Don't mess with my burqa, monsieur
By Pepe Escobar
When it comes to Islamophobia, good old Europe - which after all invented the
Crusades - certainly has nothing to envy the United States.
I'm already making plans to arrive at Terminal 2 of Charles de Gaulle airport
in Paris in the spring of 2011 sporting my burqa. The cruel doubt is,
which one? Shall I deplane swathed in the classic light blue I used to cross to
Talibanistan? Or the slick black number I once used to cross to the tribal
areas? The ultra-chic dark green I got at Peshawar's bazaar, perhaps?
The mere thought of the possibilities once I disembark from Air France business
class - where they won't dare tamper with my burqa - and hit
immigration, gives me such a thrill. Will they fine
me 150 euros (US$195) right away? Will they dispatch me to a "civic education"
course? Will they simply denounce me to the fashion police? Better yet - will
they call a Chanel representative and book me a show?
And what if I tell them that my wife made me do it? Will they throw her in jail
and fine her 30,000 euros? Will they deport me on the first flight to Dubai and
its burqa-congested duty free? Well, since I'm a man, and also a
journalist, I can always tell them that I'm trying to infiltrate evil al-Qaeda
cells in Europe, and this was a counter-insurgency burqa approved by
General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Afghanistan. In this case,
would I be able to walk away scot-free?
All these feverish considerations are taking place because the French Senate -
with a momentous 246 to 1 vote - has just approved the motion for banning the
Islamic veil all across the land, despite serious criticism by the State
Council, Amnesty International and leaders of the Muslim community, who insist
that the law "risks stigmatizing Islam" (that hefty 30,000 euro fine, by the
way, applies to men guilty of forcing their women to wear the burqa).
Well, that's exactly what minute French President Nicolas Sarkozy ("Sarko", as
the multitudes call him) always wanted; for Sarko the "veil is not welcome in
the republic's territory". As for his justice minister, the uber-bourgeois,
always impeccable coifed, and certified member of the Chanel-Hermes set,
Michelle Alliot-Marie, she could not be more graphic, "The republic must be
lived with an open face." Sounds like a bad Lancome commercial.
Eminent jurists duly note that France risks being condemned by the European
Court of Human Rights. Anyway, now the premier Muslim community in Europe,
comprising up to 6 million people, amongst whom only 2,000 wear a burqa or
a niqab, is part of the first European state to censor the burqa.
And it will not be the last; Belgium is considering a follow-up, and the
truculent cripto-fascists of the Lega Nord in Italy are already extolling its
cultural and security merits.
But it's not just about the burqa. This being advanced, militarized
capitalism, it's about "dissimulation of the face in a public space". And that
also means all those suspicious hoods in anti-government demonstrations. Beat
the dissenters - and when in doubt, deport them. It remains to be seen whether
the law will be equally applied to those who when on a Maserati convertible
resort to a Hermes scarf in order to prevent the wind from messing their
All roads don't lead to Roma Quelle horreur. Over 221 years after the French Revolution gave the
world the Declaration of Human Rights, France is being accused of a serious
violation of human rights. And the plot thickens - it's not about the burqa.
The righteous Viviane Reding, vice president of the European Commission (EC)
responsible for Justice and Human Rights, has said it in plain English (being
from Luxembourg, she's also fluent in French): "This is a disgrace."
The disgrace in question is the dodgy behavior of French ministers vis-a-vis
the commission. Reding was fuming - according to legendary European
parliamentary Danny Cohn-Bendit, former "the rouge", now "the green" - because
those suave French ministers lied to her straight-faced about the mass
expulsion of Roma, gypsies from Romania and Bulgaria (15,000 of them live in
France). Sarkozy fought tooth and nail for this deportation en masse -
subcontracted to mayors via an avalanche of ministerial memos.
As virtually nothing of value can be learned by reading or watching the
cowardly, Sarko-co-opted, bling-bling, trash-saturated French media, it was up
once again to the invaluable satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine to reveal that
a crucial memo by the Ministry of Interior expressly calling for systematic
"important operations in priority against the Roma" came out of a meeting in
Paris in early August. The Immigration Ministry had flatly denied it. The
commission found out about it on the Internet.
For Reding, that was the straw that broke the camel's back. She had to stress
that the role of the commission as "guardians" of the European Union (EU)
treaties was being sabotaged by Immigration Minister Eric Besson and European
Affairs Minister Pierre Lellouche. And she went straight to the point, "There's
no place in Europe for discrimination based on ethnic origins or race." As much
as any legal procedure by the commission may take months, France was in fact
politically condemned, and reminded that the country is not above EU laws.
Obviously, the Sarko bling-bling brigade reacted with fury, starting with His
Master's Voice, who with trademark politeness suggested the Roma should be
deported to Reding's own Luxembourg instead of Romania. The deportation is in
theory "voluntary". But there are not that many takers, even with a sendoff
gift of 300 euros.
What drove the Sarko gang really ballistic was Reding, no holds barred, saying
what many do not dare articulate; that these expulsions were eerily reminiscent
of what had happened in Europe during World War II - when Vichy France
collaborated with Nazi roundups of Jews and gypsies. Sarkozy as new Vichy is
not exactly a sexy campaign slogan.
on two counts
Ever since his intolerant speech late July on security and immigration, the
"incredibly shrinking" Sarko (The Economist got it absolutely right has been
ridiculed across the European board. For the millions of Frenchmen and women
who really cherish the myth of this being the nation of human rights, it's a
serious blow - worse than opening a tanked bottle of Petrus. Imagine the shame
of France facing charges at the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg on two counts
(violation of law governing behavior toward an ethnic group; and not providing
Roma deportees with judicial appeal in accordance with EU regulations).
But what did they expect? Sarko has the mentality of a provincial cop. Forget
the glories of Voltaire, Montaigne, Flaubert, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Sartre;
under his reign an ageing, fearful, reactionary, increasingly unemployed,
increasingly trashy and manic-depressive France has been wallowing in a mire of
hate and bling-bling. To top it off, it was Sarko himself who framed his mass
deportation scheme as a top security priority even as his government remains
embroiled in a maze of political scandals.
Woody Allen has used insanely glamorous Sarko wife Carla Bruni - which wackos
in Iran have defiled as an "Italian prostitute" - in his latest movie, Midnight
in Paris. Pity Woody didn't clad Carla in a burqa - just to
spice up the debate. Or he could have played her as a Roma - deported to Rome
... A constantly fuming Sarko simply can't get over the fact that his wife is
taller, cuter, and infinitely more desirable than him. And on top of it she
does not expel people living in France - well, as long as they buy her latest
CD. Anyway, I'm definitely looking forward to my burqa face off next
spring at the immigration counter at Charles de Gaulle airport.