Feature photo by Nitin Madhav
It’s always been a struggle for an immigrant population to assimilate to its new found host country. Different cultures invite themselves to differences in cultural opinions, laws, religious practices and overall traditions that make a culture what it is. However, these differences also contribute to the mélange of cultural and national variety that exist in the more metropolitan areas of this earth. Since these conflicts exist, violence erupts and often on a very broad and random scale. Terrorism is the early century’s criminal buzzword. From overzealous airport security measures to the loss of rights under the Bush administration’s Patriot Act, the overall sense of helplessness that the North American world has been faced with against the “evil” of Islam fundamentalism invites an oft xenophobic approach when it comes to national security. In this country, Arabs of all religious backgrounds have been attacked, demonized or targeted for around nine years in an effort to weed out the bad seeds from the good ones. However, racial profiling is a very fickle and dangerous thing that a “secular” society could bring itself to do. It is almost akin to the Salem Witch Trials. Like that river test, Guantanamo Bay also served its purpose like a double-edged sword of proof. Either be dunked in a body of water (or detained and sent to a naval prison in Cuba) and if you float you must be a witch (terrorist) and if you sink, you die a good Christian death (or spend a ridiculous amount of time detained).
Many conservative minds wonder how else they could retain the safety that they had relished in before. In reality, the world is a fucked-up place whenever, and that tiny American Belle Epoque known as the 90s was not so Belle anywhere else. Conservatives, at least those of recent memory, always seem to ruin things in their quest for monetary dominance, and it more often than not comes crashing down, and then so-called liberals get in there and try to fix the mess only to be blamed for it or for not doing a steadfastly enough job.The basic need for a scapegoat is a characteristic that conservative minds across the globe exploit and use in order to manipulate the voting populace. This is not a modern invention. Humanity has always looked to point the finger of blame, and it has infamously been wrong. The rich and powerful prey on the poor and stupid, and they pray that they will have the same collective fear: the fear of change and that which is different.
France recently outlawed the use of the Burka in public places. This might be a call for assimilation or it might be xenophobia, but it is law. The fact that the French parliament under Nicolas Sarkozy, a product of immigrant parents himself, were so quick to support this bill is something that is telling of French society. In this bill’s quest to appropriate the secular, it has opened doors that extremely give invite to religious extremism and the verb that acts out because of it. The fact that the French sentiment is to think twice when it comes to these women bathed in fabric, should attest to what these social mores really come down to. That is, the humility of women, the security that comes with their supposed beauty and the collective “choice” that these women are faced to make against pressure from those men in their communities. Granted, you are no stranger to what “tradition” means. Hispanic or Latina women are forced to abide behind the culture of silencio, of passive gifts and opinions given to them by their male counterparts. In all actuality, society de habla hispana, are very much the same with the exception of the fact that they should be “protected” from the men that they share cultural and ethnic ties to shall, well, rape them is absurd. In fact, the whole notion of the covering of their faces became only prevalent during the fifties. These are archaic notions of what women mean to that particular society and what came about after the mass independence of that region from European rule. It brought upon the popular stance of defiance against imperialism. Taking that into account, it reveals more about the recent politics behind the burka than the religious connotations behind it. The argument could be made that the reason behind what to most, would seem to be an excessive practice is a direct affirmation to what made that culture what it was. It does not reflect what it is or what it could have been. What made up the current culture, was the daily struggle after Europe abandoned the shackles of their previously dominant and oppressive shadow. After that and once independence was made, they could then leave off where they left behind. However, what they left behind was something even more depressing.
France is not to blame; it is the fabric that wrinkles all over international society as a whole. One cannot argue that France is a tyrannical state because it is not. It is looking out for the best of its citizens and for that, I praise them. However, in their quest to open doors for all, regardless of genitalia, the employed tactics that shut that door on chauvinistic approaches also shut the door on the most vulnerable sectors of that citizenry–women.