‘Muslim Headscarf’ Ban 2004

Introduction

 

In 2004, a law banning the wearing of Muslim headscarves came into force in France and has proved very controversial. This will be an analysis of the embargo and the response of the French government to the issue of the wearing of the Muslim headscarf. This will also touch upon why women wear Muslims headscarves and the empowerment and disempowerment that comes with wearing one.

 

 

The Headscarves

 

 

The scarves that women who follow the Islamic faith come in a myriad of styles and colours The word hijab comes from the Arabic for the veil and is used to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women. The type most commonly worn in the West is a square scarf that covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear. There is also the al-amira which comes in two pieces. The first part is a knitted cap and comes with a tube-like scarf. The Shayla is popular in the Gulf region; it is one long rectangular scarf. It is then tucked in or pinned at the shoulders. The Khimar is long and cape-like, it hangs down until it reaches the wait, completely covering the hair and shoulders, but the face is clear. The Chador is similar but does, however, cover the whole body not only to the waist but does again leave the face clear. The niqab is like the chador but does cover the face also leaving only the eyes clear. Finally, there is the Burka which covers the body and faces entirely leaving only a screen to see through.

 

The feeling of empowerment

 

There have been people criticising women wearing hijabs for decades. Some would even describe it as a symbol of ‘oppression in a patriarchal society’. Many Muslims including women disagree with this train of thought and rather believe that wearing a hijab is not only a symbol of their religious values but also ties in with their strong sense of cultural identity. Many followers of the Islamic faith believe that a hijab can, in fact, be empowering for a woman.Safiya a Muslim woman living in Canada said:

“The one thing I don’t understand is why people assume hijab/niqab is a symbol of oppression. Never once in my life have I been told to wear the hijab. For me, it has always been part of my life growing up, and every morning when I see myself in the mirror, it makes me happy because I decided that I wanted to wear the hijab.

When I wear my hijab it makes me feel confident, I feel like myself, this is how I have always been. But this isn’t how the majority of the world looks upon the hijab. We live in a strange society where walking around half naked is acceptable but being modest and covering up is frowned upon.

Not only this but also the fact that forcing a woman not to wear what she likes is OK when clearly it is oppression itself. How hypocritical is the French government.”

[Safiya in Canada,2015]

 

A study into female empowerment for Muslim women in America by Anderson Beckmann Al Wazni in 2015 found that:

“Regardless of whatever outright or assumed discrimination participants faced, all of them ultimately identified as feeling very much empowered, and that Islam as a religion was the source of their rights and power as a woman. At some point in the interview, every single participant stated that the hijab gave them a sense of respect, dignity, and control over who has access to their physical body. All members felt that this, in turn, offered them security, self-confidence, and empowerment

.[Al wazni, Oxford Academic social work]

There has been quantifying research showing the emancipation of women according to Mussaps research 2009:

” Quantitative study surveyed Australian women and found that those who follow the Islamic faith and wear hijab were not necessarily any less likely to compare their bodies to the body ideals produced in the media, but that the hijab did offer protection by “buffering against appearance-based public scrutiny (through adoption of traditional clothing) and by insulating her from exposure to Western ideals (by discouraging consumption of body-centric media)”

[Mussap Quantitive study, Muslim women in America 2009]

 

 

Disempowerment

 

Not all Muslim women agree that wearing a Hijab empowers them but find it to be disempowering and are in fact a symbol of oppression.

“For many the hijab, along with the dehumanising niqab and burqa, are symbols of oppression, not some national costume to be worn for kicks and giggles.

Somalian-born author and activist, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, describes Muslim headscarves as a means in which a deeply patriarchal culture oppresses women.

“The veil deliberately marks women as private and restricted property, non-persons,” she said.

“The veil sets women apart from men and apart from the world; it restrains them, confines them, grooms them for docility.

“It is the mark of a kind of apartheid, not the domination of a race but of sex.”

Just how is social cohesion advanced by these ludicrous proposals?

As someone from a Middle Eastern background, I’ve seen first-hand the pressure on girls to obey their devout parents as well as their community’s wishes regarding how they dress.

That pressure to conform can be overwhelming.

You risk not only being judged, denounced and reviled but completely ostracised.

Being a source of shame to your family for not abiding by accepted cultural practices can be traumatic for any young girl let alone one raised in cultures where she’s considered subservient to men.

 

[Rita Panahi, The Daily Telegraph, This is a symbol of oppression. Please don’t celebrate it, April 20, 2015]

This is however mostly is taken a first hand from Middle Eastern countries and not the West.

