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Sarkozy and the burqa

By Kees Bakhuijzen - posted Friday, 26 June 2009

This week most news media mentioned the French proposal to ban the burqa from public life. Loyal to his reputation of taking a tough stance on the Islamist agenda, President Sarkozy showed his support for the ban, calling it “a sign of subservience for women”. “We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity," he said in parliament.

The initiative has the support of the French feminist movement “Ni Putes Ni Soumises” - “Neither Whores Nor Submissives” - which was founded in 2002 by women from a Muslim background to focus attention on the violence directed at them in the suburbs of the big cities in France, where rape and violence towards women occur regularly.

The organisation’s particular concern is the treatment of Muslim women, who may be pressured into wearing veils, leaving school, and marrying early. The most prominent member of the organisation is Algerian born Fadéla Amara who was invited to take place in the government after Sarkozy’s election, even though she was still a member of the Socialist Party. Currently Amara is the Secretary of State for Urban Policies.


The organisation’s website says: “Since founding our organisation, we have never ceased to remind the public that the deterioration in women’s situation in the suburbs was linked to the rise of the Islamists who hijack the bodies of their wives. The burqa, the veil, the niqaab are visible sings of a development that puts back the values of the Republic.”

As defenders of the secular state, the organisation states that “the burqa is an open air prison for the women who wear it. This strategic constrains them to submission and prevents them from emancipating themselves.”

The French initiative deserves praise and it equally deserves to serve as a model for the rest of the Western world. Of course I am aware of all the reports that say that “most women wear the burqa out of their own free will”. But apart from the fact that this doesn’t make it a less insulting garment - implying that being a man I can’t control myself when I would be submitted to seeing the face of a woman - these reports don’t take into account that the women who are forced to wear it have no voice as family and community pressure will prevent them from speaking out.

There has been a trend among Western so-called “progressive” circles to defend the burqa as “a sign of cultural diversity”, but for anyone who adheres to liberal - in the US sense of the word - values of equality between men and women, it must be as repulsive as it is to me. The reports of women who are being violated or even murdered for not wanting to wear this tent speak for themselves.

In the past years we have been witness of many signs of what some call “the worrying marriage between extreme Islam and the extreme left". French philosopher Michel Onfray - supporter of a French Trotskist political party - referred to this phenomenon at the Sydney Writers Festival two years ago. In anti-Israel demonstrations in London leftist organisations carried banners saying “We are all Hezbollah now”, and earlier this year, prominent politicians from the Dutch left marched together with crowds shouting “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas!” in a support rally for Gaza.

Being supportive of economical policies that protect the weakest groups in our societies, I know that I don’t just speak for myself when I say that these developments have left me in a political wasteland where it is hard to find a party or movement where I feel at home.


In this light, the French initiative is very promising as it represents a cross-section of the French Parliament. The 65 politicians urging the establishment of a commission to consider which steps need to be taken, is even led by Communist MP Andre Gerin. This follows after more promising signs in that direction, like French Marxist Yves Coleman speaking out against the reactionary thoughts of Swiss Muslim theoretician Tariq Ramadan, who in recent years has built a reputation of being both a bridge between different sections in society as well as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, hiding his Islamist agenda behind soothing words.

It is promising to see that France continues to place itself at the forefront in the fight against the rise of Islamism in the Western world. It is about time that all Western countries have a cross-section of their secular parliamentarians taking a stance to defend the achievements of modern society. Brave people have fought for decades for the equality between men and women. It is of the highest importance for us to defend and cherish this achievement.

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About the Author

Kees Bakhuijzen is a Sydney-based freelance business and creative writer, translator, editor and proofreader. His articles have appeared in The Weekend Australian and several Dutch broadsheets. You can contact him by email:

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