Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Toward Freedom - Behind European Governments%u2019 Veil of Deceit

This poses a very serious question. Why are a marginal number of Muslim women wearing the burqa, being targeted for possible legal precedents?...This is racism in its simplest form. Such a ruling will undoubtedly have a domino effect across Europe, with Italy eagerly waiting in the wings. Although France and Turkey are infamous for curtailing religious freedoms, other European nations have not gone unnoticed...Buzz terms such as ‘assimilation’, ‘integration’ and the barrier to social ’cohesion’ are constantly being flouted to mask the media’s true motives of injecting the fabricated war of ‘us against them’ to the public, reminiscent of the George Bush school of thought.

Right now I'm writing a section of my book on veiling.

Here's a conundrum: do proposed policies banning or discouraging some of the more spectacular forms of Islamic dress promote segregation or undermine it? Do they curtail individual freedom or expand it?

The core issue as I see it is the conflict of interests between individuals who want to assimilate and those who want to remain separate, between cultural preservationists and integrationists. And there is no free ride. Women wearing veils make ethnicity more salient, they make it harder for individuals who are ethnically tagged by the color of their skin or other markers to be perceived as plain, generic citizens rather than members of a special cultural group. So veiling, and other practices that display cultural identity, set back the interests of individuals who do not want to be identified with ancestral cultures.

The bottom line is that veiling is voluntary but ethnic identification isn't: you can take of the veil but you can't take off the color of your skin. So veiled women and other cultural preservationists, by their voluntary actions, lock others who happen to look like them, into cultural identities that they can't avoid.

For comparison consider this: suppose women demand extended maternity leave. That's a choice on their part. But it's a choice that sets back my interests because it leads employers to believe that they will have to make expensive accommodations for women who are likely to demand maternity leave. I can't dissociate myself from these women--being female isn't voluntary--and their behavior reflects on me. Their freedom impinges on my freedom and restricts my opportunities.

It would be nice if everyone treated everyone "as an individual" but that isn't the way it works. The religious freedom issue is pure bs. There is no fabricated war of "us against them." The war is between those of us who want to join the mainstream, and those with whom we're inextricably linked by unchosen characteristics--by sex or race--who don't and selfishly pursue their interests at our expense.

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