The Horrible French vs. One Poor, Delicate Muslim Beachgoer

burkha eyes copyA constant for those of us on the left is our “rage against the machine” vibe. When it comes to the power of government or the rights of the individual, we’re totally tuned in to those individual rights.

When a story floats across our attention about a kid sent home from school for wearing “inappropriate clothing” — a provocative blouse, for instance, or a t-shirt with a comically dirty picture on it — we’re right there swinging, often screaming that the teacher should be fired, or the principal should be fired, for assaulting the fragile psyche of each of these embattled children.

Yet it’s rare for me to leap to spitting hate at teachers and school administrators when I hear these stories. For one thing, I feel strongly that the purpose of school is education, and everything else should come second. The deal is: You come to school and pay attention and we’ll hand you the keys to life.  But the deal is also: You’re required to act in such a way that you don’t distract the other kids trying to absorb those keys, and don’t make it harder for the teachers — who already have a damned difficult job — trying to impart them.

You have a RIGHT to education. But you have a DUTY to not interfere with others’ enjoyment of that right.

Too often, it seems to me, in our avid clamor for our rights in society, we miss the point that we also have these attached duties. We on the left forget that waaaay too often. We scream and leap rather than take a moment to think, deeply and thoroughly, about each issue as it arises.

One of the hazards of that sort of reaction is that we’re easily manipulated. On issue after issue, our knee-jerk scream reaction makes us easy marks for clever opponents. I watched this happen when I was a political activist: Developers in my small town would present this plan for a vast, elaborate development with all sorts of environment-destroying bells and whistles. We would predictably scream and leap, writing letters to the paper, speaking up angrily in city council meetings, drawing up petitions for people to sign. And the developer would back down! But he would back down to his real, original plan, which was to build condos in a delicate meadow and major viewshed area of the town.

If he’d proposed that real plan in the beginning, we would have worked against that, and maybe blocked the development entirely. But because he tossed out the equivalent of radar-foiling chaff, we saw only the chaff and missed the bombers coming through. At the end, we sighed with pride at our efforts. Sure the condos got built in that delicate meadow but, by god, we stopped him from building the touristy blacksmith shop along that one delicate creek.

I saw it time after time, enough to finally realize that the developers KNEW US. They knew what we’d do. We’d go for the red cape — EVERY TIME — and miss the fact that there was a bullfighter behind it with a killing sword.

I came to understand there was something like a bull session where the developer would get his whole crew in and say “Okay, kids, here’s the plan. Now let’s add on some bait for the idiots, stuff we know they’ll hate, so they can fight that while we get the main project approved. Come on, what can we put in here? Let’s have some ideas, the goofier the better!”

We won and won and won the small battles, but lost and lost and lost the big ones.

We on the left are suckers for an obvious pitch. Time after time, we’ll leap for the shiny lure and miss the fact that there’s a fisherman on the other end of the line.

So: France.

They’ve been catching holy hell for the recent ban on burkinis on some French beaches, which was even more recently overturned. The online community practically burned up the Internet with outrage at that hideous transgression onto individual liberty and the misogynistic assault on women. FRENCH POLICE FORCE WOMAN TO REMOVE BURKINI!!!

Meanwhile, over in that bastion of women’s rights (and Islam), Saudi Arabia, women are forbidden to drive cars, or try on clothing in stores. Forbidden to wear body-defining clothing or makeup that “enhances beauty.” Forbidden to open a bank account without their husband’s permission. Forbidden to go for a swim, compete in sports, or interact with men while out and about. FORBIDDEN TO APPEAR IN PUBLIC WITHOUT A MALE ESCORT.

Hell, I saw stories saying women in Saudi Arabia were forbidden to buy Barbie dolls, or visit cemeteries!

So you’d expect an equal or greater amount of outrage over all that, right? I mean, considering the horrified reaction with France? Because, hey, talk about assaults on individual liberty and pure-dee misogyny!

