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Arabeyes: Moroccan woman refused French citizenship for burqa

Last week a French resident was refused citizenship on the grounds that she was “insufficiently assimilated.” The woman, referred to in the Press as “Faiza M.,” is a Moroccan citizen but has lived in France since 2000 with her husband, a French citizen, and three children, all born in France. Although most articles on the subject quickly pointed to Faiza's wearing of the burqa (or, given that she was from Morocco, more likely of the niqaab), Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff of PostGlobal indicates that other factors, such as Faiza's refusal to show her face even to a female officer, and her statement that voting should be for men only, were involved.

Regardless, the incident has set a precedent and has stirred up the feelings of bloggers around the world. The Angry Arab remarks briefly on the story, explaining:

Social services reports said the burqa-wearing Faiza M lived in “total submission to her male relatives”. Faiza M said she has never challenged the fundamental values of France.

The story garnered quite a few comments; one in particular reads:

As far as that niqab business, why would a person who is going to live most of her life inside of a big sack want to live in a Western country? Why?
I have no respect for anyone who would think that a woman must walk around all day in a niqab of any kind. It is a human rights abuse. Human beings need sunlight and air. I sat on a beach in Syria and watched a father and his sons frolic in the wonderful sunlight and cool water on a very hot day. On the beach, in the sand, completely covered by those monstrous niqabs, were the mother and daughters! How could any decent human being, let alone a decent father, allow only one part of his family to enjoy the beauty and the coolness of the sea? It made me physically ill to think about those poor girls and what they were learning about what it meant to be female. Why was it proper for the father and the boys to swim without shirts and in shorts? And I do not want to hear about it being ” a cultural thing” or that the woman freely chooses to live like that. If she has, she has been brainwashed. It is a disgusting abusive practice. If it is torture to hood prisoners, then it sure as hell is torture, whether willingly or unwillingly, to place yourself in a big sack and not see or feel the light of day.

Internation Musing (a group blog with writers in Turkey and Greece, among other places) also had a strong opinion about the case:

Their two children have the French nationality, she not. Appeal is not possible: bravo!
But in fact she is a ticking time bomb. And that's scary.

Nuseiba has a considerably different opinion:

This narrow interpretation I will write about in another post, however, right now, i’d like to focus on this woman who has been rejected for expressing a cultural and religious belief. I’d like to point out that I’m not much of a supporter of the burqa, because it is not sanctioned in Islam and women who do wear it do so unnecessarily. However I do support a woman’s right to wear one–whether for cultural or religious reasons.

The blogger concludes:

As I pointed out earlier, the notion of laicite, which this ruling was premised on, cannot apply in equal fashion to all citizens of France today because there are many who belong to the Islamic faith, who wear burqas, hijabs, turbans, yalmulkes etc, who have different cultural practices that cannot only be expressed in private (which is how the French understand religion to be). So what we’re seeing is a clash of values, a France imposing its normative understandings of equality and justice on individuals who see it nothing more than an unjust coercive act of the state.

Sabria Jawhar, writing for Arabisto, argues against the ruling as well, stating:

Here’s what French government representative Emmanuelle Prada-Bordenave said about Mabchour: “From her own declarations she lives an almost reclusive life, cut off from French society.
She has no idea of secularism or the right to vote. She lives in total submission to the men in her family. She appears to find that normal.”
Normal?

Excuse me. But who is Prada-Bordenave to say what is normal? Normal by Western standards? Must Mabchour completely conform in every respect to France’s cultural values to be a French citizen?
Speaking French alone is a sign of assimilation into French society. Mabchour even has a male gynecologist, a fact that most Muslim women would find extremely difficult to face. That is considerable assimilation.

I don’t know whether Mabchour is submissive. Perhaps by her own standards she has a fair and equitable marriage. I frankly think that is her business.

Creative Commons-licensed photo by janjochemo

26 comments

  • Christain soldier

    you must be sad all the time in your religion? That is all you ever say, open your heart and mind to the teachings of the holy bible and read it. You will see love and support and forgiveness to your brothers in all the writings of the Holy Bible.You will not see torture or beheading just because they dont believe. Trust me when I say this I have read the Quran several times, and I do understand your religion and it troubles me heavily. If you are happy with this so be it. These other countries you mentioned are led by high priest or whatever names you guys have for them.They follow the quran?

