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Lifting the Veil; Communism vs. Islam January 7, 2004 by RedStar2000


The recent decision of the Chirac government in France to ask for a law prohibiting the display of ostentatious religious symbols--including headscarves by Muslim female students--in public schools excited a surprising amount of controversy.

Naturally, the faithful were outraged...they are always outraged at any perceived threat to their on-going reactionary racket.

I was unpleasantly surprised, however, to discover "leftists" defending these bastards.

So, naturally, I had to speak up!


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quote:

...effectively, they are banning practicing Muslim girls from attending school. That is what the result of this is gonna be. Families religious enough to make their girls wear the veil, will keep them home.


Don't they have compulsory school attendance laws in France? If parents keep their daughters out of school, can they (the parents) not be prosecuted?

quote:

Redstar, you haven't thought out the results of this. Isolating the Muslim community is gonna drive them to religion, not away from it. The best way to do that is not talk about their religion, let them integrate into society, and eventually the veil will drop on its own.


Well, that's the larger theoretical dispute. If we ignore religion, will it just "wither away" spontaneously? Or should more vigorous action be taken to directly oppose it and drive it out of public life?

I'll grant that there's some evidence that suggests that the "acid of capitalism" continually eats away at religious fundamentalism.

But as we have seen in the U.S., that doesn't seem to stop the periodic revival of the most grotesque superstitions and the most barbarous of practices in the name of those superstitions.

Therefore, I'm in favor of the "pre-emptive attack" strategy...keep those bastards constantly on the defensive.

(Note: I agree with that there is a hidden agenda involved...the reactionary hatred of immigrants who just happen to be Muslims. If they were Buddhists, no doubt shaving the head would be up for banning. But I think that instead of defending religion, the best way to attack the reactionary anti-immigrant forces is again pro-active: full and unconditional equality of all French citizens, period. Affirmative action strategies might prove useful here.)
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First posted at Che-Lives on December 24, 2003
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quote:

They will feel that their faith and their beliefs are being attacked once more, and any attack on one's religion only leads to self-defence.


Yes, I agree that it's likely that many Muslims will react in this fashion...especially in the older generations.

But, as the late Edward Said pointed out repeatedly, Muslims are as diverse a sample of humanity as any other large group of people. I expect that the new rule will have a psychologically "liberating" effect on young Muslim women and girls. If a symbolic scarf can be discarded--and "the heavens do not fall" after all--what else might be possible?

quote:

Chirac's actions are completely in contradiction to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights articles 18...


This, I presume, is intended as humor. The record of the United Nations with regard to "human rights" weighs about as heavily as a starving insect.

quote:

Chirac has really come up with a stupid and rather fascist idea here.


Nonsense. And wouldn't it be great if people would learn something about fascism besides how to spell it...before casually sprinkling their posts with the word?

quote:

...this will divide the community, and polarise religion and atheism, and indeed split the working class; when in fact, regardless of religion we should smash capitalism. Lenin said that in time of agitation, religion is not important (these are not exact words) and we should [not] argue about religion on [the] barricades.


We're not "on the barricades".

And polarization is required if we are to advance. The development of revolutionary consciousness has a "million" forms--it's not just a matter of "a Leninist convincing a non-Leninist to buy a newspaper". Chirac is actually taking a tiny step that, regardless of his motives, will advance the revolution.

quote:

It should be the duty of all socialists to promote freedom of expression rather than suppress it.


No, it is the duty of socialists to promote freedom of expression for us and to oppose it for all forms of reactionary expression.

That's the logical consequence of class struggle.
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First posted at Che-Lives on December 24, 2003
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quote:

Muslim women wear the hijab by choice. It is a CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS thing. Taking it away forcibly is wrong.


I greatly doubt that Muslim women do anything "by choice"...unless they are prepared to risk their lives.

Do you know what "honor killings" are?

If, in the opinion of her male relatives, a woman has said or done anything that "brings dishonor on her family", it is the solemn obligation of such male relatives to murder her and "remove the stain of dishonor".

It would not surprise me to learn that every Muslim mother teaches this lesson to her daughters with grave diligence: disobedience to males = death!

