Write on

August 23, 2008

Fraternite, egalite and liberte?

While I deeply share Luke Vanni's concerns (Write On #763) about the exploitation of women, I find the French State Council's decision to deny Faiza Silmi's application for citizenship on the basis of wearing a burqua completely abhorrent.

Faiza has not committed any crimes, nor refused to learn the nation's language (she is fluent in French) or rejected France's laws. The court ruled that Faiza had not assimilated sufficiently and had adopted practices "incompatible with the essential values of the French community — notably the principle of equality of the sexes" due to her religious belief.

This court decision, while outrageous, hasn't come out of the blue. French authorities have scapegoated Muslims for an escalating economic and social crisis. In their endeavour to blame marginalised immigrants, they have been using Muslim women's bodies to write their laws on. Muslim women are prohibited from wearing the hijab in public schools, supposedly to safeguard "secularism and gender equality". In Turkey the veil is outlawed at public universities and in Germany in the public service.

These decisions don't liberate women but force them to either obey the state or leave the public domain. Women are either humiliated and start wearing less clothes or retreat into the home and conservative religious institutions that are privately run.

If, as Vanni argues, the court's decision was based on a genuine belief in sexual equality and has nothing to do with racism and Islamophobia, why then is the Western veil not banned? Luke might not realise how many Western women will not or can not step outside their front door without their veil: make-up, or — worse — the permanent veil, plastic surgery.

There are plenty of women who wear the veil because they are "forced" to, as there are plenty of Western women who self-mutilate through waxing, laser and plastic surgery because they are "forced" too.

The State Council's decision will not help Muslim or non-Muslim women's liberation. As a matter of fact it is a brutal attack on women's basic human rights. So much for fraternite, egalite and liberte.

It doesn't matter how much we dislike certain religious or non-religious dress codes for their sexist overtones. The decision to torture yourself by wearing stiletto heels and fashionable but hazardous corsets, or the burqua for that matter, is not a court's or a man's but an individual woman's decision only.

As long as women are reduced to bodies with specific sex organs to be veiled or unveiled for the benefit of capitalist moneymakers and religious ideologues, equality between the sexes remains empty rhetoric.

Margarita Windisch


@letterhead= Nuclear power

Carlos Caceres (Write On #763) writes that clean aluminium needs nuclear power. I believe that the only sustainable option to counter climate change is to replace polluting energy sources with renewable energy.

Nuclear energy is not considered to be sustainable because it produces long-life radioactive wastes and sustains technology and opportunity for nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons should be outlawed.

Carbon-capture and storage is not considered to be sustainable because it may well cause problems for future generations.

The federal government should publish maps of Australia indicating the location and magnitude of solar, wind and other renewable energy resources and call for energy storage and transmission submissions so that opportunities for renewable energy can be seen by all. That could help to guide setting incentives to replace polluting sources by renewable energy.

@letter= Why should it not be used in aluminium smelters?

Peter Ravine

Greenmount, WA

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