January 23, 2004

Being Fair to the French

We chuckle over the idea of France's heavy investment in religious fashion policing. I wonder, however, if they're not going about things in a more effective way than we've been giving them credit.

For a cosmopolitan muslim who is not a literalist, who is flexible, who isn't likely to be taken in by a pro-terrorist imam, the restriction on head scarves is a nothing, on par with a restriction on ostentatious crosses. But for someone who is at risk, they are likely to get offended at the head scarf ban long before they get to the 'clothing by Semtex' stage. It's a self-selection that allows, at minimum cost, the separation of the sheep from the goats.

It's a very different way from the way we would go about attacking the problem in the US. It is an open question as to whether it will work or not. Requiring imams in France to acquire and maintain the theological flexibility to support head scarf optional women's clothing is a compromise of more significance than you might think. The ancient dhimma style agreements are unanimous. The muslim authorities have the right and the obligation to restrict non-muslim clothing styles, not the other way around. If you're an imam who can tolerate a role reversal on that, is it really very likely that you'll be outraged at the insolence of equal rights and the omission of the head tax?

It's an economy of force move and should be understood and monitored as to its result before being dismissed as ineffective.

Posted by TMLutas at January 23, 2004 02:21 PM