“Constraint is Intolerable”

by matttbastard

Andrew Bacevich, reviewing Jane Mayer’s new book The Dark Side:

That fear should trump concern for due process and indeed justice qualifies as a recurring phenomenon in American history. In 1919, government-stoked paranoia about radicalism produced the Red Scare. After Pearl Harbor, hysteria mixed with racism led to the confinement of some 110,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps. The onset of the Cold War triggered another panic, anxieties about a new communist threat giving rise to McCarthyism. In this sense, the response evoked by 9/11 looks a bit like déjà vu all over again: Frightened Americans, more worried about their own safety than someone else’s civil liberties, allowed senior government officials to exploit a climate of fear.

Although Mayer does not dwell on this historical context, her account suggests implicitly that the present period differs in at least one crucial respect. Whereas the earlier departures from the rule of law represented momentary if egregious lapses in democratic practice, the abuses orchestrated from within the Bush administration suggest that democracy itself is fast becoming something of a sham. From Mayer, we learn that in George W. Bush’s Washington, the decisions that matter are made in secret by a handful of presidential appointees committed to the proposition that nothing should inhibit the exercise of executive power. The Congress, the judiciary, the bureaucracy, the “interagency process” — all of these constitute impediments that threaten to constrain the president. In a national security crisis, constraint is intolerable. Much the same applies to the media and, by extension, to the American people: The public’s right to know extends no further than whatever the White House wishes to make known.

h/t Laura Rozen

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Citizenship and Submission

by matttbastard

I’m having trouble reconciling the following with “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”:

France has denied citizenship to a Moroccan woman who wears a burqa on the grounds that her “radical” practice of Islam is incompatible with basic French values such as equality of the sexes.

[…]

The woman, known as Faiza M, is 32, married to a French national and lives east of Paris. She has lived in France since 2000, speaks good French and has three children born in France. Social services reports said she lived in “total submission” to her husband. Her application for French nationality was rejected in 2005 on the grounds of “insufficient assimilation” into France. She appealed, invoking the French constitutional right to religious freedom and saying that she had never sought to challenge the fundamental values of France. But last month the Council of State, France’s highest administrative body, upheld the ruling.

“She has adopted a radical practice of her religion, incompatible with essential values of the French community, particularly the principle of equality of the sexes,” it said.

The article goes on to explain the Council of State’s definition of ‘radical’:

The legal expert who reported to the Council of State said the woman’s interviews with social services revealed that “she lives almost as a recluse, isolated from French society”.

The report said: “She has no idea about the secular state or the right to vote. She lives in total submission to her male relatives. She seems to find this normal and the idea of challenging it has never crossed her mind.”

The woman had said she was not veiled when she lived in Morocco and had worn the burqa since arriving in France at the request of her husband. She said she wore it more from habit than conviction.

Someone who adheres to a non-mainstream religious practice “out of habit” rather than “conviction” doesn’t strike me as all that “radical”.

Daniele Lochak, a law professor not involved in the case, said it was bizarre to consider that excessive submission to men was a reason not to grant citizenship. “If you follow that to its logical conclusion, it means that women whose partners beat them are also not worthy of being French,” he told Le Monde.

I really do find the use of the term “radical” interesting. The connotations are that the practice of Faiza M’s beliefs somehow pose an existential threat to French society, thus the rationale behind the denial of citizenship. And it’s telling that it’s the women who always seems to be the ones who are placed in the position of having to justify their existence (damned if you do, damned if you don’t).

But what about the men to whom she has “submitted”? They are already French citizens, and seem to be facing no consequences for making such “radical” demands upon Faiza in the first place. She has, in effect, been denied agency, reduced to a wayward vessel who deserves to be punished for, in effect, not saying ‘non’ as a ‘real’ Frenchwoman would (except when they don’t, as pointed out in the article). Once again, Muslims–specifically, Muslimahs–who dare to practice their oh-so-freaky religion in ways the majority find distasteful serve as public whipping posts for the sins of the nebulous ‘other’ which, by virtue of mere existence, is apparently chipping away at the structural integrity of the liberal democratic secular state.

And that’s really all I feel comfortable saying at this point, and probably won’t comment further, apart from moderation duties. I would much prefer to hear from women–especially Muslimahs–about what they think and how they feel about this.

Thoughts?

Update: Also see this thread @ BnR started by Chrystal Ocean of Challenging the Commonplace.

Edited at Chrystal’s recommendation (thanks!) to incorporate additional commentary originally posted at BnR/in comments in slightly different form (ie, I corrected some typos)

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