Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Maybe She Should have Mimed

How French do you have to be to be French? Apparently, wearing something like a burqa or chador (called a niqab - endless names out there) is insufficient. Since I hate it when people post links in comments or on the blog (or in personal emails to me) without some hint of what's at the end of the link, let me tell you. A woman was denied French citizenship - and this was just upheld by a high court today - a Muslim woman who sheaths herself in a head-to-toe veil was denied French citizenship because she had not assimilated enough into French society. Apparently, the woman called "Faiza X," in the papers was denied citizenship because she had "adopted a radical practice of her religion incompatible with the essential values of the French community, notably with the principle of equality of the sexes, and therefore she does not fulfill the conditions of assimilation" listed in the Civil Code.

I would like an American court to say that the principle of equality of the sexes is an essential value of the American community.

As an American, I find the French decision a little shocking. Freedom of religion is also an essential part of our values. And it - not equality of the sexes, thanks to longstanding Republican opposition - is enshrined in the constitution. Do people need reminding that the GOP is the reason we don't have an Equal Rights Amendment?

I find the French solution more palatable than the British, however, who would admit the radical Islamic woman and subject her to some form of Sharia law in family affairs.

What do you all think of this decision?


Bert Q. Slushbrow, Sr. said...

I think the French decision in this case was the correct one. I just don't see anything wrong with it.

USwest said...

I agree with it. The French are more honest that we are in this regard. And they, like us, have serious national security concerns. Someone like that, on her surface is a risk! I can tell you that where I work, many people, for some reason, submit pictures with their resumes. It is because they come from abroad and they don't know better. And my friend, who has a hand in hiring told me that he quietly puts any one pictured in the veil aside. Likewise, any one, man or woman, who lists an Islamic school as a univeristy in their resume is set aside quietly. I'd so the same, the liberal that I think I am.

France has suffered a great deal from both Christian and Islamic fundamentalist religion in its history (remember Poitiers!). France, remember had relgious wars between Catholics and Protestants for years! So their desire for a secular society comes from their shared history of religious oppression. We are in a time when we do have to protect our own fundamental vaules, even if that means we occasionally appear to contradict them. What is the difference, really, between this and the Dane's publishing pictures of Mohammed to make a point?

Dr. Strangelove said...

I cannot agree with the French decision. The woman's religious practices involved nothing illegal. This decision is just Muslim-bashing. Of course I strongly disagree with any set of values, religious or otherwise, that denies the equality of the sexes. But quietly putting to the side anyone who wears a veil is also wrong. In the long run, I believe intolerance is a greater danger than radical Islam.

Bert Q. Slushbrow, Sr. said...

To be fair it isn't as simple as "...putting to the side anyone who wears a veil...".

Specifically she lost the case because she "...adopted a radical practice of her religion incompatible with the essential values of the French community, notably with the principle of equality of the sexes, and therefore she does not fulfill the conditions of assimilation".

I think the French have a right to expect a certain minimum of compliance with their general social values. I'm actually pleased to see them take such a stand. I'm against intolerance but I also believe that tolerance is a two-way street and extreme religious views rarely, if ever, are willing to reciprocate in this.

Dr. Strangelove said...

When I wrote, "...putting to the side anyone who wears a veil..." I was actually referring to USWest's comment (above) regarding résumé photos.

Regarding "minimum" compliance with general social values, I think "law-abiding" is a sufficient standard. Within those limits, one's opinions and manner of dress should not be dictated by the state. The woman in question was not attempting to dress others in a niqab.

Raised By Republicans said...

US West, I fear this has more to do with Vichy than Poitiers.

I'm sympathetic to the steps European governments are taking to prevent their modern, democratic socieities from being hijacked by a wave of intollerant, rural, traditionalist immigrants from the Middle East. This is what is going on in the Netherlands and Denmark as well.

But I think there should be a sharp division between things like demonstrations calling for the murder of some artist or other (or actually murdering them as happened in the Netherlands) and expressing religious belief throuh clothing.

France is banning the veil. What's next? Beards? Didn't the Russians try that once?

Seriously, the next thing will be to ban male clothing styles that make one look obviously Muslim (like skull caps and beards).

USWest said...

Look, you knew this argument was coming. If I go to a Muslim country likes say . . . Saudi or Iran . . . as a woman, I am expected to observe their rules of dress and conduct. They do not make an exception for me. I don't get to wear a sign that says, "I'm an Occidental Christian woman!" The morality police will come beat me. If I say something against the government, they will jail me or send me home. We tell our citizens that if you break the law abroad, you suffer the consequences.

There are values, norms, and laws in our society. The French have made it clear that in their law, the veil is a religious signal and they are secular, egalitarian society. And while I normally say that we should be tolerant, my patience is tested every day on this. I am expected to sit back and allow women to be suppressed by their male colleagues because they are Persian and that is their team dynamic. Bull shit.

DR. S, you are right about the dangers of quiet discrimination. But my setting, security is a very big deal. American law doesn't allow you to question someone about their religious beliefs in the hiring process. And it so happens that suicide bombers are fundamentalist. And so, you have to use proxies and avoid the problem altogether. Our law doesn't make it easy to fire these people either if they can't do their jobs. And you can't teach Americans if they can't see your face. Sorry. That is how it is. If I was hiring, I'd do the same thing simply because I couldn't manage someone that I couldn't see. So why get stuck with the problem? And as I write this, I realize people in the south said the something similar about blacks. Yet this is different somehow. It is discrimination based on ideology rather than race. Sort of like . . .communism.

