In the right place at the wrong time?
Islam: Timely Scapegoat for Decline of European Secularism?
Adapt to secularism or move back to the Middle East.
Such is the warning often issued by adherents of depriving Muslim women in Europe from education and free movement - ironically the same ones claiming a concern for women's rights in Muslim countries.
Yet Leila begins by raising an issue which drowns the secularist proverb back into the sea of ignorance that it stems from:
A really important point about women wearing niqab in France is that most were not born in a Muslim family. They are, for the major part, French converts.
Her own grandmother, an American convert who wears burqa and has written a book about her discovery of Islam, attests to it. Leila is herself French by birth, and by all means an exemplary citizen. Her only sins might consist on her fondness for Islam and her pride in wearing hijab. But which 'home' is she and those converts supposed to 'move back' to as a punishment for such grave offenses?
Leila combines her studies of Fine Arts in the north of France with illuminating personal views on the status of Muslims in her nation pointing to the need of self-criticism:
We cannot always react like victims. It is the worst of action plans. I think we have to make efforts too. When you see in France people who are spending their time in the streets, the major part of them are Muslims!
Asked whether these behaviors that represent an annoyance to French society are rooted in Islamic precepts, she resorts to a historical chronology that helps put things in perspective:
Since the beginning of the last century, there was a flow of Arabic immigration to France. But they were very simple people, coming to find a better job, without any actual notion of Islam. We could say that the real problem began some thirty years ago, when the offspring of the last generations saw themselves imprisoned into ghettos, forgotten and neglected by their country.
The reaction of a youth secluded in ghettos was violence. Year after year, the same silence in front of them. And you know what? The debates about hijab arrived in the exact same time. Coincidence? I really don't think so.
All this noise about Islam is just an excuse for hiding the real problems France is suffering from (e.g. unemployment, purchasing power, etc.). It is the scapegoat.
Imane is also a French national proud of her hijab and religion. Likewise, she has no other 'home' to move back to, other than the Paris where she studies Economics. She would seem to agree with the scapegoat theory:
It is true some people from the Muslim community have misbehaviors, may God guide them. But it is not such youth which causes the disturbance, even if it creates problems. The real problem in France has a direct relation with (intolerance towards) the elements of religion, particularly those of Islam.
Imane expresses skepticism over an immediate resolution for a conflict that is swamped in prejudice:
I think we have to wait for the renewal of the generation if we want Muslims, Africans, Arabs, and all their differences to be accepted, because for our generation there is no way.
But what guarantees that things will improve left to refresh themselves? Leila even contests:
We can notice there is more racism and discrimination these last years. Like my mother said, the difference between today and twenty years ago is that if people were racist back then, at least they were ashamed to admit it, in contrast to today!
If, as she pointed out, immigration has been going on for a long while, what exactly changed things to the point of making Europeans proud and open about their racism? As Newton's first law of motion states:
Every body (situation) remains in a state of rest unless it is acted upon by an external unbalanced force.
One cannot help but to wonder, what 'external unbalanced force' has then brought the situation out of 'rest'? Was it just an increase in the number of immigrants and a mounting social pressure, or rather a qualitative change?
Did Europeans really begin to perceive Islam as a threat to their identity in synchronism? The latter is dubious, when much of it can be traced back to a paranoia rush sowed by orientalists like Bernard Lewis who plagued academicist circles with stories about a supposed Muslim threat to the West.
Lewis' zeal for Israel has led him to grotesquely absurd prophecies proudly given diffusion by Western media and academia, including the Iranian nuking of the West scheduled for August 22 of 2006 (August 22: Does Iran have something in store? Wall Street Journal), and France becoming an Islamic Republic in a few decades time. But his influence has remained untouched and repeatedly praised by Western leaders who have shown themselves mastery at messing people's perceptions of reality. One of them, who convinced us Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, former US Vice President Dick Cheney, had to say about Lewis:
In this century, his wisdom is sought daily by policymakers, diplomats, fellow academics, and the news media.
It is thus not much of a surprise that Lewis' prophecies for garnering support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine have even been turned into viral YouTube videos resorting to the 'losing our identity' emotional bribe (e.g. Muslim Demographics), and that exacerbated racism in Europe far from subsiding might only be starting.
What is beyond any question, as Leila puts it, is that:
Even if today the main excuse is that hijab doesn't correspond to the values of France, it is in reality a 'package' of other facts.