 

The French Ban

The ban in 2004 of religious symbols has been contested since its implementation. The law has been dubbed the ‘Muslim headscarf ban’.The law banned all religious symbols but was aimed at the followers of the Islamic faith. According to a Human rights watch report from February 2004:

“The proposed law is an unwarranted infringement on the right to religious practice, For many Muslims, wearing a headscarf is not only about religious expression, but it is also about religious obligation.”

[Human rights Watch report, February 2004]

Due to immigration from parts of Africa and former colonies, France has the largest Muslim population in Europe. There have been several appeals made to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), all, however, have been rejected every time.The law concerning la séparation des Églises et de l’État was passed by the chamber of deputies in 1905 and has been in effect since then. This intends to separate church and state law entirely. The law has been upheld and most recently” Loi interdict la dissimulation du visage days l’espace public was passed…it was an  act of parliament adopted by the Senate of France on 14 September 2010, resulting in the ban on the wearing of face-covering headgear, including masks, helmets, balaclavas, niqabs and other veils covering the face in public places, except under specified circumstances.”[ Allen, Peter, Daily Mail (14 September 2010).

 

Conclusion

 

The French ban has had many criticisms of the ‘Muslim Headscarf’ ban and individuals claiming that nuns and others have been allowed to wear their habit without contention. The ban has forced mostly Muslim women and girls to reveal private parts about themselves, pay fines, or being expelled from school. The ban needs to be looked at less like a ban on a piece of religious clothing but rather a part of cultural identity. It could be claimed that women have been wearing the hijab for thousands of years before Islam was even part of the Middle-East and throughout Arabic countries. The wearing of a Hijab is rather part of not only many people’s religious ideals but also cultural values. Not only it is religiously inappropriate, but culturally it would be incredibly revealing and embarrassing to many people. It is true that the ‘cultural web’ changes and adapt but not when it is forced ” There are significant structural ‘strands’ in culture such as the social, religious, economic, and political dimensions of life. They shape and define the culture and its smaller strands. All of the strands of a culture are interconnected and influence and sustain each other.” [Introduction to anthropology and culture 2012, Kimmage development studies centre]. Europe is increasingly reaping the harvest of multicultural policies that have served to divide rather than unite.Religious Identity isn’t something you can take off in public.The European Court of Justice has, in fact, turned the headscarf into a symbol of resistance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gustavo Esteva’s talk on ‘Challenging the Institutional Production of Truth’

Mexican activist Gustavo Esteva is a world renowned intellectual and is the founder of Universidad de La Tierra. He is a well-known advocate of post-development as well as being active in the Zapatista movement in Mexico which advocates the rights of indigenous people. In 2012 he gave a provocative talk on ‘Challenging the Institutional Production of Truth’ at Berkley, California. In this talk, he mentioned the “current situation”. This is as he feels is a radical situation. The radical situation he describes as “A radical situation is a moment, a period of collective awakening. Produced by two separate factors. One is a tough situation, jobs, assets, expectations are gone” (Gustavo Esteva, Berkley 2012). The second factor he described as being “With increasing evidence that the powers that be are doing, aggravate the situation, instead of solving our problems. These two factors combined produce this collective awareness.” (Gustavo Esteva, Berkley 2012).

 

The institutional Production of Truth

 

Esteva says that there is nothing more important than “challenging the institutional production of truth” Esteva mentions the “Truth not being right or wrong but the statement’s to which we burn ourselves”. This a statement which many believe in and hold real value in. Truth is universal, and it is singular. However, there are two forms of this truth.To begin with, there is the empirical truth, for example, humans need oxygen to survive. The other form of truth is truth itself, this is defined by ourselves, what we believe, what we do, the way we think.(Michael Patrick Lynch, The nature of truth, MIT press,2001) This does not mean however the truth that we know is in fact the established real truth. Esteva describes the truth that we know as being “constructed by the powers that be” and that “they decide what is right and wrong”. The Cambridge dictionary shows that “the powers that be” refers to “important people, who have power over others”. It could, however, be ascertained in this case in particular that Esteva is referring to the government or at least political bodies of the government. In a democracy, it is believed that the decisions are made democratically. Evidence against this view can be obtained from The Foundation for Economic Education (Fee.org) it states” Before a democratic process can even begin to function, some nondemocratic process has to make the rules. And those rules will have a major impact on the choices available to the people once they finally begin to have a say. “So an example of this could be shown when a legislator is voted is elected in America. When they are then elected, there is no guarantee they will adhere to what the people will truly wish of them when in power. The protest against the war in Iraq is one such instance labeled “the largest protest event in human history”(Walgrave, Stefaan; Rucht, Dieter(2010). The number of protesters accounted by the BBC ranged from eight to thirty million. All of these protests and shows of rejection were to no avail. However, nothing stopped the war in Iraq. It is true politicians are democratically elected, they do however determine the very rules in which they will stand for election.

