It’s more than just clothes.

Democracy and a Piece of Clothing – The Washington Post

A Muslim immigrant from Morocco was trying to attain citizenship in France. She wore a burqa. Her wearing of the burqa was not the issue though, officials say. It was her unwillingness to comply with any of the exceptions that the French government was trying to give her. 

The officials asked her to show her face so they could identify her. She told them that her religion did not allow her to do this. The officials offered to have a female officer check her passport and face and that all men would have to leave the room. Faiza M. declined again. The officials might have settled on fingerprints as a means of identification, but it is obvious that a state will need to identify a new citizen. How to issue a passport without a photograph of a face? Faiza M. declared that she was not interested in her political rights and that she would not want to vote. Clearly, it is the right of a citizen not to vote. But her reasoning raised eyebrows. She told the officials that only men should have the right to vote. The court, in the end, was not sure whether it was her own free will to sue the government – or her husband’s. On all occasions Faiza M. showed up with her husband. She declared that she had not been wearing the burqa in Morocco, but has been doing so at the suggestion of her French husband. She said she did not know what the words “laicism” and “democracy” meant.

I mean, I agree that it is her right to practice her religion. But I guess I am just confused because even when the government is trying to comply to her religious standards (like having a female officer check her passport) she declined. Why is that? The French government is trying hard to humor her, but she doesn’t really seem very grateful for all of their efforts. Therefore, I do think that it is right for them to deny her citizenship. She is not above the law – no one is. They tried making it easier for her, but she refused. Any thoughts on this?



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About the author


i'm from helena, montana. i now go to school at the university of montana and i study russian language as well as arabic language and southwest (middle east) and central asia.


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  • I would say that he current Nation-State system requires some unifying factor. Frequently that is no longer language, as neighborhoods grow where the national language is not the first language (and in the case of France, standard French has not been universal for particularly long anyway); it is clearly not some objective standard of ‘ethnicity’ (which is both non-existent and a bad basis for a state). Modern France (and for that matter the US)is instead bound by ideals about citizenship and human rights, largely born of the Enlightenment and the revolutions that followed. Not only is it impractical from a security perspective to have citizens whose faces you cannot see, but it flies in the face of centuries of political progress to admit new citizens who have beliefs completely counter to those on which a nation was founded.

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