Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Burqa Ban And Future Religious Development In France

 College Writing I: Essay #4                                                        

Student: Gibson, John                                                                                        

Professor: Michael Baron                                                                                  

University Of Massachusetts, Lowell, 

April 22, 2024

Burqa Ban And Future Religious Development In France

France was the first European state to ban the wearing of burqa in public in 2010 (CBC, 2011). The French National Assembly published an investigation N2262 into burqa-wearing issues, titled “On The Practice Of Wearing The Full Veil On The National Territory,” with startling adherence to the French Revolution motto in the sentence “It also shows precisely how wearing the full veil undermines the three principles which appear in the motto of the Republic: liberty, equality, fraternity,” and the subsequent voting generated international outcries and controversies (Raoult, p. 13, Cohen-Almagor, 2022). The French Revolution was famously credited to Jean Jacques Rousseau by Napoleon Bonapart, saying, “It was he (Rousseau) who prepared the French Revolution” (Ranger). The controversies brought the Rousseau philosophy to the forefront of debates, such as Cohen-Almagor’s article published in the US National Library Of Medicine (Cohen-Almagor, 2022). This article aims to outline the Rousseau philosophy for clarification of the motivations of French thinkers and to shed light on possible future developments.

Jean Jacques Rousseau was an influential political philosopher of the European Enlightenment period, famous for giving the quote, “Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains” (Delaney). Academic consensus generally credits Rousseau for the ideation of the French Revolution as multiple leaders of the French Revolution promoted Rousseau’s ideas, such as “his political ideals were championed by leaders of the French Revolution” (Delaney). Rousseau’s philosophy is based on human’s “amoral” state of nature. This neutral, no shame or guilt mentality allows people to tentatively forgive themselves for committing perceived sins while making moral judgments for legal or practical matters. Rousseau’s perplexing argument, as is often called, “forces people to be free” (Cohen-Almagor). This neutral, no shame or guilt mentality pursuit allows people to make compulsory laws, as otherwise, without this quest, it can be easy for a hypothetically gentle-natured population to respect the faith of Islam and let the Islamic community govern themselves in a hands-off approach. One famous example of such a hands-off idea of governing is in Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave, where Socrates and many Western followers prefer the rulers of a society to be “disinterested” in the social-economical gains of people in the communities (Jowett). 

In contrast to the disinterested approach and in adherence to Rousseau's educational philosophy, the French National Assembly resolution N2262, before the 2010 voting, encouraged a hands-on-deck approach. Burqa and niqab-wearing was deemed a psychological tactic to suppress young women from standing out, excelling, and achieving individual success in the National Assembly’s report as “psychological constraint is very tangible” (Raoult, p. 97). The report included an interview with a young burqa-wearing woman, who said,  “little by little the veil seemed to become an ideal or an object of comparison with ordinary clothing whose acceptable appearance must be measured in relation to the requirement of modesty.” (Raoult, p. 97). “Little by little” reminds careful viewers of the seven steps of oppression in Professor Zimbardo’s Lucifer Effect video presentation (Zimbardo, 2008). Dressing can be a trivial subject of practicality. However, a small codification requiring young women to cover their face and forehead fully may allow subsequent oppression steps to follow. Rousseau’s opinion on education is that “women are cleverer than men, and that they excel more in matters of practical reason” (Delaney). In the National Assembly’s resolution, burqa-wearing has thus far explicitly declared, “It is disturbing and unacceptable” (Raoult, p. 97). The 348-seat Senate passed the resolution with 100 abstentions (Vandoorne).

It may seem obvious that the resolution infringed on religious freedom, but Rousseau's “born free” philosophy provides some defense measures and says that religious freedom should not be absolute or overemphasized. Rousseau’s “born free” philosophy has strength in opposing unjust norms and monarch culture, and it has inoculated revolutions to overturn oppressive past state regimes, with the newly established sovereign as the people’s general will. The Internet Encyclopedia Of Philosophy draws a parallel between Rousseau’s general will and John Rawl’s veil of ignorance when it says, 

“This point can be understood in an almost Rawlsian sense, namely that if the citizens were ignorant of the groups to which they would belong, they would inevitably make decisions that would be to the advantage of the society as a whole, and thus be in accordance with the general will.“

Rawlsian philosophy is well known for emphasizing fairness for all people’s welfare and giving disadvantaged people a better chance to thrive. As a reminder of John Rawl’s thought experiment, imagine that the entire world’s population of eight billion is about to be teleported to the Alpha Centauri stellar system, but due to the peculiar climate and imperfect teleporting science, the teleporting process will reassign all families, unpredictably, to have new physical color, physique, intelligence, and religious ties anew in the new habitat. It will make sense for everyone to have a fair standing in the new society, and no particular religion will tower over other religions or be subjugated. 

Concerned citizens may be alerted by the “amoral” rhetoric that is the foundation of Rousseau’s philosophy. However, modern anthropology and psychology researchers concur with Rousseau’s assertion to some degree. Professor Zimbardo’s video lecture “The Psychology of Evil” says, “Lucifer effect, …, really is a celebration of the human mind’s infinite capacity to make any of us kind or cruel.” The environment shapes human behavior, and there is no fixed mode of operation to harm others to gain for oneself. Any person can be a hero. In Rousseau’s original argument, Rousseau interrogated Hobbes’ assertion of the state of nature where humans were in constant warfare with one another by asking that, before civilization existed, without the concept of private property and social hierarchy, how the sophisticated calculations to make constant warfare could form? So far, without concrete evidence of Islamophobia bias, the resolution N2262 has not been overturned. But tensions exist.