 

Food

Esteva makes several points on food. Food is something no longer in the hands of everyday people but is in fact in the hands of larger powerful companies .He points out that “half the world is starving, the other half are scared to eat”. There are multinational super companies that control so much of the world now: Monsanto, Walmart, Nestle, and Kraft to name but a few. He talks about them having a ”moral epiphany”. It is well documented that these companies are very powerful in and amongst themselves. Coca-Cola for example is summarized by Bob Zurn(Coca-Cola: The Power of a Brand) he describes it as “showing the popularity of a soft drink as well as the dominance of American entrepreneurialism in the twentieth century and beyond.” This is simply one of many super companies that control vast amounts of industry throughout the world as can be depicted in the image below.graphic-72dpi-8x5-english_custom-e7798a240cf729589c407e5c47c5e3db515da21a-s40-c85.jpg

To Challenge the Institutional Production of Truth

As mentioned before Esteva said how important it is to “Challenge the Institutional production of Truth”. He even gives examples of some acts where people have wrought such. One such person that Esteva mentions is Pope Gregory the seventh. Esteva was a very beloved and abhorred man in his time. During the twelfth century he was a pioneer in many regards. One such example is “connected with his championship of compulsory celibacy among the clergy and his attack on simony” (Encyclopedia Britannica, Chrisholm Hugh).This was very unpopular among the clergy and he invoked widespread resistance which led ultimately to his exile. A people which Esteva also mentions is the Zapatista army of National Liberalism (EZLN) more commonly referred to as the Zapatistas. They are a revolutionary leftist group movement based in Chiapas, Mexico. Possibly there most famous act is the 1994 uprising also known as the Chiapas conflict. This is where the EZLN led an armed insurgence against the Mexican government because of the establishment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).This agreement undermined the rights of indigenous people in Mexico. Since then the EZLN has declared war against the state and stands for social, Cultural and land rights for indigenous people. Even today they still oppose the Mexican Government.

 

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These were just a few and brief minor points and people mentioned by Esteva. He has apparently painted a clear picture of ‘the current situation’. It is a time when people are ruled by ‘the powers that be’ and as Esteve put it “there is a crack in the dominant mentality”. His talk gave much evidence that although many social movements have made tremendous changes throughout history, they must be started by one person. That is all that it takes, one person to make the difference. From lowly medieval peasants leading revolts against their Lord everyday individuals in the French revolution, this is what the world needs. Social change to be started by just one ordinary person.

 

Thoughts on mobilising

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I really enjoyed Leah and Scones (2007) as it made me see mobilisation in a new light. It is such a diverse time and encompasses a variety of groups,collectives and peoples .

I think it’s important to take note of some important movements happening in the world right now. Such as the Dakota pipeline protests also known as (and hashtagged) the NoDAPL movement . This is a movement that has attracted huge amounts of support (not enough from mainstream media) and has been tagged and shared worldwide. I think this is a great example of how movements are able to grow and flourish in the digital age. Even if they are not shown or even represented in any forms by some major news stations, they can still receive tremendous amounts of backing.

It reminds me of the Arab spring in 2011. These were a series of protest that spread throughout the Middle-East mostly aimed at the ageing Arab dictatorships amongst a variety of other social issues . These countries did not  decide to protest together at the same time but rather it was an incendiary effect due to their homogeneous ideals. Some deemed these protest a failure, this is due to the fact that they did not overthrow the numerous authoritarian regimes that governed them .

Rather I believe they were a catalyst for change in a different sense. It is difficult to over throw decades of corrupt rule. They have slowly paved the way for more elected officials and more transparent governing powers however. The Arab spring also inspired other movements such as the Occupy movement. This movement started in 2011 also,starting to challenge mainly the inequalities faced by the majority of Americans. They have taken the trademark “We are the 99%” , this is to reflect the fact that they represent the economic inequality faced by 99% of the American people.Since then it has taken hold and spread to every continent of the world .Not unlike the French revolution in the 18th century, where similarly there was economic inequality as the “top” tier of society paid no taxes at all. It ended with the 99% creating their own constitution.

Taken from http://occupywallstreet.net/learn

What are your goals and demands?

