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.


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)

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

20 thoughts on “Citizenship and Submission

  1. I will just transfer what I wrote on another blog here:
    Why does she want to live in france? wouldn’t it be better for her to live in morrocco? you move to a country because you want to either take advantage of the economic and/or cultural freedom, opportunities…she is not workin, she does not socialize and it seems have even gotten more muslim i.e. wearing the burqua after moving to why does she want to live in France? The law will prevent her children from wearing muslim clothing to school? she probably wont let her girls be educated? it is not healthy living for a western world…we should be able to criticize this behaviour in a non muslim country..if i move to for eg saudia arabia , as a woman i have to give all my western freedom, if i refuse to change and drive, i would be arrested, my husband will have to give me permission to travel or travel with me…if i challenge this i would be ask to leave, where are the comments against this? why do we always attack western countries when they take such stands? why not attack muslim countries who restrict immigrants from western world when they move to their countries..we dont like their laws so we try not immigrate to their country so this woman should go back to morroco…what is her purpose to live in france? have children and sit at home? she wont even get to see the culture of france, she would only be limited to a morrocain way of life…she would be much free to do that in morroco…i am not anti muslim, or anti immigrant, i am myself an immigrant and i am sure my skin color will not be so welcomed in france but the point of this is that this woman is not contributing anything to the french society…she is not trying to improve on her life post morocco, she is just having children, if God forbid her husband should die and she is left alone, How will she be able to take care of her children? she would take from the state as she wont be able to get a job….if she was born in france then it is her right to be, but it is also France’s right to CHOOSE who they want in their country…it was USA and not france who said send me your tired, weak, blah blah…france is xenophobic yes, they even reject jobs to the people from their west indian french departments, if Sarkozy could annex Martinique and Gwada I am sure he would and many in france would not complain, but it is France’s right to accept who becomes citizen or reject…and how will this woman participate in liberty, fraternity and equality? she does not socialize with her other french people of non muslim faith, she separates herself from central french society, she actually lives un french as she is not free to move, make a decision unless by her male family memebers and she present herself as inequal to her family members, so she rejected herself from french society before they did…i agree with the french


  2. Matt, your comment regarding men’s role is important and one that is seldom raised. I suggest you edit your post and add that commentary to it. Many people will read only the post and not the comments which (hopefully!) follow.


  3. Once again, Muslims–specifically Muslimahs–who practice their freaky religion in ways the majority find distasteful serve as public whipping post for the sins of the nebulous ‘other’ who, by virtue of mere existence, is chipping away at the integrity of the liberal democratic secular state.

    This is how I see it. There are some Christian sects that are wholly committed to having women subservient to their menfolk, some even wear unusual clothing that identifies them as such, but I bet these women would not be branded “radical” or subject to such a harsh ruling.

    I also think its appalling to judge a woman’s behaviour as a legal bench mark. What if some behaviour is judged as being too promiscuous to be considered what a “real” Frenchwoman would do.

    This reminds me of the good old days when lawyers could dissect a woman’s behaviour in rape cases to prove that she was complicit in some way.


  4. I’m glad you asked for thoughts, rather than reactions.

    I must admit my first sympathies are with the French authorities. Not every practice of other cultures needs to be tolerated. But then I reflected on the women in burqas here, whose right to vote was placed in jeopardy by all four parties in Parliament.

    And then I flip to the inevitable quasi-slippery slope argument–if submission-by-costume is “un-French,” then what about submission-by-domestic-assault, or submission-by-continual-sexist-advertising.

    Yet I prefer secularism, and equality, and liberty–I’ll give “fraternity” a pass.

    Should a host country have no rights whatsoever to determine which imported practices merit citizenship, and which don’t?

    I’m still chewing. I’ll let you know.


  5. Actually, I’m reminded of a recent U.S. enforcement of ‘the law’ ( not so much ). What was the deal when female minors and their children were the ones evicted from their homes and the men who were putatively abusing them suffered no such action ? The children were made de facto ‘wards of the state’ and inoculations protested by parents as unnecessary endangerment enforced without opposition.
    The state’s conduct in child care was a scandal in the time of Dickens : there are no ties of emotion and loyalty between kids evicted from contact with their family and the misguided/brainwashed minions of the state. There is a reason why parents’ role in child-raising has such a powerful traditional base : the state makes a privatized institution of child slavery if allowed to do so.


  6. Morocco won’t let anyone become a citizen of their country. This stance much more harsh than that of the French in this case.


  7. Mm. S/B in U.S. Makes you think they’re closer to Sharia than they would ever admit. The French situation is, of course, wildly different. I can’t speak as to what they think they are accomplishing with this ruling : it seems too much of a good thing.


  8. No, not you, opit–my comments were directed towards that ‘mike’ troll whose comments proceeded yours. I immediately recognized the parallel in your example, and apologize for any misunderstanding.



  9. You know, if we are going to overthrow the fascist man-bastards of the right we need more voters like this nice woman here as citizens of whatever fascist, racist shithole country we are trying to cleanse of racist, fascist heteronormative meanies. So, we should demand action and ask tough questions! We demand answers!

    This woman has ever right to demand the rights that everyone else has, especially when it means one more vote for progressive causes and support for more and more adequate social spending.

    Let us pull together as a team and ensure that we have open borders and generous supports for our new comers … so we can silence the extreme right, the far right, the extreme far right, and the far extreme right.


  10. And, do not forget the religious right, the religious far right, the religious extreme right, the religious far extreme right, and the religious extreme far right. Comrade Dawg should renounce his Trotskyite devationist line and support the position of the Central Party.


  11. I can’t fathom what kind of masochistic kick Palaidia gets by keeping you around as her pet troll, Fenris. Personally, I think you’re the sort of fascist man-bastard of the head-up-its-ass-right whose presence invites something other than constructive discourse.

    Please don’t post here again.


  12. This week ? Don’t rush.
    Matt : I often say ‘hi’ on the way through while newsblogging. Unhappily, my last 3 posts have been lost due to dropped connectivity – that’s why nothing is up yet.


  13. The last thing any westerm democracy needs is extremist religion. Unfortunately we have our home-grown versions to deal with, but I think the French are totally within their rights to deny citizenship to anyone with extreme views; men and women. The issue that seems to bother some of you is that the ruling applies to the woman only. I would agree that this is unfair and the men responsible for her subjugation should also be denied citizenship (if they do not already have it).

    In my view, nobody should be allowed to walk the streets with a mask over their face, unless for health reasons. Apart from the misogyny, the burkha is downright creepy and can be used as a coverup for those committing crimes. Just ask the British.

    Religion is just too ridiculous an excuse for all sorts of noxious divisions in society and I see no reason for any nation not to be able to protect itself from problems caused by fanatics.


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