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Arabeyes: Moroccan woman refused French citizenship for burqa

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, France, Morocco, Ethnicity & Race, International Relations, Migration & Immigration, Religion, Women & Gender

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 [1] (or, given that she was from Morocco, more likely of the niqaab [2]), Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff of PostGlobal indicates [3] 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 [5] 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 [6] 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 [7]:

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 [8] 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.”

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 [4]