Sarkozy: unrelenting feminist

By now, you’re sure to have heard that Sarkozy wants to ban the burqa in France. Not known for his ardent support for women’s liberation, this might have struck some as duplicitous.

Europe has long been known for its unease over Muslim immigration (and France specifically – remember all those riots?), and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for Europeans, who imagine themselves as pretty damn liberal, to speak out against the dark people invading spate of North African-heavy immigration and maintain their ‘accepting’ status. To capitalize upon this tension, European leaders use the frequently-understood, seldom-talked about clash between multiculturalism and liberalism – how do we respect (non-Western) cultural practices that discriminate against women/homosexuals/other minorities?

The problem becomes when liberalism is used as a cover for nationalist causes – namely, when politicians use women’s rights to stamp out all Muslim practice. Don’t get me wrong – I tend to be part of the camp that assumes, even without proof, that even if women aren’t directly coerced into wearing the burqa, it is a sign of oppression (that the choice doesn’t absolve the subjugation), but it makes me uneasy and strikes me as disingenuous to fight for more rights by taking rights away: to allow you to more fully do what you will, when you will, I will prohibit you, by law, from doing X – sound logic, no?

Michelle Goldberg (author of the most wonderful The Means of Reproduction) writes about this, in more detail (and with things like “evidence” and “direct quotes”), at The American Prospect.