France Has a Muslim Problem

The French are no longer living under the pretense of liberal democracy and regulating aversion through tolerance. No, France is really laying the smack-down on Muslim immigrants.

A Moroccan immigrant man who has been living in France since 1999 and married to a French woman had his French citizenship denied when he refused to shake hands with a French female official. I didn’t know shaking hands with the female officer was a requirement for citizenship.

The French Immigration Ministry said that the man “refused to shake the hand of a female official whom he met at the state prefecture because it was against his religion.” For the French Ministry, this represents a failure to “assimilate into French society” due to a “discriminatory attitude toward women.”

Almost everyone was quick to assume that the man’s decision to not shake the official’s hand had something to do with him hating women when it is more likely that due to his culture, he wants to avoid any physical contact with any woman other than his wife. Or maybe he didn’t want to shake hands without anti-bacterial soap given how quickly diseases can spread as a result of contact.

This isn’t an isolated incident. A burqa (veil) ban also overwhelmingly passed through the lower House of the French legislature today. One would think that these veils carry bombs that threaten national security. Actually, only one elected official voted against it. I’m having a deja vu of Representative Barbara Lee’s (D-Oakland) one lone vote against the war in Afghanistan.

French histrionics are on full display here. More than 80% of French believe in a burqa ban although a minuscule number of Muslim women in France actually wear one.

France isn’t just banning veils — it is banning the free expression of Muslim identity. It is a women’s prerogative to dress as she pleases and the French are wrong to assume that the veil is inherently oppressive or that a Muslim man who refuses to shake hands with a French official is doing so out of his sexist culture. In fact, what seems oppressive is the imposition of French bigotry on Muslim immigrants.

This presents the irony of living in a “free society” such as France. There’s freedom from religion and then there is freedom of religion. Where is the freedom to wear a hijab or burqa and not shake hands with strangers?

French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s plan to define a true national identity for France propelled the movement towards a ban. Right about now, bigotry counts as a national identity for France.

So much for those beloved freedom fries.

Photo Credit: Ranoush

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