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26 June 2009 | Uncompleted

Incapacity to Manage Differences

exemplified by policies on the hijab, the niqab and the burka

-- / --


Religious "Plastic Turkeys" -- Hermes vs. the Hijab, 2003)

The President of France, the country that has promoted toplessness and clothing that conceals nothing, chose a purportedly historic occasion -- marked by a major policy speech -- to question the clothing of some citizens of France (Sarkozy speaks out against burka, BBC News, 22 June 2009). This follows the banning of Islamic headscarves in French state schools in 2004.

In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity...The burqa is not a religious sign, it's a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement -- I want to say it solemnly... it will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.

France has set up a commission to study the wearing of burkas and niqabs after President Nicolas Sarkozy said the Islamic veils turn women into prisoners. The 32-member commission will hold hearings that could lead to legislation banning burkas from being worn in public. France has western Europe's largest Muslim population, estimated at 5 million. A growing group of French women wear burkas and niqabs, which either cloak the entire body or cover everything but the eyes. On Monday Sarkozy told lawmakers he supported a ban on burkas, calling them "a sign of debasement" for women.(Commission inquiry in France could lead to burka ban, The Guardian, 23 June 2009)



long dresses

devoilement / voilement


institutions / convents

18th century

identity associated with faces -- acid / wound

dressing or undressing

dignity of women -- delayed debate on exposure

substitute dressing for undressing in arguments

peer group pressures


why do women dress or undress

visage = ame / refuse contact -- social netwoling -- anonymity

dans notre culture not evrything accepted --

dont show your face

religious pathology

external signs but not internal

cant use rights to justify extremes

veil 18th

variety as in India

prison clothing

nudism ???

clothing -- organge people


extreme styles of clothing


plus rien d'human --

sect ou fashion


phanome noire

pauvrete / discrimination

vehicule for hidden discrimination projected onto clothing

don't have matching interviews of nudist

niqab is killing the status of the women


no experiment with women trying it out

choose one's clothing



assume that face seeing = communication

le voile c'est mon choix





why are the French so threatrened?

me rapprocher de mon createur

wearing multiple piercings

bourrage de crane -- what else


see faces in order to be able to pass judgrment on them -- control freaks?

women associate freedom with clothing

dates when women were covered or uncovered -- cod piece

nothing to do with Islam

submission? versus invisible pressures

husband obliging wife to wear certain clothes

token political action -- avoiding other concrete issues

showiung breasts is a question of identity

victim strategy --

look strategies in face to face -- advantage in interviews -- making an impression

declaration visible de separation -- nuns, double breasted, ties

why cover, why uncover

religiosite naive?

crispation identite

justifying NATO action in Afghanistan -- bombing them out of their burkhas

nos valuers n'admet pas qunad voile nos femmes

voile is a symbol of the lack of coimmunication -- others dont wear such a symbol -- dont smile -- dont talk

why dont they discuss:

imposing a definition of identity -- clothes

a certain idea of living together

women wearing different clothes to change identity

men wearing nonstandard clothes

clothing extremisim ! norms struglling with extremists

imposer des croyances parce que "legitime"?

forced alienation through clothing -- a moving prison -- dont consider other women trapped in homes -- domestic violence

is fashion a religion or a substitute for it -- Vogue?

bricole une tenue pour se bricloer d'une identite

se caricaturer

liberty = unclothing






complementarity: covering/unconvering


introducing cultural biases into law

a European law

Religious "Plastic Turkeys" -- Hermes vs the Hijab

France is in the throes of a heated debate regarding the wearing of headscarves (the Hijab) by Muslim girls in educational institutions. President Chirac is calling for legislation banning the Islamic headscarf and other conspicuous religious signs (including Christian crosses and Jewish skullcaps) from state schools -- although "discreet signs" are to be permitted (see Secularism Gone Mad, 18 Dec 2003). This concern is evident to a lesser degree in other countries with an increasing proportion of Muslims. Chirac's announcement was accompanied by a call for a strong reinforcement of secularism throughout the public service. Chirac indicated that his conscience had persuaded him that "clothing and signs which conspicuously show membership of a religion must be forbidden in schools" [more | more]

In the case of head covering, no questions are raised about the acceptability of scarves such as those of "HermesTM". The irony is that whilst the Hijab is a modern religious symbol, "Hermes" is the name of a god in the ancient Greek pantheon -- he is the "messenger of the gods", also the "god of the road" and the "god of commerce". The scarf benefits from the association with the "spiritual" qualities of the deity in that pantheon. Why else would the name have been selected and trade marked for marketing purposes?

