Beyond the Veil| Christopher Hitchens has written a defense of the Sarkozy government’s efforts to pass new laws that will restrict wearing burqas in France. His Slate piece has almost 4000 comments, making a major article at Slate.
Writing for Foreign Policy, Ruth Harris tries to explain How the Dreyfus Affair Explains Sarkozy’s Burqa Ban, saying that France is anti-clerical and out of touch with the needs of modern women to express themselves with independence.
Behind the fantasy of the victimized nun was the specter of the Svengali-like manipulating priest — one that closely parallels today’s fears over the power of radical imams. In his best-selling 1845 polemic Du prêtre, de la femme et de la famille, the 19th-century historian Jules Michelet argued that priests, and especially Jesuits, got between husband and wife to turn women away from the emancipation that Republicanism offered. Many mainstream French feminists in the 1880s and 1890s even opposed giving women the vote on the grounds they would cast their ballot as their confessors told them. via Foreign Policy
Our sense is that France — like so many European countries — does mainstain a far stricter distance between the Vatican and the halls of Congress than America. It’s doubtful that French bishops or their representatives would be camped out in the French equivalent of Nancy Pelosi’s office, dictating the terms of an American health care deal.
There’s nothing new in the Ruth Harris argument, except to remind us that France has a long history of worrying about secular rule lost to governing by clergy. She makes a good case that Muslims shouldn’t take the proposed French anti-burqa law too personally.
Back to Christopher Hitchens who makes an anti-burqa argument that startled us when we read it. No prominent writer has positioned the argument this way before now. Hitchens is both passionate in his arguments and not so politically correct as most of us.
For all the Americans — and even Ms. Harris — who argue that nations are unjust, antiquated and prejudicial in asking citizens to be visible to others, are they saying that the Ku Klux Klan should be permitted to walk the streets of America hooded?
Do they believe that America should return to the land of hooded Klansman, allowing them to teach in our schools, if local communities want them? Board our airplanes wearing their robes and hoods?
What is the difference between Ku Klux Klan hoods/robes and burqas? Both groups have firm convictions about their faith and its priority in American society. Interesting questions, that sassy Mr. Hitchens asks.