Post Eight: Muslims in France

Part One

Zemni and Parker criticize the integration of Muslims in Europe by explaining the chronology of migration into Europe. They explain the encouragement of migration in the early 1950s as a means to fill low-wage jobs. This encouragement swiftly transitioned to a negative image of the immigrants after the economic downturns in the 1970s. Again because of the Cold War, the number of immigrants increased as a result of the large number of civilians fleeing their countries and flowing into Western Europe to seek refuge. Zemni and Parker refer to their failure to integrate as a failure to “get ahead.” They failed to adopt cultural norms of the countries they had settled in, separating them from society. Today, these immigrants are no longer referred to as “guest-workers” from a different country, they are now acknowledges as Muslims. Muslims were no longer marginalized for their socioeconomic status or nationality; they were now associated with their Islamic beliefs and linked to a cultural mix. What was once a failure to integrate because of their failure to “get ahead” in their new societies is now a failure to integrate because of cultural differences that are misunderstood by others in their societies.

Europeans attitude toward Muslim integration and multiculturalism set a standard for treatment among European Muslims. The discourse greatly affects the politics of each country and the way politicians understand and interact with Muslims. Zemni and Parker explain that the potentially discrimination of Muslims puts them on the constant defense, as they feel their people are particularly vulnerable. One example given by Zemni and Parker examine the Flemish, who constantly vote the extreme right Flemish Bloc party, but are never questioned or criticized for their consistency agree with their neighborhoods and typically have the exact same views as the people they are closest with. In contrast, Muslim immigrants are questioned judged for their tendency to remain with their neighborhoods and refusal to branch out. Europeans do not consider Islam’s potentially peaceful and fair aspects in their culture. They judge Muslims without understanding their religion or beliefs. Another current example is the current veil bans across Europe. According to BBC, France was the first country to set a precedent for full-face veil bans. Since then, many countries have followed suit in banning veils in public and charging fines for rule breakers. This example shows the fear and uncertainty surrounding the Muslim communities seeping into politics and furthering the discourse affecting Muslims. The ignorance surrounding Muslims is extremely problematic because of the inaccurate tie between Muslims and terrorist, which in tern instills fear and therefore generates unnecessary discrimination. This discrimination is unfair, uncalled for, and unjustified, and greatly affects the moral of Muslims living in Europe.


Part Two

Though Muslims and the French both view women as inferior to men in society, the idea of gender and sex are both very different from each other. Islam includes very strict gender codes, including the necessity of the veil, removes the sexual aspect of the human being and prevents the sin of sex to seep into their communities. They believe sex poses a threat for “society and politics.” While Islam is seen as a “system that oppresses women,” n the complete opposite end of the spectrum, France is seen as one who liberates women. France sees sexuality as normal human nature. They has an ideal of “abstract individualism,” which poses a threat to their republicanism. This threat undermines the belief of equality in France. The headscarf sheds light on the limitations of the republic and their shortcomings towards equality. Muslims choose to wear headscarves, which, in turn, oppresses them in the sense that they do not have freedom of dress. They are suppressed rather than liberated.

In addition, the article talks about laïcité, which is French secularism. Secularism is the absence of religion, or the absence of religious pressures in government. Essentially, the term is the French ideal of separation of church, society, and state. The French believe their absolute individualism and laïcité are the only true and correct ways to “organize relations between the sexes.” According to the text, the only solution is to conform or never fully be considered French. French schools banning the headscarf was a way for France to feel they are upholding their individualistic values. The French want to be in control of their own country and their own organization of men and women. When threatened by the desexualization of society by Muslims, France felt its only defense was to ban the threat, rather than understand the threat.

I disagree with France’s decision to ban veils in schools, though I recognize their school of thought. I am from St. Louis County and I went to a Catholic grade school and high school. St. Louis is a hub for religion and religious institutions. Though I am not a very religious Catholic, I would be extremely insulted if I were told that we could no longer wear uniforms, crosses, or some other form religious affiliation to school. I know the United States if very difference from France, but as a woman raised religious, I disagree with France. Again, I would like to reiterate that I do not fully understand France’s point of view, as well as what it’s like to be Muslim, but I feel bad for the Muslims in Europe. I cannot imagine being oppressed because of my religion and being forced to disaffiliate through laws banning religious dress.

Because of France’s ban, countries like Belgium, Spain, Turkey, Italy, and many others have banned veils in schools, public places, and other areas. When issues like this rise, I often want to ask the opposing group, “how is this really affecting you?” Are Muslims’s veils actually decreasing the French quality of life? Is their religious belief of desexualizing women by instituting a strict dress code really your problem? If these individuals had a problem with this belief, perhaps they would become a more liberal form of Islam, change religions, or disaffiliate. Though this may be harder for some people, they have the option to be free in France and other countries. France may believe that veils oppress women, but they women may not feel they are being oppressed.

As I said though, I do recognize it is their country, they have a right to believe what they believe, and the Muslims have a right to leave if they want to fully pursue a life of conservative Islam. France has instilled these beliefs for a long time, and Muslims have an option to leave if they do not agree. This is a difficult controversy, especially because of the increasing wariness towards foreigners, especially Muslims, because of widespread terrorism. I understand both sides of the debate, but in the end, I wish everyone could be accepting of one another and worry about other, important issues.

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