Chirac's move forces a tiny crack into that monstrous "cultural and religious thing".

If it were up to me, French schools would have a really honest course in religious history and customs...taught by fire-breathing atheists.

Oh well, after the revolution...

quote:

Redstar, you say that Muslim girls would be 'liberated' but many are now wearing the veil through choice because it deters the attention of men; would they be liberated?


Don't know much about adolescent females, do you? You might want to scan a few of the "sex, courtship & flirtation" threads in Chit-Chat.

Adolescents of both sexes positively delight in attention from potential mates--the hormones are pumping away at the highest rate they ever will.

I can still remember what it was like being a teenager...I was ready for sex a dozen times a day.

I don't think I was "unique".

quote:

What is wrong with a head scarf? It is a symbol of modesty.


Only in the eyes of her male relatives. To everyone else, it's a symbol of her oppression.

And "modesty"? Good grief, what an absolutely archaic idea!

Do you cross yourself when passing a church?

quote:

...a person's right to free speech.


There's no such thing.
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First posted at Che-Lives on December 28, 2003
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quote:

You, my friend, have never met any teenage Muslims. If they are in a western country and haven't taken the veil off by their teenage years, it is because they genuinely want to keep it. If they didn't, trust me, I went through it, my cousins went through it, all hell breaks loose. The teenager will get what they want in the end. and stop wearing the veil, or in my case, grow my hair long, etc., etc.


Yes, I imagine "all hell" does break loose.

As a guy, you can wear your hair long and not run into "honor" problems; in fact, there are probably conservative Muslims who would endorse long hair on males (and not shaving the beard either).

What a teenage female raised in the Muslim tradition "wants" is much more problematical. Does she want "all hell to break loose"? Especially, if it could cost her the risk of injury or even death?

Remember, Muslims are not clones...perhaps your family is actually more "westernized" than many.

quote:

Have you never met a geek or nerd, or a generally introverted person? Someone who just doesn't drink, or go out much, or is really late in getting into dating, or doesn't really want to have sex yet?


Of course. Justifiably or unjustifiably, they believe themselves deeply unattractive to potential mates; fearing rejection, they block that possibility in advance...by rejecting any interest in the matter at all.

Of course, a few kids are a lot more "serious" than most others; whatever their passionate interest might be, it doesn't leave much time for courtship rituals.

But I doubt very much that teenage Muslim girls are so absorbed in their academic studies that they wish to "cover up" and/or "ugly down" so as to avoid teenage male attention. A few perhaps...but no more than a few. And you don't need a headscarf to do that...

quote:

...as for honour killings, they're very, very rare, a sign of disturbed people. And not wearing a veil is hardly sex before marriage, or adultery; to assert that a Muslim woman in the west doesn't have the choice of not wearing it for fear of honour killings is ridiculous.


Frequency is not the issue; possibility is the issue. Because "honor killings" exist and are known to exist, every Muslim woman is always aware of "what could happen". And when men and boys are not present, you can be certain that she teaches that lesson to her daughters. It's a "life and death" issue.

Just as sensible women avoid "dangerous neighborhoods" at night. Objectively, the chance of rape/murder might be quite minimal--1 in 5,000 or 1 in 10,000 or whatever--but why risk it?

"Honor killings" are quite rare in western countries--that's true. The men who do them are treated just like any other murderer; unlike Jordan, for example, where the typical sentence (upon conviction) is six months...and afterwards, you're a "man of respect" in your neighborhood or village.

But "honor killings" happen here too...in California, in London, and, I'm sure, in France. A non-conforming Muslim female is not "safe" just "because" she lives in a western country.

And she probably knows that, even if only "in the back" of her mind.

quote:

You're tripping over yourself redstar, bubbling with hatred for cultural evolution. Evolution will obliterate religion and burn its books. And evolution will not bear any being arrogant enough to think he can do the job better, you or Chirac


How does "cultural evolution" take place except through struggle?

You may not care for my methods...or Chirac's. That's a difference of opinion regarding tactics. You want to go "slower" than I do (or Chirac does)...but you want to move in the same direction, right?

Right???
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First posted at Che-Lives on December 28, 2003
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quote:

Honor killings are cultural. Religion and culture are often confused.