  • All this burqa stuff is just a bunch of nonsense if you ask me. I think it’s inhumane, it’s demeaning to women, it represents an extreme religious/political ideology which is destructive to the freedom of the human spirit, it’s a newer practice invented in some backward oppressive hell hole and Islam strictly forbids religious innovation, the list goes on…..but still regardless of what we think, in a free society such as the one France claims to be, an individual is supposedly guaranteed freedom of expression regardless of their ethnic, religious or political background….their decision to refuse this woman the French citizenship is pure hypocrisy and double standards beyond reasonable doubt, especially considering that the rest of her family members who share the same lifestyle are already French citizens. What kind of message does this send to those who are already French citizens(indigenous or naturalized) who publicly do wear burqas or any other religious garb? Does this mean their religious lifestyles aren’t welcome in French society either?

    Here is another little story for you.
    My sister works at branch of city hall in Amsterdam and part of her duties is performing marriages. A few months ago she told me she had to marry a Dutch-Moroccan couple and the whole ceremony was totally bizarre. The bride and groom were in their early twenties, they were both born in Holland. The bride was wearing a burqa and the groom had a long beard and wore a 3baya. The bride’s sister was the only other person present, for the sole purpose of giving her sister away. She stood between the bride and groom while the marriage ceremony was being performed. In the end when they were pronounced husband and wife, to make it all official, the sister took the bride and groom’s hands and put them in each other’s hands without saying a word, after which they collected their marriage certificate and walked away hand in hand.

    I said to my sister, now wait a minute, don’t they know that their marriage isn’t even considered legal in Islam? She said the whole thing was just too bizarre for words, I can’t even imagine what must be going through those people’s minds….I’m not even sure if their religious garb was even an indication of their own religious beliefs or some silly new trend they thought was cool and different.

    Fact is there are too many things going on nowadays that have suddenly become religious custom in Islam…I just can’t keep up anymore, I blame it all on politics driving ignorance.

    Christian soldier, I find you extremely judgemental and intolerent. As a Muslim myself I never turn down an opportunity to go to church when I’m invited by my Christian friends. I love going to Church, but the thing I don’t care for as much is all the additional manmade customs during the ceremony…I find them distracting from the purpose of going there to connect with God.

  • Christian soldier

    Finally someone I can talk to. I can take someone calling me intolerant because that is so me. I have tried all my life to respect others as they would respect me. I am sure the media has helped my intolerance but,I do work with a muslim and I have talked to him over the years about things in life other than theology or religion, and his mindset is not one that I can trust. He has shown me his true heart and it is scary. the way he talks is that all people are wrong in America just for the simple reason that they are not muslim. Our traditions in my family are to celebrate christ resurrection on Christmas day and I do read the bible and talk about his importance in all our lives as a saviour as Gods son. Omar will not even look at me on Christmas day he is so mad. Should one man working in an industry control everyone else just because he believes different, NO!In closing I dont think muslims realize that alot of Americans are very tired of seeing all the violence in the mideast and when all those muslim men that have families and children, KILL!! themselves and all the people on those planes and in those buildings on 9/11 I believe we have reched a point where there is no turning back. God forgive me but I will not accept any other discriminatory or racist remarks from him or any other muslim that has come here from another country. I will celebrate all victories against islam and I will be there for my country again and so will my three sons because they have learned as the islamic children have,that christ died on the cross for our sins and that anything else is an abomination!and they will beleaguer the muslims and lie in wait for them in every stratgem of the world because god is forgiving and will reward them.Funny? I didnt used to think this way .

  • Yea I hear ya Christian Soldier, I’m sure your heart is in the right place. You’re probably not a hater at all, maybe you’re just reacting out of fear, but perhaps if you stopped generalizing so much, you’ll notice that many of us Muslims hold the same position and take a firm stand against Muslim extremism and Islamic terror. If we were to work together instead of against each other our common enemy wouldn’t stand a chance. Bottom line is, take away politics, people will get along just fine.

  • Jay Kactuz

    Jillian,

    Are you saying you have seen a Muslim condemn the many vile things described in the hadith and Quran? (I am talking about raids, plunder, enslavement of men women and children, murder of critics, toprture, rape and wife-beating). Please tell me where. Give me the name of the site. Please.

    This not a question of “intolerance” – the only issue is if what I say is true or not. Am I lying? Am I making things up. To call me intolerant means nothing. Or is being “intolerant” of hate and violence a bad thing?

