A Message To The French Minister – Let Us Liberate You

Recently, the current French minister of women’s rights, Laurence Rossignol, made the comment where she laid out how she believes Muslim women wearing the Islamic head covering are like ‘negroes’ who accepted slavery. She afterwards issued an apology for the use of the word ‘negro’ but refused to make any further changes in her controversial statement. Yes. Controversial.

To begin with, I would like to tell her that wearing the Islamic veil comes from a place of Islamic spirituality and is a part of the practice of one’s faith. It comes from submitting to the will of God and not to one’s own desires or the desires of others e.g. men. This act, among many others, signifies the quest of Muslims to free themselves from this world and its attachments and choose to be slave to God and God only. Its purpose is to act as a protective barrier to society’s unrealistic expectations of a woman’s body and the misuse of it. It privatizes it. How does this compare to being enslaved, belittled, and dehumanized by ‘white people’ who saw themselves as superior to black people even though they were all just people, equal to one another?

Black people that were enslaved had been persecuted, treated like lifeless entities, crippled to a state where there was no place left for an own will or basic human rights. They had been mistreated, tortured, and humiliated and made to believe the color of their skin was the reason for their proposed inferiority. All this done by the beliefs of some white supremacists. The aftermath of what was one of the darkest times of history still manages to leave a bitter taste that often results in clashes within diversity-rich communities, socio-economic discrepancies and lasting psychological damage. And I’m not sure they’re too happy about your nonsensical comparison. I know we are not.

Women have been subject to repression and domination throughout history. But how ironic is it that a minister of women’s rights, knowingly or unknowingly, is preparing to make another subset of women go through the same repression? To be dictated what to do? Do you really think these women who are choosing to cover themselves just don’t know any better and need to be told what to wear? Why is it you’re so sure they are helpless damsels in distress who need you to save them? These women are teachers, homemakers, writers, doctors, engineers, and overall educated people. So does your attitude towards them not reek of white supremacy and white saviour complex?

Perhaps you are indoctrinated with the belief a woman has to show skin to be worthy of praise and to be and feel liberated. I however see liberation as something completely different. I see it as having a choice. I see it as having the opportunity to think freely, to have the option to be different and not be marginalised and looked down upon. I see it as having an open and welcoming atmosphere that allows for different thoughts and beliefs to bloom and flourish. I see it as having an open mind.

The minister’s view of women’s right is skewed and limited. Liberation is not forcing upon others what you feel is liberating, but what each being feels and chooses for themselves. Maybe it’s time you stop pushing your beliefs onto others considering it as the ultimate truth.

Do you not see what you’re doing? We are yet to be enslaved by you to submit to your particular thinking, but it seems like you’re very keen on it happening. What exactly is so problematic about having fashionable pieces of a clothing that is worn by a large part of the world’s population? Why is it that despite their substantial presence, they and their norms are considered alien and unacceptable? Is it not natural that leading fashion houses will tap into the open market and its demand for modest clothing since a quarter of the world’s population is Muslim? How is that not the most straightforward business strategy there can be? It seems like you are unaware of the vastness of the world that encompasses so many cultures and philosophies or perhaps you place yours above others.

The French take pride in having a free society. Then why is it that this French minister is selectively okay with free thought, assuming she does believe in it to begin with? Why is it okay for Charlie Hebdo to be controversial and different in its ways and not okay for Muslim women to wear the veil just because it is not palatable to a particular personal preference or the association of certain opinions on it?

So my question to the French Minister of Women’s Rights – Before trying to liberate others, will you take the step to liberate yourself? Will you become free?

Written by Farhana Nitol

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Farhana Nitol, a 22 year old Bangladeshi by birth and raised in Belgium, is a medical student at the University of Antwerp hoping to soon become a doctor. Other than the afore-mentioned career path, practically anything and everything interests her ranging from world politics to cooking. A little bit of an optimistic dreamer, she hopes to lighten up spheres around her by using some good old sense of humour.