I've heard that "excuse" before. The last time was, I believe, when unveiled women in Bangladesh had acid thrown in their faces.

Or was it when some gay men received harsh prison terms in Cairo?

Well, people, here's a "news flash"--religion is cultural.

It doesn't just "fall out of the sky" like "divine revelation"...although it always claims such origins.

It reflects the culture in which it grew up and, in turn, affects other traits of that culture...usually reinforcing them.

A primitive culture which treats women as property will have a religion in which such treatment is "God's Will".

The specifics of the mistreatment--honor killings, acid baths, genital mutilation--may differ from one part of the world to another...the religion is "comfortable" with all of them.

Why shouldn't it be? It was invented for the purpose of reinforcing an existing culture.

It will try to adapt to new cultures, of course, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. It will try to adapt to the changes in existing culture, when it can.

But escaping from its roots in the old culture in which it originated is very difficult...it "wants" to "keep things the same".

Inevitably, it becomes reactionary.

quote:

Ignoring it is working; this stupidity is only going to bring it back into the spotlight, and make it into a rallying-call for religious institutions to awaken their drones who were drifting away.


Well, that's speculation. You might be right and you might be wrong.

And, in this complex matter, you could be both right and wrong. Some conservative Muslims and their followers will see this as a "rallying" issue; others may see it as an opportunity to get "out from under" the mullah-wannabes.

Cultural change is complicated. The decline of the influence of religion in the west had/has both "passive" and "active" components. People "drifted away"--true--but people were also encouraged in that "drift" by active changes in the law.

Divorce and safe abortion, for example, were always available to Italy's ruling classes...but legally prohibited for ordinary people for "religious" reasons. Now that is no longer the case. The "big issue" in Italy at the moment is the removal of crucifixes from the walls of public schools. The church is howling in outrage (like the mullahs in France, no doubt)...probably to no avail.

The struggle continues...
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First posted at Che-Lives on December 29, 2003
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quote:

This is so typical of the white man. speaking of civilizing the backwards easterners. Excuse me if I take it with a grain of salt; I don't need your white man's burden.


This is "so typical" of someone with a weak argument who wishes to impugn the integrity of someone with a stronger argument.

At no time have I ever expressed the view that "white men" should go and "civilize" easterners.

It is, in fact, my view that people "civilize themselves". For example, it would do little good for a "Red EU" to demolish the great mosque at Mecca...in a few years, people there would just re-build it, probably on an even grander scale.

You must do it yourselves.

But I feel no inhibition in telling you that's what you need to do...if you want to enter the modern world.

Nor do I see any reason why I "should" be inhibited about that...I say exactly the same thing to my "fellow westerners"...you yourself have acknowledged the fact that a zealous Christian can't stick his head out from under a rock on this board without me "casting the first stone"--99.99% of the time, I'm trying to "civilize" westerners.

And having a tough time of it, I'll have you know!

Please recall that Chirac wants to get rid of the ostentatious crosses and Jewish skull-caps too. Chirac is, in his own small way, also trying to "civilize" westerners. And he's not having a much easier time of it than I am.

quote:

...and redstar, you must understand, religion is backwards, and the west has had the years it needs to pretty much rid itself of it. It's true, we haven't done the same. I'm sorry the third world hasn't had anything to show it that living on this earth is worth it without believing in fairy tales. I'm sorry the west has aided our elite in their quest to crush every secular movement, holding us back. I'm sorry that the hunger and poverty the majority of the Arab world lives in compels them to hope for something better.


This sounds like the whiny plea of some poor bastard in court charged with vagrancy.

I'm not your "judge"--don't whine to me! I was making speeches in support of Arab secular resistance to western imperialism when I was in high school (1956-60). I'm almost certainly the only person on this board who has actually read the United Nations reports that led to the partition of Palestine and knows first hand how unjust they really were from the beginning.

You want me to say: "Aawww, poor Arabs, they're so backward and fucked up that they just can't help themselves."???

Wrong department; try the "tea & sympathy" department across the hall. They accept all excuses at face value.

In "my" department, excuses for "being patient" with reaction are steeply discounted. Generally, we use them whenever we run short of toilet paper...or pages torn from "holy books".

