipate the Jews of France just after the Revolution, one formulation put forward was to give all rights to the Jews as individuals, but none to the Jews as a group -- in other words, for Jews really to receive equal treatment as French citizens, they had to lose all signs of a distinctive Jewish religious and especially ethnic identity.

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