It is no different than the flap in the UK a few years ago when the Jack Straw commented that communication with some of the Muslim members of his constituency would be made easier if they would uncover their faces. He was pilloried for saying that and refusing to meet with covered women. And there was no compromise. The women wouldn't agree to just cover their hair so they could meet with him. We had quite a discussion on this at the time. And I recall that I agreed with Straw then. Sorry. You live here, you have to adjust. If she wanted to wear her veil and if she wasn't radical, then that is one thing. But the French court determined otherwise. Jehovah Witnesses dress a certain way, but they aren't so far out of the norm you can't deal with them. Orthodox Jewish women wear wigs in order to comply with the rules of their religion while remaining within the social norms of the U.S. It wasn't this Moroccan woman's her veil so much as her ideology as Bert pointed out.

We discussed on this blog long and hard what types of limits on Free Speech there should be. We admitted then that rights and freedoms do not give you the right or freedom to whatever your want. And if you push too hard in one direction, there has to be a limit and a consequence. So there you go. It's less about protection of our norms and values than about respect for them.

USwest said...

P.S. I have also learned that there is a big gap sometimes between what works practically and our better ideas. If you could assimulate someone into French Society while allowing the veil, that would be great. But I doubt this works practically. Sometimes, ideals have to be compromised on for the practical.

Raised By Republicans said...

Of course Saudi Arabia has some backward and intollerant laws. But playing cultural policy tit-for-tat with a heriditary theocracy/monarchy is not a sound basis for policy making in a liberal democracy.

I really would put this in a different category from some other things European governments have done. When the Danish government stands up to defend cartoonists and the newspapers that publish them they are making a stand in favor of more liberty against people who insist on less. But when a French government bans the veil, the government is making a stand for less liberty.

Interestingly, I just had reason (don't ask why) to read about a case a few years back in Denmark where a Muslim woman was fired from a grocery store because she wore a head scarf. The courts ruled that she could in fact be fired for this reason on the grounds that she had agreed to a company dress code that forbad outward displays of religious expression. Her legal case was supported and paid for by her union. So we had a situation of a Socialist union (probably anti-clerical) championing the cause of freedom of religious expression against a corporation (the executives of which are much more likely to be tied to the official Danish Church).

Dr. Strangelove said...

USWest, I do not mind requiring a bare face while teaching a class. Eye-to-eye contact is an important part of American classroom instruction, especially with children. This is an acceptable job requirement because it is not intended to discriminate against religion. (For example, a Muslim would be free to wear a head-scarf at all times, and could wear a veil while going about her non-instructional duties.)

One should not set aside a woman's resume merely because she wears a veil in her photograph, however. If her experience merits an interview, grant it--but it probably would be wise to mention at some point the "no-veil" requirement associated with classroom instruction time in case that poses a problem.

On a similar note, working as an equal in a collaborative environment is also a sensible job requirement. Whatever your social habits may be outside of work, if you cannot do that in a professional setting, that is a performance issue.

Tell me: how do you feel about cross-dressing in the workplace, USWest? Or men wearing earrings?

USwest said...

Men can wear earings. Cross dressing: So long as you are fashionable, what do I care.;-) Just kidding. I don't think I'd allow that either. Sorry. Not on company time especially if it is a distraction. Again, it isn't about bnanning the veil. It is about fundamentalist attitudes that create problems. Setting aside a resume is wrong. But in a case of a veil, I will admit my prejudice and be wrong. In fact, I should distinguish a bit better: Veils that don't cover the face are fine with me and we have many at my place of business that do that. Head to do covering a la Saudi or Afghanistan is not acceptable and I would expect these folks to conform.

Raised By Republicans said...

What about high heels? Can we ban them? They are all about imposing discomfort on women unequally, right?

The Law Talking Guy said...

Cross-dressing at work is protected by law in San Francisco and other places. In fact, I think it may now be California law, but I can't recall if that bill was passed.

I think the traditional American approach is to be extremely tolerant of religious diversity (not welcoming and accepting, but tolerant, if you understand the difference), but relatively intolerant of racial diversity or political extremism. This is a bias in our history. Mormons were hounded out of the country (literally - to Utah which was Mexican territory when they arrived) because of their theocratic-dictatorial governance (all voting in identical blocs as directed by the prophet, a city government at Nauvoo that put all power in the hands of the prophet, including habeas corpus), not really their theology. Religious tolerance (any kind of Christian...) was part of many early colonies who provided refuges for Europeans fleeing persecution at home, Huguenots, English Catholics and Puritans alike. Freedom of worship was one of Roosevelt's Four Freedoms (Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear). Communists and socialists have fared far worse. So it's not surprising that Americans on this blog are more favorably disposed to the French decision to the extent it is considered exclusion of a political radical rather than a (merely) religious radical.

Of course, you see in this the true tendency of Americans - with their majority Christian population - to afford broad protections to religious minorities so long as they accept minority status and stay out of politics.