I mean, dayyum — Saudi women LIVE UNDER HOUSE ARREST for their entire lives. Just because they’re women.

Our reaction? … Crickets.

To be fair, I’ve seen plenty of stories in the atheist community about Islam-the-religion. We oppose it as avidly as we oppose Christianity. But when it comes to Islamic culture, which contains Islam-the-religion as an inseparable foundational element, we seem fairly blind to it. Too many of us have even adopted the word “Islamophobia” — which seems to be defined as “blind hatred for poor, innocent Muslims” — and used it to flail at everyone in sight, passionately defending both Muslims and Islam with the same cannonade.

Something we’re almost not permitted to say on the Left is that some cultures are superior to others. Considering its treatment and subjugation of women, I consider Islam — as practiced in predominantly Islamic countries — to be an inferior culture. Anyplace that forces women to walk around in burkhas, to cover themselves head to foot, aside from anything else, that’s UGLY. Any country or culture that confines women (hell, anybody!) to their homes — with the right to leave dependent on having a MAN, and only a close relative at that — is a culture that should not qualify as even minimally acceptable to the modern world.

Yes, I’m sure there are plenty of women there who are happy with their burkhas (cough*StockholmSyndrome*cough), who would defend to the death the wearing of the burkha. But in my view, some things are an offense against freedom and equality themselves, against womanhood itself. The burkha is one of those things.

In France, it’s currently estimated that 5 to 10 percent of French residents are now Muslims, with a full 25 percent of French teens being Islamic. The Muslim population is growing, and most French citizens can clearly see the coming radical demographic and cultural shift.

If you focus only on the rights of poor, embattled women to wear burkinis on the beach, you’d have to conclude the French are horrible and hateful and even racist. The idea! Sending armed thugs to force a poor little woman to remove her burkini! My god, what is the world coming to?

But if you see the bigger picture of an invasive — and inferior — culture using such controversies as manipulative bait to win more and more of the cultural ground, things look a bit different.

In that bigger picture, France is trying to preserve French culture.

Do they have that right? I mean, if it means this poor, poor woman has to face public humiliation?

I have to say they do. Hell, I think they have the DUTY to push back with everything they’ve got.

Not because they want to hurt this one innocent woman, but because they want to protect the rights of ALL French women, the freedom of ALL women to move confidently and freely through the cities and towns of France, indefinitely into the future, against a real trend toward Islamic majority that would — will! — diminish those rights and freedoms.

The lure to gain our knee-jerk reaction of sympathy and support is the picture of this one poor woman. Thanks to us, Islam wins another public relations battle.

But meanwhile, something hidden, something bigger, goes on.



Postscript 1: Oh, that brutal murder of the Charlie Hebdo staff by an Islamist? No, no, that was one lone individual. A total aberration. Islam is the Religion of Peace™.

Postscript 2: Aside from individual rights, the Koran is pretty clear that alcohol is satanic. What happens to the French wine industry — third largest in the world — when Islam becomes the dominant culture? Hey, probably they’ll just switch over to Prophet Muhammad Wine, right? Riiiight.



  • LostLoonie

    I rather like the way Switzerland is handling things. You want Swiss citizenship you have to become part of Swiss culture. (Conform to Swiss culture.)

  • Nemo

    So, what you’re saying is that you are a white supremacist, right? Yes, I’m sarcastic, but the incoming dhimmis won’t be.

    • Hank Fox

      Sorry, I didn’t quite understand that. I looked up dhimmis and it means non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state.

  • MichaelBrew

    I think it ought to be noted that it’s possible to support women – and people in general – being allowed to wear whatever they please from nothing at all to full on burka while still condemning the misogynist culture behind the social imperative to wear it. Not only that, I’m quite sure I hear all the time about the misogynist practices of Islamic countries (and not quite so frequently the Christian countries with similar levels of development which do the same).

