Chesler Chronicles

Sarkozy vs Obama on The Burqa.

(AP Photo/B.K.Bangash)

As far as I’m concerned, Frenchmen are back in vogue. Who could ever have predicted that the French president would stand up for women’s universal rights and for freedom as a universal right — while the American president would hang back, wait, temporize? It’s almost as if we’ve elected a Frenchman president of the United States — and an American-style president is ruling France.

Please contrast the following two speeches.

On June 22th, 2009, President Nicholas Sarkozy stated that he viewed the full-body burqa and niquab as a sign of the “debasement” of women and that it won’t be welcome in France. According to the glorious Sarkozy:

“In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity … The burqa is not a religious sign, it’s a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement — I want to say it solemnly, it will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.”

France has Europe’s largest Muslim population, an estimated 5 million people. Many are hostile to the western enterprise, but some are in the vocal forefront of the fight for women’s and human rights. In 2004, France passed a law “banning the Islamic headscarf and other conspicuous religious symbols from public schools, sparking fierce debate at home and abroad.”

Now, contrast Sarkozy’s words with what President Obama said in Cairo on June 4th, 2009.

“Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations — to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.”

This is why I described Obama’s Cairo speech as “throwing Muslim women under the bus.” Obama is literally signaling to the Muslim world that they will be able to create a parallel universe in the land of the free and the home of the brave — and will be able to continue to use our laws to do so.

(I know, I know, Obama also threw Israel under the bus — and yet, some say that his speech was also calculated, careful, respectful — a give-peace-a-chance kind of speech to an audience that has continually called for “death to America.” )

Now, contrast how the two Presidents recently discussed the police riots in the streets of Iran.

On June 16, 2009, according to the AP, President Sarkozy denounced the Iranian government’s “brutal” reaction to “demonstrators protesting the nation’s disputed election. Sarkozy calls the situation in Iran “extremely alarming” and says Iran’s clampdown on demonstrators was “totally disproportionate.” Sarkozy also said: “The ruling power claims to have won the elections … if that were true, we must ask why they find it necessary to imprison their opponents and repress them with such violence.”

On that same date, June 16th, according to the Wall Street Journal here’s what President Obama had to say. He “voiced concern about how the election had been conducted, although he fell short of denouncing the vote. What Obama himself actually said was this: “It is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be. We respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran.” Obama then went on to say that “the world is watching” and to describe the demonstrators as “inspiring, regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was.”

On June 19th, CBS News quoted President Obama again. This time he said: “The last thing that I want to do is to have the United States be a foil for — those forces inside Iran who would love nothing better than to make this an argument about the United States. That’s what they do. That’s what we have already seen. We shouldn’t be playing into that … now what we can do is bear witness and say to the world that the incredible demonstrations that we’ve seen is a testimony to — I think what Dr. King called the — arc of the moral universe. It is long but it bends towards justice.”

I am not entirely sure what this means but I wonder if this is what Attorney General Robert Kennedy and President John F. Kennedy said to Dr. King or to James Meredith’s supporters in the 1960s when they were beaten, murdered, and imprisoned in southern jails? In 1962, our government sent 13,500 federal troops to Oxford, Mississippi to quell racist rioting there. True: This all happened on sovereign American soil. But isn’t President Obama a citizen of the world, a universalist, someone who prides himself on his knowledge that we all live in a global community?

On June 22, the Wall Street Journal editorial stated the following: “Mr. Obama finally stiffened his rhetoric on Saturday, calling “on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.” This is an improvement, though he said this only after both houses of Congress condemned Iran’s crackdown on Friday.”

‘Tis true: America has a long history of meddling in foreign affairs, and we have supported corrupt tyrants in the service of the stable, status quo. President Obama, for all his calls for “hope and change” is following traditional American policy. N’est ce-pas? (Isn’t that so?). Allow me to clarify: I am not calling for boots on the ground, for an expansion of the war that America is already waging in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am merely calling for more principled, more “inspiring” words on behalf of freedom and women’s rights from our very eloquent American President, our Master Wordsmith. At least that.

And, I am calling for one law for women in America. I hope President Obama supports this view.

As for my part: I have already begun to remember my love of French literature, cheese, wine, cooking, perfume, fashion, and art. Ever since Chirac coddled Arafat, and De Gaulle opened the French borders to Muslim immigration (in return for hoped-for oil markets) , I have rarely indulged these guilty pleasures. Now — Vive La France!

UPDATE:

Today, Britain’s Daily Express notes that a group of 58 MPs, from both the Left and Right, called upon the French Parliament “to take action against ‘oppressive dress that breaches individual freedoms'”.

Journalist Peter Allen estimates that 100,000 French Muslim women wear full burkhas. Communit MP Andre Gerin called the burkha and niquab a “moving prison.” Women’s rights groups, including Muslim feminist groups, have supported similar measures.

“Housing Minister Fadela Amara, a women’s rights campaigner of Algerian background, expressed alarm at the number of women who were ‘being put in this kind of tomb’, adding: ‘We must do everything to stop burkhas from spreading.’”

The rector of the Paris Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, also supported an inquiry, saying that “covering women’s faces was a fundamentalist practice which originated in Afghanistan and was not prescribed by Islam. ” He was opposed by Mohammed Moussaou, the head of the French Muslim Council, who “accused lawmakers of wasting time on a fringe phenomenon.”

“To raise the subject like this is a way of stigmatising Islam.”

Yes, it sure is. But westerners do so, not only to discourage further Islamist immigration into France, but because western values and laws are offended by Muslim and/or “cultural” practices such as veiling, arranged marriage to first cousins, polygamy, and honor killing.

Of course, after the accusation of “profiling” or “stigmatizing” is raised, the very next accusation is usually this: Indeed, a spokesman for The Muslim Council of Great Britain just said: “Unfortunately there is pressure on women to dress skimpily in the west. ”

Thus, since every culture objectifies women, one way or the other, no culture should be charged with this as a crime. Rather, if one culture forces/influences women to wear bikinis, then Islamist culture actually seeks to correct that by “covering” their women so that women may be able to avoid the male “gaze,” and in order to avoid being “Orientalized.”

But every line that Edward Said, (the author of Orientalism), wrote is a lie or, at best, a half-truth. Western culture has been “had.” Read my good friend Ibn Warraq’s book all about this. The title: Defending the West. A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism.