matttbastard at Muslimah Media Watch

by matttbastard

My thanks to the fine folks at Muslimah Media Watch for crossposting my post on Faiza M:

Muslimah Media Watch is a forum where we, as Muslim women, can critique how our images appear in the media and popular culture. Although we are of different nationalities, sects, races, etc., we have something important in common: we’re tired of seeing ourselves portrayed by the media in ways that are one-dimensional and misleading. This is a space where, from a Muslim feminist perspective, we can speak up for ourselves.

As Muslim feminists we aim to locate and critique misogyny, sexism, patriarchy, Islamophobia, racism, and xenophobia as they affect Muslim women. Furthermore, we believe in equality — regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, and ability.

This blog is meant to be inclusive to all people, with a special focus on Muslim women. MMW strives to create an environment in which our writers and readers feel safe and welcome. We ask that you be considerate towards others and their opinions. This is a respectful forum for dialogue, not argument or personal attacks.

Add MMW to your bookmarks/blogroll/subscriptions (assuming you haven’t already done so)

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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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“The only reason to call that…a ‘demographic winter’ is if you’re overly focused on which babies are being born.”

by matttbastard

Kathryn Joyce on anti-choicers, European xenophobia, and the “The Demographic Winter”.

More here and here.

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More on the Demographic Winter

by matttbastard

Fern in comments:

Well, it’s sad to see this creeping into Europe, but there’s always been a strong streak of racism among the fetus fetishists in North America: ‘Too many of Them and not enough of Us are breeding.’

Yup. Peel off the “innocent unborn” rhetoric and a lot of ’em are simply selling good ol’ fashioned white nationalism under the noble guise of saving Western Civilization from imminent collapse. Of course, for anyone who doesn’t fit the proper socioeconomic/ethnic standard, reproduction should be considered a privilege, to be strictly *ahem* regulated by those who claim to always support Life™ (except when they don’t).

‘We’ must make sure we’re only loading our quivers with proper arrows–and don’t get any funny, Feminazi-inspired thoughts about betraying your country and your biological destiny by putting on your shoes and leaving the kitchen, ladies.

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The Demographic Winter

by matttbastard

The latest issue of The Nation features a disturbing cover story by Kathryn Joyce on how the American religious far-right is tapping nativist insecurity in Europe to take its made-in-the-USA anti-choice message global.

A sample:

The imminent demise of Europe is a popular prediction these days, with books such as Catholic scholar George Weigel’s The Cube and the Cathedral, Melanie Phillips’s Londonistan, Bruce Bawer’s While Europe Slept and Pat Buchanan’s Death of the West all appearing since 2001. The 2006 film Children of Men sketched a sterile, dystopian world thrown into chaos for lack of babies (though with less blatant antiabortion implications than the Christian allegorical P.D. James novel on which it was based). The media increasingly sound the alarm as Eastern European countries register birthrates halved since the last generation. And on February 11, the Family First Foundation, a profamily group in the same movement circles as [Steve] Mosher and [Christine] de Vollmer, released a documentary dedicated to the threat: Demographic Winter: The Decline of the Human Family.

What was a conservative drumbeat about Europe’s death has become mainstream media shorthand, complementing ominous news items about Muslim riots in France; Muslim boycotts in London; Muslim “veil” debates in Denmark; and empty European churches transformed into mosques, with calls to prayer replacing church bells. Evangelical luminary Chuck Colson, head of the vast Prison Fellowship ministry and a close ally of George W. Bush, espoused a conspiracy theory in which he construed an Islamic Council of Europe handbook for Muslims trying to keep the faith abroad as a “soft terrorism” plot for takeover. The late Oriana Fallaci lambasted Europe’s transformation into a Muslim colony, “Eurabia.” And in a recent political match in Switzerland, a campaign poster depicted a flock of white sheep kicking a black sheep out of their pasture, “For Greater Security.” The refrain is that the good-faith multicultural tolerance approach of the Netherlands has been tried and has failed, which is arguably a few polite steps from Mosher’s summary of the problem: that Muslim immigrants are simply “too many and too culturally different from their new countries’ populations to assimilate quickly…. They are contributing to the cultural suicide of these nations as they commit demographic suicide.” Or, as he declared while rallying a gathering of profamily activists last spring in Poland, “I want to see more Poles!”

Or more Russians, or more Italians, as the case may be. The fever for more “European” babies is widespread. The last two popes have involved themselves in the debate, with John Paul II pronouncing a “crisis of births” in 2002 in an anomalous papal address to Italy’s Parliament and Benedict XVI remarking on the “tragedy” of childless European couples and beatifying an Italian peasant woman for raising twelve children.

At the national level, in 2004 Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi offered a “baby bonus” of about $1,000 to parents who had a second child, and Russia, which has a history of pronatalist policies, including its 1980s-era “motherhood medals,” sweetened the offer to its citizens with several birth initiatives for hesitant couples, including an $8,900 award to families who produce a second child and a stipend of 40 percent of salary to women who leave work to become stay-at-home moms. One Russian province made novelty news worldwide with its Day of Conception on September 12, when residents of Ulyanovsk got time off work to “conceive a patriot” for the country. Prizes for successful delivery nine months later include refrigerators and cars. The theme is present enough in the popular consciousness that a Swedish underwear company cashed in on the anxiety with a provocative ad campaign featuring a cast of Nordic men wearing EU-type lapel pins, commanding Swedes to Fuck for the Future and Drop Your Pants or Drop Dead.

