Suzy is a niqabi

One of the big political to-and-fros in France this summer is whether the government should ban wearing the burqa. It’s a calculating political move by Sarkozy, whose general M.O. has always been to stir up fear and hatred of some already-marginalized social group. Since only [367](http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2009/07/29/la-police-estime-marginal-le-port-de-la-burqa_1223776_3224.html) Frenchwomen wear the burqa or niqab (love that official precision), this is definitely about principles and politics rather than practicalities.
Needless to say, I’m against banning any kind of clothing. I more-or-less agree with [Sam](http://lavendersparkle.livejournal.com/126232.html) — or for that matter with Obama, with his “[I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal](http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/04/obama-speech-in-cairo-vid_n_211215.html)”. Not out of any particular respect for religions, but because any organization that tells people what to wear leaves me in blood-boiling rage about petty cruelty and closed-mindedness. In my ideal world, Sarkozy’s plan would spark a revolt from punks, goths, nudists, transvestites, and every other group that takes continual flak for how they dress. The streets would turn black as subculture kids take to covering their faces in solidarity.
That won’t happen. Partly because France doesn’t really do subcultures — a fact which, like this attempt to police clothing, is somewhere connected to the national acceptance of centralised, state-supervised homogeneity. But also because Sarkozy has chosen a victim everybody is willing to join in kicking. Theres [the](http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6565064.ece) [secularism](http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A2903663) [angle](http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2009/06/a_few_words_abo), fruit of a longstanding and widespread wariness of Church meddling in politics. There’s the feminism angle, with [Sarkozy](http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache%3ARj1pOfvGVXUJ%3Awww.elysee.fr%2Fdownload%2F%3Fmode%3Dpress%26filename%3D22_06_Congres.pdf) saying that “it isn’t a religious symbol, but a sign of subservience and debasement”, as if the meaning is obvious and universal. Or there are groups like [Ni Putes Ni Soumises](http://www.niputesnisoumises.com/), putting the same line much more credibly. But below those expressible feelings, there’s also a strong undercurrent of fear and hatred of different cultures. As [Michelle Goldberg](http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=burqa_politics_in_france) writes:
>it’s hard for Europeans to talk about [immigration] without seeming racist or xenophobic. The one place where Europeans do feel confident about defending the superiority of their own culture is in sexual matters. Feminism and sexual liberation become tools of nationalism.

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