It is claimed that the move by the French authorities is against the wearing of the Hijab in "secular" institutions. This raises the question as to the significance and boundaries of "secular". It may be convenient to recognize certain belief systems as "religions" and to prohibit the wearing of their symbols. However it is possible that there are other belief systems that are functionally equivalent to religions but are not so recognized, for example the belief systems of the Druids or Wiccans - or even that of some secret society or animist cult. Who would recognize the symbols of a secret cult and the clothing they prescribe?

Much more relevant to the framing of the focus on the Hijab is the extent to which corporations -- like Hermes -- seek to market clothing products through the use of symbols that carry spiritual and religious significance, whether or not they would claim to be doing this intentionally. Nothing would be more pleasing to such a company if it could transform "customers" into "believers" in a system of values intimately associated with its products -- as with an old advertisement "Buy a Buick -- Something to Believe in".

To what extent is the pattern of belief in their products -- cultivated by corporations in young people -- to be considered as distinct in practice from a cult or a religion? In a "secular" society, would young people attach greater "spiritual" significance to a conventional religious symbol or to one which had been skillfully cultivated by marketing agencies -- to position a scarf or a brand of footwear? Few in the design world would challenge that fashion can be understood and lived as a religion -- or as a substitute for a religion. Much has been made of the obsession of school children with wearing designer clothes in ways which might readily be understood as substituting for religious beliefs -- clothes, defining a "look", may indeed become a religion [more | more | more].

Much has been reported on the importance of designer labels in establishing the status of the wearer -- through "the look" -- within the context of a belief system. People have been mugged and killed for designer label shoes. To what degree should the Hijab be seen as a designer label scarf -- which the designers of competing scarves perceive as encroaching dangerously on the marketing of their belief system?

To what extent does wearing a Hermes scarf signal a curious form of revival of the religion of ancient Greece -- or an appropriation of that religion, as with Christianity's appropriation of pagan deities and rites in other contexts? [more | more]

It would be instructive to explore what other deities have been coopted and cultivated as a focus for belief in corporate products. For example: Poseidon (baseball cap), Erebus (down jacket), Nyx (sunglasses), Agalaia (garments), Thalia (pants), Aphrodite (clothing), etc..... Have any deities not been used in this way? Even Nike derives from the ancient Greek cult of Athena Nike!

European Implication of Worship of Pagan Religions

There is a resurgence of interest in Greece, and elsewhere, in the classical Hellenic religions as part of the Ellinon Epistrofi, or "Return to Hellenes Movement." In June 2004, the World Council of Ethnic Religions (WCER) had its seventh congress in Greece. It was hosted by the Greek pagan umbrella group Ypato Symboulio Hellinon Ethnikon (YSEE). This includes the Committee for the Hellenic Religion. (J. S. Parker, Ongoing Persecution of Pagans in Modern Greece, 2006). There are twelve gods (and goddesses) in the Hellenic Olympian Religion of the Dodekatheon: Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Ares, Hermes, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Athena, Apollo, and Artemis are always considered Olympians. Hebe, Helios, Hestia, Demeter, Dionysus, Hades, and Persephone are the variable gods among the Twelve.

As members of the European Union and subject to European human rights legislation, France and Greece are called upon to recognize the worship of religions of either country. Formal recognition for worship of the Dodekatheon is being sought [more]. Presumably the restrictions on wearing religious symbols in France should therefore apply to the symbols associated with worship of the Olympians -- and to the misappropriation of such symbols. To what extent should the French be concerned at the imminenent possibility of restrictions of the wearing of Hermes scarves or the shoes of Nike (as an aspect of Athena)? To what extent are the names of such deities to be considered as having been misappropriated -- especially in the light of recent Europe-wide demonstrations against blasphemous misrepresentation?

