The Neighbor in Burka

The Neighbor in Burka

In January 2010 Jean-François Copé, the parliamentary leader of the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, the ruling French party, proposed the draft of a law which bans the full-body veil from French streets and all other public places. This announcement came after the anguished six-month debate on the burka and its Arab equivalent, the niqab, which cover the woman’s face, except for a small slit for the eyes. All main political parties expressed their rejection of burka: the main opposition party, the Parti Socialiste, said it is “totally opposed to the burka,” which amounted to a “prison for women”. The disagreements are of purely tactical nature: although President Nicolas Sarkozy opposes the outright ban on burka as counter-productive, he called for a “debate on national identity” in October 2009, claiming that burka is “against French culture.” The law fines up to 750 Euros on anyone appearing in public “with their face entirely masked”; exemptions would permit the wearing of masks on “traditional, festive occasions,” such as carnivals. Stiffer punishments would be laid down for men who “forced” their wives or daughters to wear full-body veils. The underlying idea is that the burka or niqab are contrary to French traditions of freedom and laws on women’s rights, or to quote Copé: “We can measure the modernity of a society by the way it treats and respects women.” The new legislation is thus intended to protect the dignity and security of women. Furthermore, as Sarkozy said, veils are “not welcome” because, in a secular country like France, they intimidate and alienate non-Muslims… one cannot but note how the allegedly universalist attack on burka on behalf of human rights and dignity ends up as a defense of the particular French way of life.

[Extract. Appeared in The Symptom 11, (2010). Full article available on lacan.com]


Slavoj Žižek

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst, and a senior researcher at the Institute for Humanities, Birkbeck College, University of London. He has also been a visiting professor at more than 10 universities around the world. Žižek is the author of many books; his latest are Against the Double Blackmail and Disparities.

Tell us what you think...

Related Posts

- Newspapers and Magazines

Korean nuclear tension: Apocalypse… almost now

The saber rattling and harsh rhetoric during the current nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula should remind mankind of something we have forgotten. Atomic weapons are terrifying things, and talk of using them should be Read more…

- Newspapers and Magazines

Act Globally, Think Locally!

The looming military conflict between the US and North Korea contains a double danger. Although both sides, the US and North Korea, are for sure bluffing, not counting on an actual nuclear exchange, rhetoric never Read more…

- Newspapers and Magazines

Zizek’s Newspaper and Magazine Publications

2017 2017 September 11th, Korean nuclear tension: Apocalypse… almost now, RT. 2017 August 21st, Act Globally, Think Locally! The Philosophical Salon. 2017 July 9th, The problem with Venezuela’s revolution is that it didn’t go far enough, Independent. Why Read more…

%d bloggers like this: