Barbarian Muslim women in strange clothing? I don’t think so, but…
June 13, 2009
A real barbarian woman?
Barbarians? Uncivilized? A commentator named "Nairb" has deep worries about my posts about President Obama’s view of free expression and Secularism and non-conformity . Such devotion deserves proper reward and reply. I quote from his comments on my second effort.
In comment #9 Nairb says, "Discouraging certain religous practices in non citizens is not about conformism nor democracy."
I agree—repression of religion is about tyranny. Especially when used against powerless non-citizens. Perhaps you are not acquainted with the logic. I will try again.
When adults choose a lifestyle you don’t like, and you use State force against them, you teach NOTHING about freedom or morality. But you do teach the Majority that it’s OK to use Law to force conformity of thought and expression and lifestyle. Are you prepared to go down that road? Maybe you are not acquainted with history, but happy to repeat it.
#9 Nairb adds,
"Its about Equality and protecting the equality of those who are weak in society due to cultural or religous practices that are Irrational, Barbaric and Uncivilised!"
I argue again that logic and history disagree with you. To really protect the equality of the weak, make the weak your political equals. Even if you feel that they are "barbaric". This takes courage, a real courage you haven’t shown. You’re so brave with a Big Brother State behind you while you condemn the weak. A Muslim woman would not be impressed by your kindly offer to control her life after gaining her freedom from religious control. Again, your faith that your lifestyle must be the best lurks behind the tyrant’s logic. Social oppression and inferiority is morally evil, we agree. But please do not fight evil with worse evil. Only democratic means achieve democratic ends.
And even if your view about lifestyle is actually right, then rational persuasion should suffice to gradually teach it—resorting to fast Law is a confession of weakness, not strength. Do not suppose that your blunt method of State Power is impressing any Muslim woman’s mind. She has seen that sort of power before, remember? But I can’t tell if you respect her mind at all. Could she be surprised if you didn’t, if she’s used to that disrespect already?
My restrained secularism simply protects free expression from State control, letting ideas do the persuading. Your zealous secularism controls expression using the State, letting Majorities do the "persuading" at the point of a gun. Which option really understands the spirit of democracy? Try using your mind and not your prejudice on this tough question—you wouldn’t want to appear "irrational and barbaric" too. But you probably look pretty "normal" in your street clothes, after all, with such concern for conformity.
One last factual point to correct. #8 Nairb says, "I note that Muslims excluding a muslim women from going outside the family home on her own does not bother you so much." Perhaps you are unacquainted with my earlier post, in which I said, "If Muslim women are physically harmed, if they are forced into household slavery, if their fundamental human rights are violated, then let the State’s laws do their proper work of enforcing justice for all citizens." Oh wait, I forgot—Nairb rejects citizenship for "barbaric" Muslim women. What is protecting them now, exactly? Not a society already condemning them as inferior.
I condemn any Power—religious, masculine or legal included—that enslaves the body or the mind. States can be barbaric, too. Democracy never forgets.
#1 Nairb on Saturday June 13, 2009 at 12:39pm
You say “repression of religion is about tyranny”.
Again a rhetorical simplification.
I would say repression is good or bad depending on what is repressed. No one complains about repression of crime. Certain aspects of some religions or sects should rightly be repressed. Eg the common practice of female genital mutilation or wedding pre adolescent girls.
Perhaps you are thinking of certain domains of activity in France that are strictly secular ( ie ostentatious religous symbols are forbidden in school).
Your implicit argument is that people should be allowed to wear what they like whenever and wherever. Regardles of its symbolism. You elevate this to an unchallengeable rule. Going against this is tyranny you imply.(As if this was the most important social challenge of our time).
This is a ridiculous argument. You only have to look around you to see it does not hold.
Nudity is forbidden in both France and USA in all public places. Do you consider this tyranny also?
If you do not then you are showing religous bias. You allow religion to be protected where other similar views are not.
This bias is unacceptable.
Preserving a space in a secular society where people are free from the oppression of religion is a magnificent symbol of modernity, civilisation and liberty and equality.
You should be ashamed to be attacking it.
#2 Nairb on Saturday June 13, 2009 at 1:06pm
Mr. Shook says
“Even if you feel that they are “barbaric”. This takes courage, a real courage you haven’t shown. You’re so brave with a Big Brother State behind you while you condemn the weak.”
You need to reread what I say. I said certain religous practices are barbaric. Not the individuals.
I do not condemn the weak. I uphold the weak (muslim women) by ACTIVELY promoting their equality.