This points to a curious twist in the corporate strategy of globalization -- and its possible dependence on values articulated by deities that apparently still constitute a psychically active residue in the modern consciousness (perhaps mnemonically through the sound values of the names of such deities). Is there some unconscious need to reactivate symbolic dimensions articulated in ancient civilizations by their deities -- but to transform and lock that expression into the context of the universal rule of commerce as a universal religion? Whereas deities of the past were worshipped in temples, are they now to be worshipped in "secular" shopping malls as temples of commerce? A universal religion with franchise shops as the agents of God as the ultimate manufacturer? Are consumers dressed in the Hermes "look" or in the Christian Dior "look", for example, to be understood as uniformed celebrants of a resurgent religion? This would help explain the US enthusiasm for implanting their franchise outlets in countries they occupy -- the "clash of civilizations" is indeed then a clash of religions.

More generally is it the case that young people are in the process of choosing and cultivating -- with the complicity of the media world and governments -- the entities in a vast new pantheon that is being used to articulate their values? The "divinities" in this pantheon include the media stars, celebrities and singers in which many young people -- especially in a "secular" society -- believe to a far greater degree than in the spiritual leaders of any religion. Compare the role and visibility of ancient deities in their societies with that in contemporary society of Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Michael Jackson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc -- as A-List Celebrities -- the new Gods of Olympus?

Veils, Hijabs and Niqabs vs Sunglasses, Hoods and Nudity?

Former UK Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has provoked controversy by advocating that Muslim women should remove their veils, especially the niqab (full veil). He argues that the increasing trend towards covering facial features was “bound to make better, positive relations between the two communities
more difficult” because face-to-face conversations were of “greater value” [more more].
No comparison was made with an earlier European fashion favouring veils, or any future fashion trend in favour of veils or face-covering scarves. Should sunglasses be condemned for the same reasons -- with hoods and balaclavas? Do they too constitute a dangerous "symbol of separation"? What then is to be said about communications with authorities and services that are only possible by telephone? Do they make relations "more difficult? Would removing more items of clothing make for better communication -- beyond showing a deep cleavage? Would this be consistent with the philosophy of nudists? Should politicians meet their constituencies in the nude to reduce the democratic deficit? Would nudity improve the quality of parliamentary debate?

Curiously there is no requirement in the Qur'an that women be veiled, rather it is in the Bible that Christian women are enjoined to be "covered". Should Jack Straw's preferences apply to devout Christians if they choose fully to respect the word of the Bible:

For if a woman is not veiled, let her also be shorn:
but if it is a shame to a woman to be shorn or shaven,
let her be veiled
. (Corinthians I, 11:6)

The most fruitful review of the complexity of the veiling issue, from a historical perspective, is provided by a former Catholic nun, Karen Armstrong (My years in a habit taught me the paradox of veiling, Guardian, 26 October 2006)

In the Plastic Turkey Era it is clear that the focus on prohibiting the Hijab may well be a subterfuge in favour of other emergent "religions" -- or their spiritual surrogates. As with "al-Qaida" and "Saddam Hussein", the significance of the Hijab is in process of being manipulated for political ends -- whatever the fundamental truths with which it may be associated. As with the case of "assassination" (discussed above), it here takes the form of cultural assassination -- with the emphasis on "cult". The prohibitive focus of a French society -- so identified with other "looks" -- on the Hijab is a form of "targeted killing" within a complex cult-ural ecosystem. The symbolism of the Hijab can be fruitfully considered as subject to manipulation in a highly competitive symbolic environment -- as part of a process of memetic warfare.



Amara Bamba. France: Towards Banning Niqab and Burqa. Islam Online [text]

Angelique Chrisafis. Veiled threats: row over Islamic dress opems bitter divisions in France. The Guardian, 26 June 2009 [text]

Naqib's Daughter. Sarkozy, the Niqab and the state as guardian of women. Open Salon, 24 June 2009 [text]

Jennifer Green. Is Sarkozy 'veiling' his popularity plunge? Tawa Citizen, 23 June 2009 [text]

Jamey Keaten. Sarkozy says burqas are 'not welcome' in France. Yahoo News, 22 June 2009. [text]

Pierre Tristam. Sarkozy to Veil-Wearing Women: Stay Home. Guide to Middle East Issues, 23 June 2009 [text]

Wormwood. French Fashion Sense: Sarkozy vs. Niqab. Beats Entropy, 24 June 2009 [text]

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