As a matter of record, 9th century Baghdad and 12th century Spain pretty much demonstrated that Arabs could "lead the world" in "civilization"...so capability is not at issue here.

What's at issue is the willingness of Arabs to struggle against their own reactionary ideas...particularly Islam.

Please don't shoot at the messenger...even if he's "white".
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First posted at Che-Lives on December 29, 2003
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quote:

People can keep their faith (religion), and still be "civilized".


Well, that's debatable, is it not? American Christian fundamentalists strike me as a pretty barbaric bunch of assholes, for example. I think they'd burn a "witch", if they thought they could get away with it.

quote:

White man's burden involves good intentions, it always does.


Who believes that, aside from Rudyard Kipling?

Most people, when confronted with "western" pretensions of "helping" the "backward peoples", know enough to look for the scam...there pretty much always is one, you know.

Certainly we know that.

Kipling coined the phrase "white man's burden" in a poem addressed to Americans, following their conquest of the Philippines. He was extremely blunt in his views, suggesting that the "eastern peoples" were "ungrateful children"--hinting, I suppose, that it would be "ok" to "discipline" them.

The U.S. "disciplined" the "ungrateful children" of the Philippines by murdering 5,000-50,000 members, dependents, and random by-standers of the Philippine independence movement.

I mention all this simply to point out that it has nothing to do with my own views at all. I don't think the various western imperialisms that have inflicted so much misery and ruin on the Arab world have ever acted from "humanitarian" motives...their verbal pretenses notwithstanding. Nor do I think they ever will. If they do something that "looks humanitarian", it's time to start digging for the real motive. At best it will turn out to be a cynical maneuver...and at worst, well...you know as well as I.

quote:

They have not been exposed to anything but the myths. To force them out now, into the cold world where god doesn't exist, that would be like robbing a child of its chance to grow out into the world where Santa doesn't exist.


But Arabs are not "children".

The implication here is that if Arabs were to learn that "Allah" does not exist, they would be "crushed".

They are "too weak" to face the truth.

I don't see how you can say this. They were not "too weak" to smash French imperialism in Algeria and even bring down the French 4th Republic in the process.

They were not "too weak" to overthrow the British puppet regime in Iraq.

They were not "too weak" to take back the Suez Canal and make it stick...causing the permanent downfall and disgrace of the odious Anthony Eden.

And they are turning out not to be very "weak" at all in Iraq now...as America's lackeys (like Thailand and Bulgaria) are finding out to their cost.

The Arabs are not "weak". They are as strong as any people. They can face the truth.

Look, you and I face a situation that is actually very similar. I have to tell Americans that imperialism sucks...even though most Americans "believe in it".

You have to tell Arabs that Islam sucks...even though most Arabs "believe in it".

Neither of us has a "popular message". Both of us have been and will be accused of being "traitors" or worse.

It is also a "dangerous message"...under certain circumstances, we could be killed for telling people what they don't want to hear. Thus, prudence is required.

In Miami, anti-imperialist demonstrators are beaten and raped. In "Saudi" Arabia, protesters are shot or beheaded. It's a very nasty world out there.

But if we don't take the initiative to tell people what they need to hear even though they very much don't want to hear it, who will?

And if not now, when?

Am I supposed to wait until the next "Thomas Jefferson" becomes president before speaking out? Are you waiting for the next "Gamal Abdul Nasser"? Or a Syrian version of "Chirac"?

I know this sounds "hard"...but there are ways to fight reactionary ideas even under the most repressive conditions. I'm not telling you to risk "life and limb" as a matter of "principle"--I'm telling you to figure out some "safe" ways to do it and then do them. Secular thought in the Arab world does not need martyrs; it needs effective propagandists.

Or else, things will continue as they have.

quote:

The government should never have the right to legislate what we wear; I don't even believe in anti-nudity laws.


In principle, I agree with you, of course. In communist society, with no "government" at all in the contemporary sense, I don't imagine people will take much interest in the clothing/lack of clothing of others at all...except to make judgments of fashion. I do hope that "ugly people" will remain clothed, but otherwise...

