French national identity: torn between the beret and the burqa


Good old Europe is growing worried about the potential consequences of its immigration policies. Old habits die hard: ancient, refined, aristocratic Europe cannot digest well the proliferation of the immigrant hoi polloi who seem to mostly originate from Muslim countries and from the lowest socio-economic classes of these countries on top of that! What’s with those odd looking people who talk in a funny way and whose women wear black overalls and hide their faces! Some alien race is taking over Europe! France is one European country which takes these issues very seriously indeed as proven by current president Sarkozy’s recent initiative to relaunch the debate on what it really means to be French. Apart from the disturbing fact that the French themselves have realized via this ‘national debate’ that even they do not all agree on what it really means to be French (some say it’s about wearing berets and buying baguettes, whereas others hint or sometimes openly threaten that it’s about reconciling being Muslim with the values of the Republic), this initiative seems to have backfired and upset many committed voters who now are not really sure if they’re French or not. Oh mon Dieu! Given that you cannot prove a negative, it is now up to the French to prove they’re French! It would appear that a beret-less head is prone to all sorts of headaches and wind-chills!

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4 thoughts on “French national identity: torn between the beret and the burqa

  1. The French are funny. I wonder why they don’t say it, that they don’t like all these southern foreigners and ask them to go home wessalam. I know they think human rights and what not, but really they shouldn’t be ashamed of such thinking. Even my fellow Algerians are disappointed when they go to France and find too many North Africans there.
    But it’s late now, most of the girls wearing niqab (and not burqa) in France are French converts, and the people they refer to as immigrants are actually French people who have almost nothing to do with their grand-parents’ countries. I think there is definitely an issue with Islam, and they have to deal with it, because unless they go through another inquisition, they will have to live with it.
    From the second video, I gather that one important aspect of the French identity is being useless at speaking foreign languages.

    Now let’s consider Algeria. We could see that the Algerians welcomed the NT (French-born) players without any problem, so long as they showed their love for Algeria and have at least Algerian fathers. But when Saadane called in a player whose father is Tunisian, another one whose father is black African and another one whose name is European, we started hearing voices questioning their Algerianity.
    I wonder how we would react if a really different group (say different ethnicity or different religion) becomes important in Algeria. Like the 100k+ Chinese we have now, or the thousands illegal African immigrants. Would we accept them as Algerian?

    • I agree with what you say about the Human Rights complex MnarviDZ and how it has crippled Europe for decades (viz. the USA for example which have a different approach to the whole Human Rights thing).

      But it’s late now, most of the girls wearing niqab (and not burqa) in France are French converts, and the people they refer to as immigrants are actually French people who have almost nothing to do with their grand-parents’ countries. I think there is definitely an issue with Islam, and they have to deal with it, because unless they go through another inquisition, they will have to live with it.

      Good summary. I am not sure whether ‘most of the girls wearing niqab’ are ‘French converts’ though, but it would appear that a significant proportion of new Muslim converts adopt the Saudi brand/ flavour of religion.

      I wonder how we would react if a really different group (say different ethnicity or different religion) becomes important in Algeria. Like the 100k+ Chinese we have now, or the thousands illegal African immigrants. Would we accept them as Algerian?

      As a rule of thumb, successful and popular public figures and stars are immune (relatively speaking) to racial and identity stigmas/ stereotypes. Any nation is eager to self-appropriate the brilliant minded, the talented and the rich and powerful (to various degrees of preferences for each category). I think the real problem is that of Class and socio-economic status, but often people mistake it for racism, xenophobia or sectarianism. In fact, race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, nationality etc are only useful excuses to the old struggle between the classes. One must not miss the wood for the trees!

      • As a rule of thumb, successful and popular public figures and stars are immune (relatively speaking) to racial and identity stigmas/ stereotypes. Any nation is eager to self-appropriate the brilliant minded, the talented and the rich and powerful (to various degrees of preferences for each category). I think the real problem is that of Class and socio-economic status, but often people mistake it for racism, xenophobia or sectarianism. In fact, race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, nationality etc are only useful excuses to the old struggle between the classes. One must not miss the wood for the trees!

        I think there are two aspects to the question: When we talk about individuals then I agree nations are happy to self-appropriate the brilliant ones; and the problems are more with the poor/uneducated who don’t seem (just don’t seem) to provide anything to the host nation. And the real problem is more of a socio-economic type, even if it is often turned into a conflict inside the lower class between the immigrants and the natives.
        But there’s a second aspect which is when you have a big group able to dramatically change the constitution of the nation ( for e.g. the 5 million Muslims in France). And in this case, I think that it would be even more frightening (for the whole society, regardless of the social classes) if this group is composed of brilliant minds or big wallets who would overtake the country from the upper side.

  2. But there’s a second aspect which is when you have a big group able to dramatically change the constitution of the nation ( for e.g. the 5 million Muslims in France). And in this case, I think that it would be even more frightening (for the whole society, regardless of the social classes) if this group is composed of brilliant minds or big wallets who would overtake the country from the upper side

    I agree that this is a pertinent nuance but when has such a thing ever happened in history aside from military coups and violent revolutions?

    If we take the example of Muslims, from the political aspect of the question you raise, I think that the Western unease of the political class resides in their perception of the incompatibility of Islam with Western democratic values, pluralism and diversity. But the irony is, what if Islam is elected democratically by the populace at some stage! There is no valid political argument to counter this eventuality. In Algeria, when this happened, the military stepped in and it turned into a blood bath.

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