We do not have one or two simple demands, though many demand them of us. Why? Because we believe that making demands of a corrupt system makes our success contingent on the will of others. It legitimizes the corrupted, it disempowers us.

Our actions are our demands.

What is your demand? What are you doing about it?

 

Who are your leaders?
A
Occupy Wall Street is structured on anarchist organizing principles. This means there are no formal leaders and no formal hierarchy. Rather, the movement is full of people who lead by example. We are leader-full, and this makes us strong.

 

French revolution http://www.history.com/topics/french-revolution

Nice occupy movement documentory https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-p3zt8hP-g

Occupy movement http://www.occupy.com/

Marriage in Thailand

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Hello, hope everyone is well.As I am currently living and working in Thailand, I thought that I would write a little bit about marriage here and how it has changed. I will give you an example through a friend or two of mine.

The institution of marriage has changed a lot in Thailand, mostly to the relaxation of traditions regarding the Buddhist components of the weddings.To begin with, the husband must approach the family of the person that he wishes to marry. They then decide on a price for the dowry or the สินสอด (sin sodt). This changes entirely depending on the looks, education and personal background of their child. Personally, I have known friends pay around 150,00 baht to the family for permission to ask to be engaged to marry, then over a million baht as part of a dowry to actually marry them.

The actual ceremony has changed a lot as well. Before it was seen as a bad omen to see a monk at a wedding as they were related to death and funerals. They would, however, consult a monk before the wedding for astrological advice on a matter such as when to set the wedding ceremony, etc.The actual ceremony itself was not at the temple at all as that was strictly forbidden. Now couples often go to the temple on the wedding day and sometimes are even married on temple grounds.Quite often monks are invited to make a blessing and share a meal at a marriage ceremony.

This is how the Buddhist component of a modern wedding ceremony typically  takes place:

“During the Buddhist component of the wedding service, the couple first bow before the image of the Buddha. They then recite certain basic Buddhist prayers or chants (typically including taking the Three Refuges and the Five Precepts), and light incense and candles before the image. The parents of the couple may then be called upon to “connect” them, by placing upon the heads of the bride and groom twin loops of string or thread that link the couple together. The couple may then make offerings of food, flowers, and medicine to the monks present. Cash gifts (usually placed in an envelope) may also be given to the temple at this time.

The monks may then unwind a small length of thread that is held between the hands of the assembled monks. They begin a series of recitations of Pali scriptures intended to bring merit and blessings to the new couple. The string terminates with the lead monk, who may connect it to a container of water that will be “sanctified” for the ceremony. Merit is said to travel through the string and be conveyed to the water. A similar arrangement is used to transfer merit to the dead at a funeral, further evidence of the weakening of the taboo on mixing funerary imagery and trappings with marriage ceremonies. Blessed water may be mixed with wax drippings from a candle lit before the Buddha image and other unguents and herbs to create a paste that is then applied to the foreheads of the bride and groom to create a small dot, similar to the marking made with red ochre on Hindu devotees. The bride’s mark is formed with the butt end of the candle rather than the monk’s thumb, in keeping with the Vinaya prohibition against touching women.

The highest-ranking monk present may elect to say a few words to the couple, offering advice or encouragement. The couple may then make offerings of food to the monks, at which point the Buddhist portion of the ceremony is concluded.”

Gay marriage is not currently licensed or recognised.

Globalization

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As others have pointed out, globalisation can not be clearly described as purely negative and neither can it be described as entirely positive.It is, however, something that is happening now and I believe will continue to occur.A point could be made that the more countries and cultures intermingle that there could be less chance of strife and conflict. Or does this simply give political powers more ammunition for conflict? Nationalism, for example, is it a good thing?.Does it mean that you are saying you and your “people” are better than other cultures and other”people”? What does it mean wanting to keep your culture, is it bringing us further apart or bringing us closer together?

Pros

-Access to International aid and support

-Contributes to world peace(maybe), reduces risk of invasion, more checks to big powers and limits are put on nationalism

-Smaller countries can work together and gain more influence internationally, for example, ASEAN

-International organisations are often committed to spread values like freedom and to fight abuses within countries

Cons

-Loss of sovereignty

-Increased power of TNC’s

-Unstable financial system

-Erosion of tradition

-Simplified class antagonisms

-Reduce people to wage labourers

-Excess: too much commerce and industry becomes a hindrance to society, not a benefit

-Work has no individual character

-Specialised machines take peoples jobs

Globalization is something that is here now, it is not going to stop, and it will not go away. We can, however, adapt to how globalisation develops and how we can better work together globally.