The tensions between personal liberty and the general will are often a two-part debate of Rousseau’s Social Contract. The first part is the naturalized state of nature; the second is the normative, ideal state of nature (Delaney). However, two opposing social movements cause social turmoil as expected. In opposing Thomas Hobbes’ view that men were better off submitting themselves to the sovereign, it also questioned whether the monarch and the church under Louis XVI were ethical. The result was Rousseau’s Social Contract book ban in France, and Rousseau went into exile from Paris. According to the encyclopedia, “Rousseau argues against traditional views of religion that led to the banning of the book,” and the mode of his exile was “incognito” (Delaney). In modern-day France, 11 staff members of the Charlie Hebdo cartoon magazine died in a domestic terrorist attack for publishing caricatures of the Islam prophet Mohamed in 2015, and another domestic attack killed history teacher Samuel Paty in 2020 for showing Charlie Hebdo cartoon caricatures in class for educational purposes (Ward). The 2015 attack in Paris by the Islamic State Of Iraq And The Levant that killed 130 had a geopolitical component, not purely domestic (BBC, 2015).

It is worth noting, for clarification purposes, however obvious, that the general will philosophy is different from utilitarianism’s pursuit of the greatest welfare for the maximum number of people, sacrificing a small number of people in the process. Instead of religious minorities suffering, the people of the majority French appear to be under threat. 

The N2262 resolution is only part of France’s ongoing diminishing of religious life. The French Senate and President Macron led a new bill that “would allow public authorities to fund only (religious) organizations which sign a ‘contract of republican commitment’” in 2021, according to Amnesty International’s report (Amnesty International, 2021). According to Rachel Donadio’s report in the Atlantic, the new law applies to all religions, including Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christian, and all four foremost religious leaders complained, “saying that it restricts freedom of association.” (Donadio, 2021). Nonetheless, the National Assembly of 2021 passed the law (Darmanin). According to Brigham Young University Law School’s journal article by Paris Professor La Ferrière’s interpretation, the law “declared that the State can no longer have discussions with those who refuse to ‘write on a piece of paper’ that the law of the Republic is superior to the law of God” (La Ferrière, 2021). Continuing with Professor La Ferrière’s report, “Charter of principles for an ‘Islam for France,’ presented as a demand by the Executive and signed to this day by five of the nine associations composing the French Council of the Muslim Faith” (La Ferrière, 2021). 

Works Cited

Amnesty, International. “The Threat of France’s ‘Republican Values’ Law.” Amnesty International, 8 Aug. 2022, www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/03/france-republican-values-law-risks-discrimination-2/. 

BBC. “Paris Attacks: What Happened on the Night.” BBC News, BBC, 9 Dec. 2015, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34818994. 

CBC, News. “Veiled Women Arrested at Paris Protest | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 11 Apr. 2011, www.cbc.ca/news/world/veiled-women-arrested-at-paris-protest-1.1004020. 

Cohen-Almagor, Raphael. “Indivisibilité, Sécurité, Laïcité: the French ban on the burqa and the niqab.” French Politics vol. 20,1 (2022): 3–24. doi:10.1057/s41253-021-00164-8

Darmanin, Gérald. “Projet de Loi N°3649.” 15e Législature - Assemblée Nationale, Assemblée nationale, www.assemblee-nationale.fr/dyn/15/textes/l15b3649_projet-loi. Accessed 28 Apr. 2024. 

Delaney, James J. “Jean-Jacques Rousseau.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, iep.utm.edu, iep.utm.edu/rousseau/. Accessed 24 Apr. 2024. 

Donadio, Rachel. “Why Is France so Afraid of God?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 31 Oct. 2023, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/12/france-god-religion-secularism/620528/. 

Jowett, Benjamin. “The Internet Classics Archive: The Republic by Plato.” Trans. by Benjamin Jowett, The Internet Classics Archive | The Republic by Plato, classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.6.v.html. Accessed 01 Feb. 2024. 

La Ferrière, Alexis. “Strengthening Respect for the Principles of the Republic?” Talk About: Law and Religion, 16 Feb. 2021, talkabout.iclrs.org/2021/02/16/strengthening-respect-for-the-principles-of-the-republic/. 

Ranger, G. A. (2013). Game Theory in a Napoleonic Context: Establishing Napoleon's Utility and Application to the 1805 War of the Third Coalition (Doctoral dissertation, University of Waikato).

Raoult, Eric. “N 2262 Assemblée Nationale.” Assemblee-Nationale.Fr, 26 Jan. 2010, www.assemblee-nationale.fr/13/pdf/rap-info/i2262.pdf. 

Vandoorne, Saskya. “French Senate Approves Burqa Ban.” CNN, Cable News Network, 15 Sept. 2010, edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/09/14/france.burqa.ban/?hpt=T1. 

Ward, Alex. “A Gruesome Murder in France Rekindles the Country’s Debate on Free Speech and Islam.” Vox, Vox, 19 Oct. 2020, www.vox.com/21523506/france-teacher-attack-terrorism-free-speech-muslims.

Zimbardo, Philip. “The Psychology of Evil | Philip Zimbardo.” YouTube, YouTube, 23 Sept. 2008, www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsFEV35tWsg. 

No comments:

Post a Comment