Your argument of “laissez faire secularism” in effect washes your hands and concience of the problem.
How neat. How elevated. How easy- all problems are resolved by doing nothing!
No need for you to worry about the fact that the majority of these people are either brainwashed or presured into this position. And live their lives in submission with the collusion of their families, their community , and as you would have it even the secular state!
This is a Courageous position indeed!
Combating intolerance is not intolerance. Adressing inequality is not inequality. You have abandoned what you stand for.
#3 Nairb on Saturday June 13, 2009 at 1:49pm
Mr. Shook says.
“Again, your faith that your lifestyle must be the best lurks behind the tyrant’s logic.”
It has nothing to do with Tyranny.It has to do with equality. I do not think my lifestyle is “best”. But I know when certain cultural or religous practices are backward.
If you do not think a woman, always wearing a burqa in public, not permitted to go outside the family home unescorted by a male member of the family, is not a symbol of inequality then you have lost all sense of perspective.
Have the courage to call a spade a spade.
#4 Nairb on Saturday June 13, 2009 at 2:21pm
Mr Shook says
“My restrained secularism simply protects free expression from State control, letting ideas do the persuading.”
Free Expression is protected in the secular constitution. Equality also. The state has a duty to uphold both.
Your “restrained secularism” in effect symbolically condones through indifference the worst excesses of cultural and religous intolerance.
You take aim at the secular state when it is religion you should be concerned about.
I would like to see your much vaunted secularism protect Free-Expression from Religous and Hocus-Pocus control.
This is where your concern should be.
#5 Nairb on Saturday June 13, 2009 at 2:48pm
Mr Shooks says
“States can be barbaric, too. Democracy never forgets. “
Quite right. It is important to be always vigilant.
(Read about the 2002 presidential election in France on 5th May for active vigilance.)
What western state proposes and enforces 2nd class position on women ? On homosexuals ?
What religions do?
Address Barbarity where it is.
#6 John Shook on Saturday June 13, 2009 at 7:30pm
I hope our little debate is informative enough that many others can find a place to jump in. So here’s some more replies.
“Your implicit argument is that people should be allowed to wear what they like whenever and wherever.”
Well, I’ll be explicit then. Unless potential for physical harm or protection of minors forbids, consenting adults should be allowed choice of clothes or lack of clothes. I’ve no problem with bare-chested women feeding babies or with nude beaches, etc. Rampant nudity is dumb—traffic accidents alone must forbid that.
More #1. You accuse me of “attacking” the idea of “a space in a secular society where people are free from the oppression of religion”. I don’t attack it; in my version of free public space no one is getting oppressed. Seeing a woman dressed in “barbaric” clothing out in public does not oppress you. It neither picks your pocket nor breaks your leg. If you feel that a veiled woman is oppressed, go respectfully talk to her about it. You might learn a lot. I think my public space is freer for all expression than yours. And that’s where free discussion of what people should believe and wear should take place.
Sidenote—“what if a religious person won’t discuss beliefs?”—the answer is not to take away lifestyle choice, but let that generation live its life—worry about the children. Not here, but somewhere else, we should talk about the children’s opportunity to enjoy freedom. I deny that parents have a right to deny all opportunity for citizenship participation and free expression to their children. Parents have no right to create mind-enslaved clones generation after generation while voluntarily living in democratic societies. Democratic toleration has limits. Still, it is interesting how the freest democracies have the fewest instances of long-lived closed subgroups. Even America’s Amish are pretty open groups, relatively speaking. When you extend freedoms, peoples eventually embrace them.
Re: #2. You accuse me of cowardly inaction? When I argue against religion (Re: #4—yes, I’m concerned!) in the public square/web using only my ideas and not any laws? I’m brave enough to wield just my ideas. I welcome public debate over religion; I’m not so scared that I’d ban seeing or hearing religion in public. After all, that’s where I can debate it! I would not do to religious expression what many religions would do to my atheism. Yes, I want to equally protect all religious thought and expression. That’s secularism, too (the better kind!). There is NO contradiction in respecting a person AND arguing against their beliefs. Do you agree—or do you instead side with fundamentalist Muslims on this point?
Re: #3. Supposing I agree that a veil or a burqa is “a symbol of inequality”. What then? We are arguing over democratic means to use, not about the injustice itself. You falsely accuse me of blindness or indifference (#4) to a social injustice. I see many injustices everywhere. I only argue here that a political injustice (denial of citizenship) is a poor start for a remedy of a social injustice.
