File spoon-archives/bourdieu.archive/bourdieu_2004/bourdieu.0401, message 44

Subject: RE: [BOU:] Re: veiling and islam
Date: Mon, 5 Jan 2004 18:51:45 +0100

Dear Emrah,

I don't know where you are coming from, my friend.  In arguing that Muslims
are being oppressed by not being allowed to oppress their women in French
territory you twist things about as much as they can be twisted.  The veil
has been and will always be a symbol of oppression and as such it has no
place in a republican state.  Scholarship seems to have fallen to a level
where whoever  can develop the most distorted version of reality wins.  Atre
we so bereft of ideas that we have to make up crap like this in order to get
tenure?  At base, that's really what this is all about--coming up with some
new phoney interpretation of reality so that everyone, not wishing to
embaress themselves will say "Hrrumph, unintelligible--he must deserve
tenure."  If you and others like you really believed what you are putting
out you'd become additional American Talibans but that's just the problem.
You don't believe it--you're just trying to get or to keep a job.


-----Original Message-----
From: owner-bourdieu-AT-lists.village.Virginia.EDU
[mailto:owner-bourdieu-AT-lists.village.Virginia.EDU]On Behalf Of Emrah
Sent: dimanche 4 janvier 2004 22:55
To: bourdieu-AT-lists.village.Virginia.EDU
Subject: [BOU:] Re: veiling and islam

Good thing my blurb provoked discussion. Bad thing the power of the
western-civilizationist doxa made its presence felt even on this list so
rapidly. It won't be admitted easily ("What me biased? My best friends are
Muslim! The majority of Muslims are good!"), but read between the lines of a
couple of messages sent, it is lurking there.

I ally myself with Ozgur and Batoul and others who are sensitive about the
injustices done towards North America's and Europe's Muslim immigrant
communities, as well as about the racisms perpetuated at the very moment by
the occupations of Iraq and Palestine.

First, a couple of replies I felt urged to make:

Erik --

I couldn't put a finger on the reason for your reactionarism, maybe it's
your rhetorical style. First, dubbing the full-body veil as "ninja outfit"
is common in the right-wing Turkish journalistic field (that includes
fascist, Kemalist, neoliberal and other western-civilizationist positions),
and well, for irreligious socialists like me, not to mention for most
religious citizens, men or women, it is regarded as a racist obscenity. I
can only hope that you tried to distance yourself from those positions with
the quotation marks.

Second, it would be useful to present some evidence for your other claims
about the relation between class distinction and veiling, homesickness and
veiling, non-integration and Islam, etc. Not that I am skeptical, I want to
learn. As it stands, your imagination of Islam in Europe is misleading: as
if all generations of Muslim immigrants believe that Europe is a battlefield
and that they have to prepare themselves for a war. Now, this is
Berlusconi's or Blair's or Bush's vision of Islam, true, but how
sociological is it?

Third, yes, oppression and inequality are properties of certain relations
among Muslims. But the journalistic/scholastic argument used by right-wing
French (or Turkish) Republicans to support discrimination against young
Muslim women ("We are trying to liberate them from their male fundamentalist
oppressors by removing their foluard/turban") is only an excuse for the
state elites' nationalist/irredentist angst. Moreover, it is not difficult
to detect the homology between this civilizing desire of "liberation" and
the imperialist one (the latter's consequences are still unfolding in
Afghanistan and Iraq). Sociologically, one needs to show, if they exist, the
properly "Islamic" mechanisms of oppression whose removal will necessarily
end racism, xenophobia, injustice and inequality in, say, France. In that
vein, one needs to be clear about what an appropriate path for "integration"
of a Muslim immigrant in a European country.

[Interviews in Bourdieu et. al.'s "The Weight of the World" frequently
expose the problems with the "integration of Arabs". Mahmood Mamdani further
exposes the other fallacy of the western-civilizationist distinction between
"good" and "bad" Muslims; see his "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim  An African

John --

You write: "Furthermore to say that secularism or laicism is a right wing
movement is not ignorant; it is stupid." And in another message, you note
that anti-laicist Muslims who are "trying to make inroads into the
progressive institutions of the French state", are "in the minority of
Islam, as the leader of the sunnite sect Friday approved France's position
for muslims in France, arguing that the veil was mandatory in a muslim
country but elsewhere one does as in Rome."

I agree that "laicism" is not a movement, but in the case of especially
France and Turkey, it is a dirigiste social technology, a source of
political and bureaucratic capital, that can be used differently by
different governments. In Turkey, as Ozgur also mentioned, the Army and
left- or right-wing governments have mobilized this technology to
undermine/control/oppress the representations of Islam which were beyond the
state's reach. Like the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs, which is a
state institution designed to discipline Islam and profess the official
version, after 1960s the French Consultative Council of Muslim Communities
was designed to establish a similar disciplining of the "unruly" Algerian
Muslims. Like the cooperation between German governments and Turkish ones to
empower "official Islam" against "fundamentalist Islam", the French
governments also cooperated with Tunisian, Algerian and Moroccan governments
for the management of religious services. It is not surprising that the
domesticized leaders of Sunni communities will anxiously declare that they
are "good" Muslims, that they want no trouble, and that they are willing to
tolerate discrimination in order not to appear as a threat to France's
"national security and unity".


For me, defending young Muslim women's rights is a matter of justice.
Forbidding veiling in schools, universities, public institutions, etc.
constitutes an unjust treatment of a religious community. The ban enforces,
in France, unjust majority communitarianism, which denies the equivalent
treatment of young Muslim women in education. As far as I know, there is no
analogous ban against Christian insignia. The principle of equal
participation is denied here. Now, defenders of the foulard must also
establish that permitting it will not exacerbate female subordination among
the citizenship at large. As far as I know, there is no conclusive evidence
that all diverse female Muslim representations of the veil are univocally
subordinated to something called "Islamic patriarchy". The meanings are
contested, and other than numerous testimonies like that of Batoul, there is
a rich social scientific literature that supports this. [One among many
examples, concerning the diverse representations in Turkey, is Nilufer
Gole's book, "The Forbidden Modern".]


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