However, things are different when you live in class society. One of the last Weimar governments prior to Hitler attempted to undercut the popular support of the Nazis by banning the wearing of quasi-military uniforms and Nazi insignia in public. The ban was only partially enforced--lots of cops were pro-Nazi and "looked the other way".

The efforts of Chirac--who is widely supported by secular elements in France on this issue--has a similar motivation in the eyes of many. Everyone knows that Islam is the only religion that is growing in the EU...and tackling its symbols is an attempt to undercut its popularity among young Muslims.

Maybe it will work; maybe it won't.

But it's worth a try.
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First posted at Che-Lives on December 30, 2003
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Let's begin with a news flash from the BBC...

quote:

The head of one of the world's most prestigious centres of Islamic learning has upheld the right of France to ban headscarves in state schools.

Speaking in Cairo in the presence of Mr Sarkozy, Sheikh Tantawi said the veil was the divine obligation of Muslim women.

In other words, it is less harmful for a Muslim girl in France to refrain from wearing the veil at school than breaking French law.


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/europe/3358363.stm

I added the emphasis; the veil--some form of it at least--is a "divine obligation" for Muslim women.

Note also the argument suggested by the Sheikh...that "obedience to the law" is an even greater "moral obligation" than "divine commands". I have said many times in threads like these that "obedience to authority" is the fundamental core value of all religions...which is why they are always reactionary in the end, no matter what else they might say.

quote:

Let's face [it,] every time a religious group is marginalized, they band together and generally become more fundamental[ist], the reaction often becoming violent. The majority of France is still catholic; if they can't influence the government to abandon the law, they will move in greater numbers to catholic schools and the Muslims will follow suit.


Yes, that could happen--a lot depends on how seriously the French take their Catholicism. My impression is that most French people--especially in the cities--are already de facto atheists. That is, if asked, they will say they "believe"...but religious beliefs and practices have no influence on how they live their lives. They don't go to mass or confession; they don't wonder "what would Jesus do"; they don't give money to Catholic charities; they don't support pro-Catholic political parties; etc.

Some do; most don't.

Most Muslims in France are recent immigrants from North Africa. They go there for the same reason that Mexicans come to the U.S.--to escape the poverty of "third world" underdevelopment.

They live in ghettos, for the most part, partly because French landlords discriminate against them and partly because they wish to recreate the kind of life they knew "back home".

They work the shitty, low-pay jobs that native French workers will avoid if at all possible.

Their mosques and mullahs are paid for by the "royal" family of "Saudi" Arabia.

They also have religious schools where kids are taught the Koran...but I doubt if they have any modern schools where kids could receive an education that would fit them for participation in modern French society.

So if Muslim fathers were to withdraw their daughters from public schools, then the girls would probably receive no education at all.

The French Government, you may be sure, would not tolerate this.

quote:

I have a cross tattooed on my hand...


I understand it can be removed painlessly these days with laser surgery.

quote:

This law is cruel; it will push society in the wrong direction because the religious may sway, but they have almost never been broken by force; it generally strengthens their resolve.


Really, you are being quite pathetic here. In what sense is it "cruel" to ban ostentatious religious symbols in public schools? How is it moving society "in the wrong direction"?

And, by the way, religions can be and have been smashed by "brute force". Christianity in Japan was utterly destroyed back in the 17th century (or 18th--not sure exactly) by the simple expedient of killing anyone who refused to publicly renounce the faith.

It wasn't until the latter part of the 19th century that Christianity gained a small foothold in Japan again--and although the Japanese celebrate Christmas, they have never become Christians in any significant numbers.

quote:

Who do you consider to be civilised?


None of us anywhere close to where we ought to be! I suspect by the standards of a classless society two or three centuries from now, all of us will be looked upon in a pretty grim light.

Indeed, it is probably just as well for our self-esteem that we can't read what future historians will write about us and our "civilizations".

quote:

This (these new laws being passed by Chirac) is blatant censorship!


Your "rant" is mis-directed and should perhaps be forwarded to the American Civil Liberties Union...they are the "lefties" who are against all forms of censorship.

Speaking only for myself, I am in favor of censoring all reactionary ideologies...and that definitely includes religion.
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First posted at Che-Lives on December 30, 2003
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