More Fake Feminism in France.

In another sign of President Nicolas Sarkozy's growing effort to pander to the country's right-wing, France's immigration minister denied citizenship to a man whose French-born Muslim wife wears a burqa.

France’s immigration minister said he is refusing citizenship to a Muslim man who called his wife 'an inferior being,' and forced her to wear a full veil in public, an announcement that plays well with French public support for a burqa ban. . . .

. . . (Prime Minister Francois) Fillon said the Moroccan man, who had married a French woman, failed to respect the 'values of the [French] republic.'

The assault against those who wear the burqa has continually couched xenophobia in language that expresses a faux concern for women. It's true that there is a strong history of secularism and women's rights in France. However the minister seems to fail to understand is the paternalism of his own actions. It is disturbing, and against France's stated values, to think of one's wife as an inferior being. But it's also unlikely that denying her husband citizenship is going to help.

What proponents of France's anti-burqa laws -- a ban in some public spaces still hasn't been enacted but there is popular support for it -- fail to recognize is that some women actively choose to practice Islam in such a way that requires them to wear a burqa. One could argue that their choices are informed by hegemony and culture in such a way that they're aren't really choices at all, but further marginalizing those women by outlawing a central tenant of their religion isn't going to magically make them un-oppressed.

The least paternalistic thing for the government to do would be to create a public sphere in which women have access to a full range of choices about what they want to wear and what religion they want to observe, even at the risk that those choices are made with the influence of a husband who thinks them inferior. Restricting choice based on an external idea of what is going in the home is just replacing the husband with the government.

-- Monica Potts

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