Re: #4. You say, “I would like to see your much vaunted secularism protect Free-Expression from Religous [ hey Nairb it’s spelled ‘religious’] and Hocus-Pocus control.” My vaunted secularism is pretty much working in America right now (thanks Supreme Court!) Both religion and atheism are loudly heard (although atheists must stay vigilant over censorship). Do I wish there was less religious control in my society? Why, yes I do. Changing laws to eliminate religion-based restrictions on adult conduct is my passion. But I draw the line at basic human rights and civil liberties. Silencing adults is intolerable. I would not do to religions what they would do to me. That might make me seem weak, but I suspect its the wiser (and more ethical) path.
You would say that banning the burqa IS legally reducing religious oppression. Ahhh, yes indeed, but it is excessive and unjustifiable force—you aren’t oppressed by a burqa, and those Muslim women are adults. The bad consequences explain its excess. Threaten to take away the burqa and they cling even harder to their religion. Your means contradict your aim. What, do you suppose they will trust you instead, after such threats? Religion can yet be a refuge for oppressed minds, if you will not reason with their minds.
Re: #5. Your brevity needs expansion—are you saying that western countries need to work harder for the full social equality for women, homosexuals, and atheists? Oh, yes, I quite agree! Much work to be done yet. And there’s been progress without denying citizenship or free expression to anyone, not even to religious people. When we respect religious people’s minds and their democratic rights, they at least will listen (well, most will, for a little while).
Do I sound optimistic about the powers of free thought and free expression and free debate? Sure. But at least you can’t deny that I defend these things, and I defend them with nothing but ideas. Pretty powerful.
Either you are 100% for free expression, even expression of symbols/ideas you hate, or you join the tyrant’s path of fear. But maybe you are already afraid, and it’s too late for you. Once people are very afraid, afraid in their neighborhoods and cities, irrational reactions set in. My cool logic won’t feel as satisfying as doing anything, anything, to make that fear disappear, make any sight of it hide away. But hiding it, and making people hide their beliefs, doesn’t really make them or their beliefs go away. If history can be a lesson again, know that isolated and oppressed peoples grow angry and militant. Tyrants know all about that.
#7 Nairb on Sunday June 14, 2009 at 2:28am
Your position and ambitions are similar to mine except for this:
You assume that to prevent a slippery slope slide to Tyranny you must take an Absolutist position on Freedom of Expression.This assumption is wrong.
Freedom of expression is always curtailed when it conflicts with other basic rights such as equality or the supremacy of the state.
You cannot express nudity or “obscenity” in many states in US
You cannot express communist affiliation and get citizenship
How long was burning the flag illegal in US without USA becoming a tyranny
In France it is illegal to deny the holocaust
In Germany and Britain their are now laws against hate speech
Commercial free speech is curtailed everywhere
So your Absolutist position on Freedom of Expression, in fact, doesnt exist in reality, anywhere. Yet Tyranny in the west is largely absent for the past 50 years.
Yes we must be careful about a slippery slope to tyranny. But elevating an Absolutist Freedom of Expression above all else (especially equality) will not help.
And it is disastrous in dealing with a main source of tyranny and intolerance accross history and especially today - Religion.
It is disastrous because you render inactive the only and by far the most enlightened, balanced and sophisticated expression of people power - the secular state.
You prevent this institute from guaranteeing and promoting equality (even timidly as in France).
#8 Nairb on Sunday June 14, 2009 at 2:34am
Re: #1 “Rampant nudity is dumb—traffic accidents alone must forbid that.”
Yes and showing your hair causes traffic accidents in Saudia Arabia. Thats not a valid argument.
#9 Nairb on Sunday June 14, 2009 at 2:35am
“More #1. You accuse me of “attacking” the idea of “a space in a secular society where people are free from the oppression of religion”. I don’t attack it; in my version of free public space no one is getting oppressed.”
Yes the State does not oppress. But Religion does. And its accepted! To the point of it going unnoticed!
As I said before in #5, your concern is misplaced. You should be more concerned today about Equality then Freedom of Expression
And you should be more concerned Today about Religous oppression and Religous tyranny then any tyranny of the state.
(This does not mean we forget the latter)
#10 Nairb on Sunday June 14, 2009 at 3:02am
Yes, I want to equally protect all religious thought and expression. That’s secularism, too (the better kind!). There is NO contradiction in respecting a person AND arguing against their beliefs.”
