What is going on in Europe? Some have postulated that Europe is going through an identity crisis that challenges the core universal values that it trumpets, while others like the more conservative populists warn of a transformation of Europe at the hands of barbaric Muslim hordes remaking Europe into a Eurabia.
The dialogue has gotten heated, and we have seen a rise in neo-fascist and Euro-supremacist groups who are leading Europe into a dangerous direction of greater Islamophobia. This dialogue has a way of polluting reality which then effects mainstream parties who see this rise in anti-Muslim sentiment and for political gain drop their universal values and resort to cheap populist rhetoric.
At the same time that Muslims across Europe are integrated into their countries and identify with their nations to a greater extent than their fellow citizens, it seems their fellow citizens view them increasingly with suspicion (with the exception of Britain). This has lead to initiatives that are truly shocking to anyone who believes in Democracy, such as the recent ban on minarets in Switzerland which has echoed across Europe, from Italy to Denmark with parties such as the Northern League and Geert Wilders saying they will follow suit.
Recently France has been the scene of some of the most strident Islamophobia, and moves that from the perspective of an outsider smack of an attack on Democracy. We have heard of the desecration’s of Mosques and Muslim graves, but this has all happened in light of statements like this from French junior minister Nadine Morano,
In one of the many local debates scheduled to be held as part of the nationwide discussion on what it means to be French, the junior minister for families, Nadine Morano, suggested Tuesday to a young Muslim that he should change his behaviour. “What I want of a young Muslim is that he loves France when he lives here, finds work and does not speak in slang. And that he doesn’t wear his cap back to front.”
This discussion follows an earlier discussion around the niqab, or full face veil that a small minority of Muslim women wear in France. If you recall, Nicholas Sarkozy inaugurated the first presidential address to France’s parliament in decades with a call to ban the niqab.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party, the UMP, says it will push for a law banning the full-face Islamic veil, according to its parliamentary leader Jean-François Copé.
“The issue is not how many women wear the burqa,” Copé wrote in an article in the right-wing newspaper Le Figaro. “There are principles at stake: extremists are putting the republic to the test by promoting a practice that they know is contrary to the basic principles of our country.”
It seems the principles of the French Republic do not include women choosing to wear what they want. Banning the niqab is not enough, just yesterday the French Immigration minister Eric Besson said that he wants to make it law that women who wear the face veil be denied citizenship and residency cards.
France’s immigration minister said Wednesday that he wants the wearing of Muslim veils that cover the face and body to be grounds for denying citizenship and long-term residence.
Eric Besson said he planned to take “concrete measures” regarding such veils, which are worn by a small minority of women in France but have become the object of a parliamentary inquiry into whether a ban should be imposed. Besson spoke during a hearing before the panel of lawmakers as their nearly six-month inquiry draws to a close.
Besson said he believed a formal ban on veils that cover the face and body seemed to him “unavoidable,” with a ban in public services as a minimum step. Whether such veils are banned or not, he said he intends to personally move forward to ensure that women wearing such veils and seeking French nationality or residence cards are denied.
“I want the wearing of the full veil to be systematically considered as proof of insufficient integration into French society, creating an obstacle to gaining (French) nationality,” he said. He said he would advise prefects, the highest state representative in the various French regions, that the wearing of such veils is a motive for not delivering 10-year residence cards.
Besson said he was prepared to put the measures before parliament to make them law. In November, Besson ordered a nationwide debate on the French identity, to conclude by the end of January with possible measures.
This raises a whole number of questions: what about those French women who were born in France, whether descended from immigrants or indigenous who have taken up the veil, will they have their citizenship revoked? What if a woman immigrated to France but didn’t wear a veil but decided to wear one since, will she be denied citizenship?
These anti-Democratic measures have opened a pandora’s box of bigotry and racism that is leading Europe into an essentialized discourse that doesn’t bode very well for the future, as one French Law maker said, “This brings back the ethnic vision of the nation, the one that took place at (the pro-Nazi puppet government of) Vichy.”