Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bothersome Burqas

Well, those wacky French are at it again. You know, the French, those magnanimous Gallic people who are so completely convinced that their immigration program is correct that by government decree, everyone who lives in France is by definition French. The French are really serious about this; they think that the ideals of the Republic (“Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” and all that) require the policy. They are so gung ho that the government doesn’t keep any records regarding race; why would it, when everybody is simply French?

Unfortunately, the millions of Arabs--er, formerly Arab French—whom the French French have allowed to immigrate had the unmitigated gall (sorry) to expect to retain some of their traditional Muslim dress, particularly for their women. This utterly unpredictable stubbornness did not sit well with the French sense of fashion, so a year or two ago the French banned head scarves in schools. French French girls did not normally wear head scarves to school; the law was clearly aimed at formerly Arab French girls.

The head scarf ban apparently worked so well that the French have now decided to improve upon it in the obvious manner: by banning all burqa style facial veils worn in public (bashful Muslim women can still wear the veils in private, but on the street they have to let Francois, Pierre, et al gaze upon their faces). After all, if you’re going to ban covering one’s hair, why not go all the way and ban veils over faces as well? While some suspicious individuals might suspect that the French French may be trying to get rid of formerly Arab French by making life unacceptable to them, it seems obvious that the real purpose of the law is benign: to help the Muslim immigrants assimilate into French culture, particularly French high fashion.

Nevertheless, within minutes of the French Parliament’s passage of the law today, somebody made separate bomb threats against Parliament, Notre Dame, and the Eifel Tower. Rumor has it that NYC Mayor Bloomberg immediately opined that the culprits are probably disgruntled French French rightwingers. At any rate, immigrant Muslim French need to get used to this sort of law, because rumor also has it that the French Parliament is considering passing the following additional measures:

a) Mandatory attendance at topless and/or nude beaches (this is seen as the logical extension of the existing measures);
b) Mandatory consumption of at least five kilos of pate per annum;
c) Mandatory mime appreciation courses; and
d) Banning mosque attendance twice monthly, to be replaced by mandatory attendance at utterly depressing black and white films, preferably directed by pedophiles.

Regarding the last measure, one member of Parliament proposed on humanitarian grounds that the government forego the films and simply attempt to convert the Muslims to Catholicism. His proposal was immediately rejected as reactionary and inconsistent with secular French society, and he is apparently going to be prosecuted for hate speech.

My own position is that the ban on burqas for both women and men is far too broad and overreaching, particularly on those beaches.

W. Reed Smith

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