France: whither the hijab intifada?
The on-again/off-again Parisian intifada has exploded again, this time over the arrest of a man whose wife was ticketed for wearing a face veil in the suburb of Trappes. Police say the man "tried to strangle" the officer doing the ticketing. The Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) published a statement on its website from the wife of the arrested man, accusing the police of being abusive and using unnecessary force. The incident was on the night of the 18th, and Muslim youth have been clashing with the police in Trappes since then. (Islamophobia Watch, July 21; AP, July 20)
OK, we confess to having mixed feelings on the hijab question. We have noted that many feminists from the Islamic world support the hijab ban in France, arguing that the hijab is a symbol of women's oppression and never truly voluntary. On the other hand, the law provides another excuse for police harassment of a stigmatized immigrant group. As we've noted (more than once), in Europe there is currently a strange convergence of xenophobia and cultural supremacy with secularism and feminism. Some, most notably the UK-based Iranian feminist Maryam Namazie, have started to grapple with this contradiction. And is having police patrol the streets to enforce the hijab ban in France ultimately any better than police patroling the streets to enforce the hijab in Iran or Saudi Arabia?
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