The French Niqaab Ban

Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim

Salaam Alaikum wa Rahmatullah
Hmm, what do I think about the ban of the niqaab in France.  Tempest in a teapot, that’s what it is.  It is Sarkozy and other politicians pandering to a xenophobic base of citizens in order to score points towards reelection.  It is a distraction from the miserable economy.  It is a reflection of what is going on here in the U.S. with the mosque controversies and various states trying to make Islamic law illegal.  It is ignorance on a countrywide level.  And I’m not surprised in the least.
I think the main difference between what is going on here in the U.S. and what is happening in Europe is based on tribalism.  Tribalism?  In the 21st century?  Indeed.  Let’s just strip away all the nice talk about citizenship and equality and state the truth that no one seems to want to admit:  If you are living in France, and you are not of French blood, you will never be French even if your birth certificate and passport say you are.  If you are living in Germany, and you are of Turkish or Greek extraction, you will never be German even if you are fourth-generation.  You are always going to be an outsider.  You are always going to be an interloper.  The “real” French and Germans, most of them, probably would be happier if you would just go on your merry way.  You know, back to your home country.  Back to Turkey or Algeria or Tunisia or whatever.  You are not welcome there.  Tolerated, yes.  Allowed to do the menial work, wash the dishes, or drive the cabs, or gather the trash.  It’s okay if some of you succeed and integrate, as long as it’s not too many.  Enough so that the ruling caste can hold you up as a model of European equality, but not so many that their kids and grandkids are going to start being more, you know, brown.  There are limits, after all….
Is it different here in the U.S.?  I think so.  Because we pretty much wiped out most of the indigenous population (sorry guys, didn’t know those blankets had smallpox), that means that at some point almost all of us in this country are immigrants.  The WASPs may have gotten here ahead of the  Arabs and Pakistanis and Chinese and all the other melanin-enhanced people, but they are not from here either.  It’s harder, therefore, for them to claim that their culture is more suited to the United States or that the Judeo-Christian ethic has a stronger foothold here than the Islamic one.  They still do say that, mind you, but the argument is much weaker.
So, bearing all that in mind, are you really surprised that the native citizens of European countries are becoming unsettled at having all the foreigners in their midst?  Not just the color of their skin, but their different religious beliefs and cultural habits.  They see themselves as the norm and everything else as the exception.  Add to that the fact that many Muslims nowadays are ignorant of their own faith and bring backwards cultural practices with them, and you can almost understand why they are hostile towards Muslims and Islamic practices.  The ban on the niqaab is only the most visible symbol of their unease.  I mean, imagine if you are living in Saudi Arabia and an American wanted to walk down the street in a g-string.  It would violate your religion and your culture, and you would feel perfectly comfortable seeing a police officer asking that person to cover up.  
But that’s different, you say.  Islam is the truth and it’s our faith and we have a right to practice our faith.   Well, maybe in a Muslim country you do, but France is decidedly secular, with of course more rights given to the Christian faith because they don’t like Islam.  That is the reality.  
So, what does a niqaab-wearing Muslim woman in France do?  As of yesterday, she either takes off the veil, stays home,  or risks arrest and a fine.  Or she can do what Muslims are told to do by Allah when they are not able to worship Allah openly.  She can leave.  She can leave France and go to a country that will allow her to wear the veil.  Remember, when we cannot practice our deen, it becomes fard, required, for us to leave that country if we have the means to do so.  The problem with this is, the oppression in the country she left was often greater than it is in France, so she would possibly be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.  And not everyone has the means to leave.  If you arrived in France as a refugee with nothing but the clothes on your back, you may be stuck where you are.  In that case, you just have to do the best you can do, and ask Allah to make a way for you.  In the meantime, sure, you can go out and demonstrate and try to work within the existing political structure to have the ban struck down, but don’t think for one moment that the majority of French citizens will support you.  After all dear, you’re not actually French, now are you?

The Kerfluffle in the Kingdom? The Diss in the Desert? The Arabian Issue?
Between the Extremes We Stand and Speak
Okay, at least the kids are in school today
Give up something forbidden for Allah’s sake
  • purvis

    I love your article about this–it really touches on the complexity of this issue. One thing that still bothers me, though, is that my impression of Europe is that it's supposed to be… progressive, right? Wouldn't that imply tolerance and egalitarianism? This is all in theory, of course. Whatever someone stands for will always come in second to how they actually *are*, and your observations of tribalism are very astute.

  • Hijabi Apprentice

    "I mean, imagine if you are living in Saudi Arabia and an American wanted to walk down the street in a g-string."Exactly! I'm an American convert who wears hijab and my opinion pretty much echoes that of Nancy. I don't think it's right to have such a pointed discriminatory practice in place but it is what it is.I have the same reaction when Americans/Europeans go to KSA to work and constantly complain about the restrictions or when foreigners come to the US by choice for work and complain about how evil the West is. **rolls eyes**We can struggle for rights within the legal system that is in place.

  • Nancy Shehata

    Anonymous, I do agree that there are people (like me, an American revert with Native roots), who are indigenous to the country and who have accepted Islam. I'm not writing so much to express a view of whether this situation is good or bad, I am merely writing to say that it exists and I don't think we should be particularly surprised. The culture of a Germany or a France or an Italy is due to their ethnic base, an ethnic base that is tribal in nature just as it is in India and Saudi and much of the rest of the world. Just like I, an American, could go and live in Saudi for the rest of my life, but I could never BE Saudi because I'm not from their tribe. It is a mixture of a dislike for the moral teaches of Islam and the dislike of foreigners AND the dislike of the negative aspects of the culture from which some immigrants come that colors the attitudes of the natives. We have to recognize it before we can deal with it, and we can't expect that we can change the minds of the majority of the people.

  • Anonymous

    As salaamu alaikum, disagree. Being an American that lives overseas, I've met a lot of "French" sisters, born and raised there, with long past generations, "French-French", not immigrants. It's not the nationality, it's Islam. And as an American Muslimah yourself I'm surprised at your view. While the immigrants are highlighted, they aren't the only ones. While I do agree with migrating as commanded by Allah, some of them would be leaving their own country.

  • Natalie L. Komitsky