Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Repressive secularism: or the day that will live in infamy in the history of Western attitudes toward Islam

There is no picture that captures the crux of Western Islamopohobia like this image from the French beach of Nice.  It is the illustration of Colonial feminism.  It has not generated much uproar in Western societies but it has stirred quite an uproar this morning on Arab social media.  The immediate comparison is being made to the Saudi religious police (the Mutawa`ah): Saudi regime has a religious police and France has a secular police and both apparatuses of the state are being used against Muslim women: either to dress them or to undress them.  Both impose a strict order and dress code on women: either in the name of religious virtue or in the name of liberal secular virtue, but both see the female body as a threat to the moral and political order.  This picture, no matter what will happen next, will serve as convenient tool of recruitment and mobilization by Jihadi groups in the world over--by groups and individuals who preach a civilizational conflict between "the Islam" and "the West".  In the West, it will also serve as a recruitment and mobilization tool by Right-wing fanatical politicians and parties, and that ALWAYS includes French socialists.  Yet again, since the days of the National Front in the 1930s, the ugly face of French socialist colonialism is being uncovered for Arabs and Muslims to see. The remarks of the French prime minister were quite blunt and quite candid.  It is quite telling about the fake invocation of "secularism"--only in the face of Muslims, that the state which never allowed its theoretical adherence to secularism to interfere in its official and declared sensitivity to the Jewish question after WWII (and that is a good thing given the past anti-Semitism of the state and society).  No one can be convinced that this law against the Burkini could be invoked against say a Christian nun or an Orthodox Jewish woman.  There would be world-wide outrage, but conservative Muslim women who are covered have now become a threat to the Western political and moral order--very much the same argument (in reverse) of the fanatical Muslims who want to impose a dress code on women.  But that is what women are for those fanatics on both sides: a body and a sexual object: to be covered or uncovered, that is the question.  No matter what will happen next, the pictures of this scene will live in infamy and no matter what France does or does not do, it can't be erased. This is what it has boiled down to: the repressive powers of the state are used against a Muslim women, in the name of her own liberation.  It is always the Western colonial white man who knows what is best for Muslim women, because she can't speak for herself and because the Western man is on a mission to liberate her--by force, naturally.  At least this morning, Arabs (secularists and religious, leftists and conservative) are in agreement: this is a very ugly face of the French republic.