    Here is a reference (link) for you to read:
    http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/hadithsunnah/muslim/019.smt.html#019.4345

    Tell me if you can find anything morally wrong in the passage? Did Abu Bakr (later one of the so-called “Righteous Caliph) and the “Messanger of Allah” act properly?

    Your response is typical of that I get from Muslims. They don’t like to hear things that may cause them to think and make judgements. So, they have two courses of action, to silence the speaker or to suppress the words. The question of whether or not the words are true is not to be considered or researched.

    This is why things never change, and why it will grow worse. All the so-called condemnations of terrorism mean nothing because those vile actions can be fully justified by the sacred words of the Quran and hadith. That is tragic, but true and so the terror never ends.

    Enough for now. Here is another verse about terror for you to think about.
    http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/hadithsunnah/bukhari/052.sbt.html#004.052.220

    Take care and think about these things…

    Jay

  • Jay,

    Yes, I have personally, in my lifetime, met plenty of Muslims who do not fully agree with hadiths. I cannot quote you a link, because I’m talking about conversations with humans (although Irshad Manji’s site might offer you some nice information – mind you, I don’t agree with everything she says, but she does confirm what I’m saying)

    The problem is that you seem to assume that Islam and Muslims are the same thing. They’re not. While there are certainly plenty of Orthodox Muslims who take every word of the Qur’an and hadiths for granted, there are plenty others who do not. Either way, Muslims are humans, born into a particular religion. You don’t have to like their religion, but can’t you consider the fact that they are not one entity encompassing a single belief?

    For the record, I’m not Muslim and I don’t particularly care for much of Islam’s beliefs. But that doesn’t mean I won’t stand up for injustice where I see it.

    Jillian

  • Christain soldier

    Myrtus,
    in a way your right about me. At the same time there is a consistent movement of all Americans toward fear and racism that I am afraid can and will not be stopped before alot of people get hurt or killed. I grew up thinking and admiring the discipline of muslims the way they worship and this was a respect I had. Perfect example and I know I have said this before, When I see several muslim women wrapped all the way up with nothing but there eyes showing it is very creepy and I cant get past this. Until the teachings of the quran are changed I am sure that christians will get even more violent and less tolerant. So when you are talking to your friends about the koran it might be time for another prophet to stand up and write a new testament to the quran to keep the muslim community from going extinct…….

  • Christian Soldier, frankly my dear we’ve had enough prophets telling us what to do….don’t you think? :D
    It is time we, the people, start using our common sense and stick it to corrupted POLITICIANS, because that’s the root of all the widespread evil we are witnessing today on our TV screens, our newspapers and our streets.
    There are more than 500 instances mentioned in the Bible where violence is condoned, including stoning to death in case of apostasy and there is plenty of violence committed in the name of Christianity on a daily basis yet Christians will deny this ever happens because we’re not bombarded with it on mainstream media as is done with Islam related issues.

    I recently attended a confirmation ceremony at a Catholic Church….all in all the service just beautiful! In the end I walked away thinking my experience wouldn’t have been nearly as enriching had the priest not told the story of Saint Stephen the Martyr. At one point I thought to myself, what a gruesomely violent and depressing tale to share with a bunch of young kids who are already plenty scared and excited with all the new things they’re having to experience as they’re getting ready to enter adulthood. I just hope that in these delicate times we live in, the message they got out of it was a positive one and not that it’s OK to just go ahead and martyr themselves in the name of religion. But knowing the short attention span kids have nowadays, they probably forgot all about it the next day…at least I hope so. ;D

    I say there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to get along.
    Cheers!
    Najia

  • […] week, Global Voices covered the story of Faiza Silmi, the Moroccan woman denied French citizenship for her beliefs and actions […]

  • Christaian Soldier

    Myrtus,
    I do not deny that there is an extreme amount of arabic men along with there families being destroyed over in the mid east and this troubles me because of the children that are not of age to learn this rage or mistrust or whatever it is that these fanatics have against us. I do believe you are mistaken on the media? All I see on the tv is death and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan and all the arabic men being killed. I do know, there will never be piece in Iraq if we leave because the warlords will take back over in the name of Allah and get right back to the clan mentality that has run this area for thousands of years. I feel for the christians that live in Iraq. God bless them and protect them.

    Man of the book

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