Inequality

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I find the three different categories of inequality to be very interesting,particularly the fact that the word inequality is used and never the word poor. Poor in my mind is just a word we use to describe people who may be have less or in a more degrading situation than their peers. Most people use the word poor when they mean inequality .Economic deprivation is the most common example of inequality, this includes but not limited to:income poverty,insecure livelihoods and asset deficits.Some well known cases of  economic deprivation are the substance farmers currently in Ghana,unemployed youth in Egypt,numerous indigenous groups in Mexico,Bolivia and the Philippines, homeless families in India,landless people in Uganda,trafficked children in Ghana, as well as all disaster -affected people.

Another form of inequality is discrimination.There are many and varying forms of discrimination . Two major groups of discrimination are people who are marginalised in society because of their identity or are lower down in the social hierarchy. Some peoples who are majorly affected by discrimination are: the indigenous groups in Mexico, Bolivia and the Philippines, the Dalit (untouchables in India),racial minorities Brazil and Nigeria,people with disabilities in Bangladesh,sexual minority groups in the Balkans,sex workers,LGBTQA, HIV-aids as well as people marginalised by conflict like the Palestinians.

Finally there is spatial inequality.This kind of inequality is active in regions of the world where people live in adverse conditions.These regions serve to disadvantage those who live and work in them.These people simply cannot escape poverty.Some examples of people who suffer from spatial inequality are people who live in mountainous terrain,remote areas, underserved urban slums or areas vulnerable to climate change.

People need to feel empowered that they themselves can make a change.

“Peoples relationships within their families and wider communities can enable or undermine their feelings of empowerment,self-recognition, belonging and aspirations for change-critical factors that enable agency.”

What  they have against them however is not one state of inequality but rather a multitude of problems that force people into think they are not capable of making any social change. People feel this way perhaps because of their family and other around them.Inequalities continue through lifetimes and generations and people are left feeling hopeless.

Development programmes and policies often do not help as they are very linear in their approach and look at a very simple understanding of change.Inequality however is sustained through a myriad of complex and interconnected social issues.

“It is impossible for someone to buy soap when he has no food. I cannot pay money for a latrine without food. I cannot buy a jerry can of water when I have no food. So we end up in dirty environment, poor hygiene and sanitation. This is where diseases come from. We drink unboiled water, survive on one cup of porridge, this can also make one sick. We end up suffering from cholera,kwashiorkor,dysentery, malaria and HIV and generally carrying a poor health situation. All the time you’re sick and you spend more, and then you cannot spend anymore. In most cases the poor die because we lack money to treat us and we die.”
(Slum-dweller, HEPS-Uganda 2013)

If people feel like they have power however ,they can and do make lasting change.They need to have a sense of belonging and feel like a citizen in their own country. Support networks of any kind are crucial as a transforming source of personal power.

Why the Chipko Movement is more important than ever.

The Chipko movement is a forest conservation movement that began in India, 1973. It pioneered many environmental changes that we have today. The Chipko movement arose in a time when there were few or no major environmental groups in India. At the start of the Chipko movement, it practised the Gandhian methods of Satyagraha. Since then it has become more of an eco-feminist orientated campaign. Eco-feminism tries to heal the divide between culture and denture that has become exceedingly apparent over the last few decades; this will be done through the feminine instinct for nurture and nature.

We need more movements like the Chipko movement now more than ever. A time when it is estimated within the next one hundred years, there will be no rainforests left whatsoever when 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced by the Amazon forest alone. Although forests still cover roughly thirty percent of the earth, we lose an area roughly equivalent to the size of Panama in forested land every year, not only this but over two hundred million people actually live in forest land, and another one and a half billion people depend on forest directly for survival.

Many movements now get much more attention now thanks to the progression of social media. Getting a share or a like on Facebook certainly, brings environmental issues to people’s attention but does not change the issues at its core. As St Augustine said, “there is a difference between knowing the good and loving the good”. The Chipko movement arose at a time when there were no other movements or social media, they instead arose and have inspired so many movements since then. Not only in India but around the world. Their stances of feminism were far ahead of their time, and feminism now, more than ever, truly is for everyone.

Edugeen, available online at-http://edugreen.teri.res.in/explore/forestry/chipko.htm [Accessed7/12/16]

Greenpeace why deforestation still matters, available online at – http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/6-reasons-stopping-deforestation-still-matters/  [Accessed7/12/16]

Women in world history, available online at – http://www.womeninworldhistory.com/contemporary-04.html [Accessed7/12/16]chipko-movement-1-638