    • You took the words right out of my mouth, fellow Michael. This post reeks of “first world problems” and “not as bad as.” We except this in Saudi Arabia. It’s the fact this happened in France that’s outrageous. So few women put on more at the beach. It’s now a crime? Give me a break. They should be able to do that. Plus the argument that it’s their culture, therefore they can do this, is exactly what the cultural relativists he opposes use. Yes, the same ones who defend things like burkas or FGM.

  • Dom Saunders

    I don’t really buy that reasoning, because if you’re implying the beachgoers’ freedom were somehow “threatened” by one lone woman wearing a burkini, that’s their problem, not hers. To assume that all of French culture is being invaded because one woman, or several, or many is wearing that is also a huge leap in logic. We don’t get like that when Amish women show up all covered up in their 1850s dresswear in our supermarkets, and they wear it for almost the same reasons Muslim women wear what they do. We don’t say crap to them, but it’s Muslim women who get the flak. And sure, I know that “Amish people aren’t bombing everyone left and right” so there is that difference, but this woman, at least, posed no threat to anyone either, so we should have afforded her the same respect we would other women of other similarly prudish faiths in other instances.

    I also understand that many on the Left aren’t quick to leap on the culture as they are on the religion. When it happens in multicultural countries like France or the US, we can criticize the faith because we’re generally allowed to do that because we can attack the idea without attacking the people. Plus, we’re living with them and generally embrace modern values, so in a sense, we do expect foreigners to conform. And it’s not like said values are even that bad compared to what they’d have to deal with in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Freedom of religion and speech is generally a decent thing. But when you judge the culture, everyone and their mother knows it’s a shitty society over there, but what can you say or do? Have the military go over there, overturn the country and try to instill in them modern values? Haven’t we already tried to do something similar to the majority of the Middle East and just made things worse? I don’t think we really have the place or right to do that kind of thing anymore because it’s not our place to really fix. That’s all on them.

    The best we can do at this point is to deal with them on a case-by-case basis or at worst, just don’t let them immigrate in at all if people are going to be that worried about people wearing religious or symbolic clothing of all things. But for those of us who live in places like France and the US, we need to understand that we can want foreigners from such countries to embrace our values without having to force them to assimilate 100%, down to whatever clothing they decide to wear. We can’t preach “religious freedom” on one hand, then say, “but only for some of you” after the fact.

  • Tobias 27772

    Well said, Hank.

    I oppose forcing women (or other human beings) to wear what someone else says.

    However, If WE oppose that – then let’s focus our attention on those who are the most guilty of this oppression & misogyny – muslims.

    If anyone here thinks that French culture is more oppressive than any number of muslim cultures – well, I don’t know where you are getting you information from.

    Finally, I think the saddest part of this whole concept is that many women have been sooo indoctrinated that they truly believe that they should hate & conceal their bodies & live under house arrest.

    • Golgafrinchan_Ark_B

      I regard this whole situation to be one of the civil rights of women.

      If a segment of the Muslim women living in France want to remain covered, IT IS THEIR CHOICE. To dress the way they feel most comfortable until such time as they are ready to free themselves can be looked at in no other way. I was never a Muslim, but I am way too uncomfortable with the exposure that comes from a bikini. MY CHOICE to wear one-piece bathing suits. (A superficial example, perhaps, but you get my meaning.)

      “If anyone here thinks that French culture is more oppressive than any number of muslim [sic] cultures…” – Well, I have to say that if France continues with these stupid clothing proclamations, then they are moving towards that oppression.

      • Tobias 27772

        Perhaps you are not seeing the forest for the trees.

      • Hank Fox

        As I commented above (sarcastically): Yeah, wearing a burkha is FREEDOM. Nothing in it about extreme body shaming of women, or those women’s Stockholm Syndrome acceptance.

  • James Yakura

    The trouble with pointing to worse problems is that they’re only relevant if the not-worse problem is siphoning resources that could be more effectively used to deal with the worse problem.

