The prospect of the French police arresting Muslim women who dare defy the ban recalls images of the Nazis doing likewise to Orthodox Jews throughout occupied Europe during the Second World War. It is a ban which damns secularism as a religion of intolerance in its own right and which institutionalises racist attacks on a vulnerable minority group.
Latest opinion polls in France show that a majority are in favour of the ban. But this in no way should be taken as a positive endorsement or justification for the legislation being implemented. On the contrary it reflects the traction which right wing, racist ideas have gained within mainstream French society, just as they did within Germany as the Nazis gained influence, and just as they have throughout history within the societies of imperialist and colonial states committed to the demonisation of the cultures, ethnic groups and religious beliefs of those peoples who’ve been marked out for colonisation and their resources for exploitation.
Islamophobia is now established as the acceptable form of racism for both liberals and conservatives alike throughout Western Europe and the English speaking world, reflected in the ease in which under the rubric of humanitarian intervention or security Muslim countries are attacked and their sovereignty violated. The French ban follows David Cameron’s speech at an international security conference in Munich earlier this year, when the British prime minister singled out the Muslim community for attack on the basis of the political radicalisation of a minority of its members, particularly young men. No mention of course was made of the role of British and European foreign policy in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in this radicalisation. Neither was any reference drawn between Britain’s role in helping prop up autocratic dictatorships throughout the Arab world, in supporting Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, and the impact on Muslims at home.
The real imperative behind these spate of government sanctioned attacks on Europe’s Muslims is the desire to maintain control over the region which contains the bulk of the world’s energy resources and therefore carries major strategic importance in the continuing struggle waged by the West to repulse any threat to its domination. A concomitant of this global struggle has been the waging of a culture war at home in order to curry either passive or active support for its inherent brutality within mainstream society.
That the current president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, should have the gall to present himself as the upholder of the progressive values of the French Republic is nothing short of an obscenity. From the very first day of his election, Sarkozy has sought to replace Britain as America’s closest ally in Europe. The alacrity with which he led the charge to western military intervention in Libya, and his continuation of France’s racist foreign policy vis-à-vis its former colonial possessions of Haiti and throughout Africa, has been complimented by his domestic assault on the social wage, pensions and rights of French workers over the past four years. Of the two million Muslim women living in France it is estimated that a mere 0.2 percent wear the veil. It is a statistic which indicts this legislation as an opportunist attempt by a French political class running in fear of a resurgent Right to gain support by embracing Islamophobic nostrums of Islam as an alien religion and a regressive culture with Muslims as the enemy within.
The stated reason for the ban, namely to effect social integration, is undermined by its focus on one religious and cultural group within French society. Social integration is a product of toleration and acceptance and not in the banning of cultural modes of dress or symbols in public.
The principle is simple: no Muslim woman should be forced to wear the veil in public or forced not to wear it. Anything else is an act of oppression and must be resisted not only by Muslims but by the left and all who consider themselves progressive.
It is no exaggeration to state that the implementation of this legislation takes European civilisation a dangerous step closer towards the cruel embrace of the barbarism of its all too recent history.