If this was all you are doing we would be agreed. You go further. You also protect Religous Oppression. This is because of your absolutist, inflexible, idealized position on Freedom of [removed]that is in practice nowhere). This is the worst secularism.
You dont understand that Religous oppression and Religion supported Inequality hides behind Religous Freedom of [removed] perhaps because its given a quasi Absolute status).
If a woman voluntarily mutiliates her own vagina - do you protect this also? How far do you go in this Absolutism?
#11 Nairb on Sunday June 14, 2009 at 3:45am
Changing laws to eliminate religion-based restrictions on adult conduct is my passion. But I draw the line at basic human rights and civil liberties.
Sounds great in theory but in practice you are drawing the line in the wrong place.
You deny the basic human rights and equality of muslim women on the Misunderstanding that their submissive behaviour is Freedom of Expression.It is not.
Furthermore you uphold Freedom of Expression above everything(except traffic accidents), equality is secondary.
You deny Equality to women (and homosexuals) but heroically save their “right” to be covered in a Burqa.
Bravo! What wonderful neat logic.You don’t let peoples suffering, justice, proportion or any untidy dogma get in your way.
The slippery slope to Tyranny haunts you but not when you have to challenge religion.You seem to be only once removed from religion. You seem to believe in belief.
#12 Nairb on Sunday June 14, 2009 at 4:23am
Re: #5. Your brevity needs expansion
What Western Secular State proposes and enforces 2nd class position on women/homosexuals ?
Answer ==> Very few or none. Though I agree there is progress to be made.
What RELIGION proposes and enforce 2nd class position on women and homosexuals?
Answer===> All of them
You should address (true) Freedom of expression and Equality in Religion. Instead of nitpicking about States rights. Your attacks and condemnations are far more needed there.
#13 John Shook on Sunday June 14, 2009 at 8:04am
Well, Nairb, I’m not sure how close or far we are.
If you still defend a country like France denying citizenship to peaceful legal inhabitants on religious grounds, we disagree. And you accuse me of protecting inequality? I’m happy to let observers decide if your plan of second-class citizenship or denying citizenship somehow counts as defending equality.
You mention plenty of examples where countries are not as free as they ought to be. I don’t see how this counts against my philosophical argument—I’m here concerned for future progress. I don’t condone many of the examples you give.
You say, “Freedom of expression is always curtailed when it conflicts with other basic rights such as equality or the supremacy of the state.”
Yes, but we can each rank or prioritize civil rights and liberties differently—that’s the fun of arguing over that. Balancing free speech against physical harm, loss of property, or wartime urgency, for example, has kept the US Supreme Court very busy for decades. And we can argue each specific example. Here’s a taste: you mention holocaust denial and hate speech. You are right to guess that my principles reject such laws. The value of free speech for all is too great to sacrifice. Furthermore, the best counteraction against false beliefs is to debate them openly for public refutation. Both logic and history agree there. How different might Germany have been if Hitler had been unable to control all media and propaganda?
An example you mention—female mutilation. In the West, women are voluntarily cutting, tattooing, piercing, and inflating their sexual organs. What makes a mutilation a violation of basic human rights is when it is done to a minor, or when an adult women is forced against her will. So the right answer, consistent with my earlier statements about the legal protection of citizens, is to criminalize the use of force. In such a case, have a trial to determine if force was used. Not much different, from a legal standpoint, from any domestic abuse case. Harder in practice to fulfill in a traditional Muslim country, no doubt, but that is a separate matter from our ethical/legal judgment of how they should approach the matter. So I think we can agree on the criminalization of this practice, but perhaps for somewhat different reasons.
More examples—flag burning and cross burning. Unless such an act directly incites violence in that setting, both are protected by the First Amendment. My principles pretty much lead to where the ACLU stands—for info see
Now that the US is getting another taste of domestic terrorism (the holocaust museum murder, the abortion doctor murdered in Kansas, the soldiers murdered in Arkansas) we are scrutinizing the role of domestic media: radio, TV and websites. Our chat here is a warm-up to a coming major storm of controversy over, for example, anti-abortion websites that promote harrassment and murder of abortionists, and white-supremacist websites advocating violence. The world will watch how the US handles it. More blogging to do…
PS.—I keep seeing [removed] popping up in comment boxes. I think the term Expression or expression is confusing the blogging system because that term is also a computing code term. I will ask our computer expert here to fix this. In the meantime, perhaps the term Speech can cover the meaning.