    Yes, Saudi Arabia is misogynistic and Daesh is horrible. But no amount of outrage by people in the US is going to make them an iota less so. France, on the other hand, seems to care more about what its fellow secular democracies think of it.

  • Lark62

    The principle to be defended is “My body my choice. Your body your choice”.

    The French ban on burkinis violates this. Compare it to closing public pools to men several so Jewish or Muslim women can swim men free. That is wrong.

    “I have special beliefs, therefore I will wear funny clothes, will ignore a publication, will not participate in certain recreation” is no one’s business but mine.
    “I have special beliefs, therefore YOU must do X or you cannot do Y” is wrong.

    “I have special beliefs therefore YOU cannot go to a public pool when I want to” =wrong.
    “I have special beliefs therefore YOU cannot publish that magazine” = wrong.
    “I have special beliefs therefore I will wear funny clothes at the beach” = meh, whatever floats your boat.

  • yazikus

    Hell, I think they have the DUTY to push back with everything they’ve got. –

    If I thought the ban would do something other than create more isolation, more resentment and in turn more extremism, I might feel differently. I think this approach was very poorly thought out.

  • MNb

    “Not because they want to hurt this one innocent woman, but because they want to protect the rights of ALL French women,”
    The latter is a noble goal. Alas prohibiting wearing burkinis at a beach does nothing to reach it and probably is counterproductive.

    “You’d expect an equal or greater amount of outrage over all that, right?”
    Wrong. This question is based on the false assumption that France and Saudi Arabia in this respect are comparable countries. If you don’t see the relevant differences you need to put off your blinkers. To spell it out for you: I expect Saudi Arabia to violate female rights. I don’t expect France to do that. I expect France to apply what it preaches: laicite. I don’t expect Saudi Arabia to respect state mosque separation.
    Because France is a rechtsstaat and Saudi Arabia a theocracy.

  • Religion is Bollocks

    Hank – nicely summed up 🙂

  • Leo R

    Extremely bad post. Our culture is superior??? U serious? We were asked in school what we would do if our christian god told us told us to sacrifice our son for him. I told my teacher that I would tell my god to go fck himself instead. She was upset about my answer and said that I should obey him. A culture isn’t inherently great; these urges to control the lives of others are within all of us. This is why I find the burkini ban so awful. It’s about control. Even worse: This woman who was stopped by police wasn’t even wearing a burkini!

    And I absolutely hate the argument that women in Saudi Arabia are worse off. You are trying to say that rather than ignore Saudi Arabia we should either make our home country more like Saudi Arabia or Saudi Arabia more like us. Why?

    Let me get one thing straight: I’m not a very compassionate person; I’m selfish. So when covering your head gets banned at beaches, I wonder when they will ban hairpins, wigs and … soon drones which would piss me off.

    • Hank Fox

      Gah. Did you even read the post?

      For you to be able to tell your teacher you’d tell God to go fuck himself — assuming that ever happened — and not to get death threats, I’d say you live in a pretty cool culture. As compared to certain others, say, where you can get the death penalty for insulting God/Allah, or the religion.

      “You are trying to say that rather than ignore Saudi Arabia we should
      either make our home country more like Saudi Arabia or Saudi Arabia more
      like us.”

      Uh, no. I’m trying to say that this other culture is a threat, and that it’s reasonable to respond to that threat, with the aim of preserving one’s own culture.

  • Samantha Vimes

    If any islamists start to try to bully and harass women in France (including Muslim women in France) into covering up, then I *fully support* the law coming down against bullies and harassers and protecting the right of people to wear bikinis. But you don’t protect women’s right to dress as they want safely by using threats to make them dress the way *you* want.
    And which country will *listen* to reason? The land of Voltaire, liberte’, and Jasque Cousteau (his wet suits covered more than a burkini)– or the land of burkas, vigilante morality squads, and flogging blasphemers?