The nativist motivations for such campaigns move beyond the subliminal at times. Elizabeth Krause, an anthropologist and author of A Crisis of Births: Population Politics and Family-Making in Italy, tracked that country’s population efforts over the past decade and found politicians demanding more babies “to keep away the armadas of immigrants from the southern shores of the Mediterranean” and priests calling for a “Christian dike against the Muslim invasion of Italy.” The racial preferences behind Berlusconi’s “baby bonus” came into embarrassing relief when immigrant parents were accidentally sent checks for their offspring and then asked to return the money: the Italian government hadn’t meant to promote those births.

The American Christian right, increasingly seeking influence abroad, has recognized that this anxiety over shifting national identities creates fertile terrain for spreading its ideology of traditional sexual morality as a quick fix for a postmodern age.

Related: Chris Hedges has more on the “creeping Christian chauvinism [that] has infected our political and social discourse” and how “[t]he public denigration of Islam, and by implication all religious belief systems outside Christianity, is part of the triumphalism that has distorted the [US] since the 9/11 attacks.”

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More On The NDP And Bill C-6

by matttbastard

[cobbled together from various comments/forum posts, edited substantially for coherency]

Ok, so we’ve heard from the NDP (sort of). And if the NDP kills the bill, great.

But upon reflection (thanks, skdadl) I think my last post was itself too mealy-mouthed in reaction to what amounts to awkward damage control by the Dippers. The NDP dropped the ball and still hasn’t picked it up–period. Some may be comforted by Dewar’s non-response, but, rather than clarifying the Dipper position on C-6, I find it further muddies the water.

Dewar’s letter, and the response from some hardcore NDP partisans, rubs me the wrong way. “Muslims see this as a non-issue” was initially the preferred talking point of some Dipper apologists (we’ll leave aside the crass notion of Muslims in Canada holding monolithic views). But this is a misrepresentation of what has been said by some (some) leaders in the Islamic community who have spoken out in regards to the (non) issue. Here’s an example courtesy the Halifax Daily News:

The veiled voting controversy is a tempest in search of a teapot, says Saleem Ahmad, president of the Islamic Association of Nova Scotia. Framed in the context of “reasonable accommodation,” a national firestorm has been raging over the issue of whether Muslim women can vote while covering their faces with veils.

“It’s just the hypocrisy of the government,” Ahmad says.

“There was no controversy. The Muslim community never complained. The women would gladly take off their veil for a woman official.”

He points out that no one is required to show photo ID to vote, and postal voting does not require photo ID. Further, he estimates that 300 women in all of Canada wear the veil.

Hamzah Mangera, the imam at the Dartmouth mosque, agrees it is a non-issue. His wife, who wears a veil, happily removes it in private for female officials when using her passport to cross borders.

Mangera says the row points to a deeper issue of fears over cultural integration, as illustrated by the “code of conduct” produced by Herouxvile, Que., which informed newcomers that stoning women was prohibited and that women should show their faces in public, apart from Halloween.

Ahmad blames an outburst of xenophobia against Muslims, led by “that idiot down south” (U.S. President George W. Bush) and a lack of nerve among Canadian politicians to say it is not an issue, “rather than courting an easy vote.”

What has stirred up the tempest is Bill C-6, not the outcry against it. Face saving or not, the fact that some members of a purported social democratic party feel there’s even room for discussion is highly disturbing. The last thing we need is New Labour North.

Sinister Greg asked some pertinent questions yesterday that still deserve an answer:

Was Godin freelancing or did he have reason to think the party was behind him? Why did they sit on this for over 24 hours? Where is Jack Layton? Usually he can’t run to the microphones fast enough, why is he silent now? Why does Dewar say the party has not taken a final position on Bill C-6? Why not? Do they think they can somehow spin shit into gold? I think it is a bit rich too, for Dewar to say this bill was introduced for political reasons, when the NDP, the Liberals and the Bloc egged the government on with their craven attacks on Mr. Maynard. Trying to slam the barn door now is just a laughable attempt at damage control.

pogge has some questions of his own:

There was no ambiguity at all in the Globe and Mail‘s headline: NDP supports show-your-face bill. And the story supported the headline. And there is, as of this writing, no correction attached to that story.

So what gives? Did Yvon Godin miscommunicate? Did someone else? Did the Globe reporter screw up?

Bill C-6 doesn’t exist in a vacuum. On its own, it may be a ‘non-issue’, but it takes on an entirely different meaning when taken in context with today’s increasingly xenophobic political culture where Muslims have been singled out for attention (especially in Quebec). As any person of colour can tell you (*waves*), it’s easy to shrug off blatant attempts at othering when one is privileged to be a member of the majority culture.

Now, to be fair, though ideologically I’m a social democrat and have only ever voted NDP (both federally and provincially), I hold no love for Jack Layton. I do try to restrain myself from reflexively ‘piling on’ out of spite when it appears he’s giving the Stephen Harper Party a pass (even though admittedly the temptation is ever present). But this issue in particular should transcend partisan loyalty (or lack thereof).

Should.

Over the past several years our neighbours next door have provided an all-too-visceral example of what happens when unapologetic nativism is allowed to be mainstreamed. I for one refuse to remain silent as this country continues its incremental-but-increasingly-apparent shift to the capital ‘R’ Right; the potential consequences threaten everything that makes (post ’67) Canada Canada. And when the party that best represents my ideals helps contribute to fascism’s creep (whether deliberately or unintentionally) I feel obligated to speak out, goddamn the optics–especially when those purportedly on ‘my side’ have reflexively defended the indefensible with privileged apologia like this.

To quote the ever-quotable skdadl:

The issue here isn’t ID by face. The issue is a neocon assault on voters’ rights, spun for the neocon base on sexist, racist, and paranoid-political grounds, and if Canadian leftists haven’t wised up enough yet to recognize this kind of Rovian shit and call it for what it is, then we are in trouble … srsly.”

Bottom line: why won’t the NDP take a definite position against legislation that is both (admittedly) unnecessary and (IMO) deliberately inflammatory?

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