#14 Nairb on Sunday June 14, 2009 at 8:11am
Thank you for the discussion. I think your position is laudible but wrong and detrimental.
Partly because of your attachment to Freedom of Speech but also because you seem ignorant of the reality of fundamentalist Islam in France/Europe. Understandable given you live on another continent.
To understand better the reality of the Hijab and why Obama’s speech was so badly received here please go here
This is a womens rights organisation called “Neither Whores nor Submissives” created by french Muslim women and they have something important to say on this.
#15 Nairb on Sunday June 14, 2009 at 8:20am
Communiqué of French Muslims Rights organisation
The translation is mine. I have no connection to the organisation.
The original document is here.
Communiqué du Mouvement Ni Putes Ni Soumises
Defending the veil: Obama’s crusade against women !
By attacking secularism and defending the wearing of the veil, the President of the United States in his speech in Cairo, has undermined the struggle of millions of women who pay dearly every day to escape the violence of the fundamentalists. Thus President Obama reduces us all to silence.
The “Movement Ni Putes Ni Soumises” condemns the message from another era of this American President. The reconciliation which he is promoting cannot be done without women. Reducing the dialogue of civilizations to an inter-religious dialogue is once again instrumentalizing women.
The rapprochement between the United States and Arab and Muslim countries is essential, but the political compromise should not be on our backs: A new beginning will not happen without women!
At the arrival in France the President of the USA, Sihem Habchi and activists of the movement “Ni Putes Ni Soumises” ask that the President of the French Republic, reaffirms the secular society as the vector for empowering women.
#16 Nairb on Sunday June 14, 2009 at 9:16am
Mr. Shook said,
“If you still defend a country like France denying citizenship to peaceful legal inhabitants on religious grounds, we disagree. And you accuse me of protecting inequality?”
I dont accuse you personally. I accuse your argument.
Also France does not deny citizenship on the basis of religion. I have said this a few times already.I would not defend it if it did.
The person in question was denied citizenship because she did not show any understanding of the meaning of citizenship.
“She has adopted a radical practice of her religion, incompatible with essential values of the French community, particularly the principle of equality of the sexes,” the Council of State said.
France has the biggest Muslim population in Europe ( 5 million). Hardly a sign of citizenship denied to muslims. They are largely better integrated then in other countries and are much more independant in their values.
#17 Nairb on Sunday June 14, 2009 at 10:53am
Perhaps this will convince better then my posts.
Article from CBS on the gang bangs promoting the Veil.
When people talk about ghettos in France, they’re talking about high-rise complexes that have been built far away from the city center to house African and Arab immigrants.
Just saying you live in the neighborhood is enough to get your job application thrown in the garbage. And the unemployment amongst young people is four times the national average.
With little hope of making it outside the projects, many of these young men try to dominate their own neighborhoods, resorting to violence, especially against young women.
They rule gangland style, combined with the male-dominated traditions of the Arab countries they came from. It’s gotten so bad that, today, most of the young women only feel safe if they are covered up, or if they stay at home. Girls who want to look just like other French girls are considered provocative, asking for trouble.
Samira Bellil wasn’t asking for trouble, but trouble came to her. She’s the granddaughter of Algerian immigrants and she’s written a book about surviving the hell of the Paris ghettos.
“I was gang raped by three people I knew, and I couldn’t say anything, because in my culture, your family is dishonored if you lose your virginity,” says Bellil. “So I kept quiet, and the rapes continued. The next time, I was pulled off a commuter train and no one lifted a finger to help me. …Everybody turned their head away. They were all looking out the window.”
When Bellil’s family discovered that she had been raped, they weren’t sympathetic. They threw her out onto the streets. But she’s since discovered that what happened to her was not the only case.
“There was a trial in Lille where a 13-year-old girl was gang raped by 80 men. Sometimes, it’s 80, or 50 or 10. It’s absolutely terrible,” says Bellil. “In the case of Argenteuil, it was horrible. A young woman was raped in a school. Of course, everybody knew, but they’re so afraid of these young men that they prefer to close their eyes. That’s the price of peace in the ghettos.”
#18 dressings (Guest) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 at 2:13pm
“Barbarism” gives our species too much credit. I believe that most of us, including our politicians are apes in suits.dressing
#19 Clothing on Wednesday June 17, 2009 at 2:18pm
This is the reason for sexy girls wear clothes to hide their natural barbarian beauty.Because the ones who dress sexily are too conscious of their beauty and have to make sure everyone knows.The truly beautiful ones are comfortable enough in themselves to not have to.