by the stormy present
Tue Jan 16th, 2007 at 05:04:59 AM EST
from the diaries. -- Jérôme
OK, object lesson time.
... is not the problem.
This, however, is part of the problem. And this is about both part of the problem and part of the solution.
(photo from tolerance.org)
So, let's recap. AP via IHT says:
MUNICH, Germany: A court on Monday upheld a ban on Muslim teachers wearing head scarves in the schools of a German state under a law that says teachers' attire must be in line with "western Christian" values.
Quick, someone tell me another one about Europe being "post-religious."
A Berlin-based Islamic association had complained about the law, which authorities in the conservative-run state of Bavaria have used to ban head scarves while allowing Roman Catholic nuns to continue to wear their head-covering habits in schools.
The Bavarian Constitutional Court ruled on Monday that the application of the law in the state neither violated religious freedom nor was discriminatory.
Conservative politicians welcomed the verdict.
Oh, I bet they did.
An Islamic head scarf represented a "deliberate separation from western values, and that is not compatible with our constitution," Wolfgang Bosbach, a federal lawmaker for Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, said on N24 television.
Sigh. What were those "western values" again? Something about tolerance and equality?
Deutche Welle seems to get it:
This latest legal wrangle over headscarves highlights the inconsistency of Bavaria's state's school law. It says that no-one is allowed to wear religious symbols in the classroom -- except Christians and Jews.
All or none
The heated debate was first sparked in 2003 when Germany's federal Constitutional Court ruled that Muslims could wear their headscarves while teaching but at the same time encouraged new laws to ban religious symbols. Eight German states, including Berlin, have so far passed school laws that ban headscarves.
Unlike other headscarf-banning states, which saw the Muslim attire as an affront to Christian values, Berlin decided to treat all religious symbols on an equal basis.
"Berlin is the only city and German state which has not only banned the headscarf, but all religious symbols in schools -- that is the big difference," said Günther Piening, who is the Berlin commissioner for integration and migration.
"I think that's the only way to do it, because the general ban does not discriminate against one religion," he added. "It abides by the principle of equality as laid down in the German constitution."
OK, I know that many people here disagree with me about this, but I don't see any point in banning headscarfs. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Prohibiting it just politicizes it and makes it into that statement of "deliberate separation" that for the vast majority of Muslim women, it is inherently not.
Here's another quote from the DW story:
According to the deputy secretary general of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Christoph Kannengiesser, the wearing of a headscarf is not necessarily a political statement and it should not stop the communication between Muslims and Germans.
"We must not allow Muslim women to separate themselves from German society," Kannengiesser said. "We have to work harder to integrate them and the women also have to be willing to integrate. Muslims, however, are part of German society and we have to accept it if Muslim girls and women choose to wear the headscarf."
I would agree with that. I know that most of you do not.
But my larger point is this: I'm sick and tired of the headscarf issue being hyperventilated over in the so-called "West" (for lack of a better term) when in my view, there are MANY MANY MANY other issues regarding women's rights in Islam that are much more important than whether somebody chooses to cover her hair or not.
For example, where I live, my testimony in court legally and officially carries half the weight of a man's testimony. My word is not as good as a man's, not here, not legally. There are inheritance issues (daughters get half what their brothers get, by law, and no will or testament can change that) and domestic violence issues (for lower-class women, the courts routinely rule that they have no right to expect that their husbands won't beat them).
And that's under one of the so-called "moderate" Arab governments. America's ally, and Europe's.
So excuse me if I get a little exasperated when people get all exercised over a piece of cloth wrapped around some lady's head. It's a piece of cloth. There are other things that are far more central to your value systems that perhaps you should be focusing on.
Maybe some of you will argue this way: "Well, the headscarf debate is happening in Europe, and it's about European values, in our own countries, we wouldn't tell other people how to live in their countries, but we have a right to decide how things should be in our countries, etc...."
Sure, OK. And so the headscarf is the only thing keeping Muslims from integrating fully into various European societies, eh? Because those other things, they all get forgotten about if we can convince women to show us their hair.
THAT SAID... if you're going to ban headscarves -- and I do understand the arguments in France for doing so, even if I don't agree with them -- I would have to say that I would prefer the approach that France and Berlin take, rather than the Bavarian approach. If you're going to ban a specific religious symbol, you've got to ban them all. Otherwise, it's just ugly discrimination.
BUT... since we're talking about Europeans and covering up, I have to applaud Spanish Justice Minister Juan Fernando Lopes Aguilar for standing up to the Saudis on this one:
MADRID - Spain's justice minister refused to deliver a lecture at a university in Saudi Arabia on Monday after authorities banned visiting female journalists from attending, a spokeswoman and one of the reporters said.
The Spanish reporters were prevented from entering Al-Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University despite the fact they were all wearing the traditional black abaya and veil, according to one of the correspondents from SER radio, Esther Bazan.
Justice Minister Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar decided to cancel his lecture on the globalisation of terrorism at the institution - the academic heart of Saudi Arabia's hardline Wahhabi Islam.
Saudi authorities said the university was an all-male institution and women were not allowed, but the Spanish delegation and reporters travelling with them were not informed about the ban until Sunday night.
On Monday, they tried to enter the university anyway, radio station Cadena Ser said.
'Yesterday, at the last minute, we were told women couldn't enter the university. He cancelled because the none of the women were allowed to be there,' a Justice Ministry spokeswoman in Madrid said.
My views about being forced to wear the hijab are pretty similar about my views on prohibiting it. In other words, I disagree with the Saudi and Iranian policies requiring all women to cover their heads. For the last time, this should be a personal decision.
(NB: I'm adding this next paragraph after posting because I re-read it and decided I hadn't been clear about what I was objecting to...)
But headscarves weren't the issue at the Riyadh university; it was about barring women from one of the nation's most influential institutes of higher education, and it was about intolerance and exclusion -- the Spanish female journalists were barred from entry even though they observed local customs regarding their attire, and were prevented from doing their jobs simply because of their gender. That is inconsistent not only with "western values" but with Islamic ones.
I'm sure that the students at Al-Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud would have benefitted from hearing the minister's speech, but he made the right choice.