There is no doubt that any progressive Arab should bless the French president in his attempt to protect France's secularism.
Salman Masalha ||
About The Latest French Stance
Finally, French President Jacques Chirac spoke out on the issue of hijab, the Islamic veil, in French public schools. He stated his opinion about the non-negotiable principle of secularism of the French Republic, the principle of state and religion separation, and the banning of religious symbols in French public schools and public sectors. This stance was expected to draw harsh criticisms by Arab fundamentalists, and close Arab circles. But it is worthy noting that when the French minister of education decided to ban all religious symbols from schools in 1937, nobody opposed this decision, as there was no large Muslim community in France as it is the case today.
There is no doubt that any progressive Arab should bless the French president in his attempt to protect France's secularism. The hijab, which is imposed on girls as a result of social pressures, is based on nothing more than the sick vision of those imposing it, and those supporting their views. Those people see the entire female body, even that of a six or nine year old, as something only sexual, a sin that must be hidden. The real sin is in the minds of those men, and of the ones supporting them, since these are the ones who must put a hijab over their minds. The principle of separating religion from state is the very concept that ensures the evolution of all societies, and must be preserved from any change or from being stripped of its meaning; and yet, this is exactly what these people, who consider themselves responsible of the ethics and behaviors of society, are doing.
There are liberal and secular Arabs, and even religious ones, not to mention Arab women who have long strived for the abolition of the patriarchal society, who must not fear to raise their voices. If Arabs tried separating religion from state in their countries, like the French Republic did, there would not have been momentous migration waves towards more secular and civilized countries. If Arabs succeeded in adopting this strategy as a guide, their societies would have literally changed, and they would have stayed and lived in their countries without having to leave in search for better living conditions or for individual freedom. If Arabs had succeeded in this, the Arab woman would have been socially and politically liberated from the chains of the idiotic Arabic patriarchy, and would have participated in building a more evolved and open Arab society. If Arabs had done that, the image of Arab societies would have been very far from this political, social, and cultural downfall and void that we have been facing for decades, not to say for centuries.
We must reflect upon what is being said in this issue. Is it a coincidence that all those criticizing the French president, are of those who cry over collapsing Arab dictatorships? And isn't this reality a flagrant proof on the essence of those people, and their social, political, and cultural backgrounds?
We must state our opinions truthfully and directly. The illusive invitations we are hearing are nothing but preconceived ones that aim on belittling women in Arab societies on all aspects. This is why all enlightened Arabs must send an appreciative letter to French President Chirac for his point of view. The best way for the progress of Arab societies in Arab countries, not to mention that of Arabs living in Europe and elsewhere outside the Arab World, starts exactly from this point: considering the state of the woman. And the solution to the development of Arab societies is nothing else than to liberate women from their patriarchal enslavement.
Published: Al-Hayat, 2003/12/28