Deny his citizenship

_The Economist_ “reports on”: the situation of Faiza M., a Moroccan woman who married a French citizen and moved with him back to France. She applied for citizenship and was rejected on the basis that she wore a _burqa_, a “radical practice” that is “incompatible with the essential values of the French community, and particularly with the principle of sexual equality.” One (female Algerian) official is quoted as saying “[The burqa] is not a religious sign but the visible sign of a totalitarian political project preaching sexual inequality.”

Get over it. The _burqa_ is just a piece of cloth. It is clothing and it is not the state’s role to intervene into what type of clothing people wear. The motto of France since the French Revolution is: Liberté, égalité, fraternité. This decision makes a mockery of France’s “essential value” of liberty.

The sad thing is that Faiza M. only started wearing the _burqa_ at the request of her husband when they arrived in France. As long as it is her choice, she should be able to wear whatever she likes. If, however, she is being _forced_ to wear a certain kind of clothing against her will, then the state should step in to protect her personal freedom. Religion cannot be used as a shield. Legal and religious institutions are rightly separated, and a country’s laws are applicable to all citizens equally. Using religion to flout the laws is unacceptable, like the Muslim woman in Florida who “refused to reveal her face for a driver’s license photo”:

Finally, I would just like to stress that I am by no means a Muslim apologist. “All faiths”: have their whackaloons. The bottom line is: I am a freedom-loving libertarian, and am willing to defend that position.

About Younghusband

Sir Francis Edward Younghusband (1863-1942) was a British explorer, army officer, military-political officer, and foreign correspondent born in India who led expeditions into Manchuria, Kashgar, and Tibet. He three times tried and failed to scale Mt. Everest and journeyed from China to India, crossing the Gobi desert and the Mustagh Pass (alt. c.19,000 ft/5,791 m) of the Karakoram mountain range in modern day Pakistan. Convinced of Russian designs on British interests in India, Younghusband proactively engaged in the nineteenth century spying and conflict over Central Asia between the British and the Russians known as the Great Game. "Younghusband" is a Canadian who has spent a number of years bouncing back and forth between his home country and Japan. Fluent in Japanese and English with experience in numerous other languages from Spanish to Georgian, Younghusband has travelled throughout Asia. He graduated with an MA from the War Studies Department at the Royal Military College of Canada, where he focussed on the Japanese oil industry and energy security issues. He has recently returned to Canada from Japan, and is working in the technology sector.
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16 Responses to Deny his citizenship

  1. pqs says:

    I think it is very sad you felt obliged to write the last paragraph. Reading you post, it is obvious to me that you are defending the freedom to dress as you want, not the practice of discriminating women.

  2. James says:

    Freedom? Choice?

    Did this woman pick her faith when she was born? As a child, did she choose to be indoctrinated into a belief system that compelled her to live her life in “total submission” to male family members? Is it likely that she was even allowed the chance to choose the man she married?

  3. Actually the ability to choose immigrants based on whatever criteria a nation wants is fully acceptable and compatible with UN rules. If a citizen wants to wear a Burqa then it is not the states right to intervene. However, a state granting citizenship to a foreigner is in fact an act of state intervention. If it is going to grant a person citizenship, then it should do so by a criteria that fits in with the beliefs of the natives.

    I do not see why granting citizenship to anyone that wants it regardless of their beliefs has anything to do with French liberty. France is in serious trouble, and it’s immigration policy has been a huge mistake. France assumed that everyone had the same values and had the same goals in life, which has been proven wrong.

  4. Younghusband says:

    “@pqs”: Thank you. Just being thorough.

    “@James”: We all have choices, but often we do not know we have choices. The French government could simply outlaw religion altogether, but that is not going to help the situation. If anything, that will just fan radicalism. The best way is to educate the people to be critical thinkers, and let them know that it is okay to make your own decisions about your own life. Faiza M. obviously knows she has choices, she didn’t wear a _burqa_ in Morocco and there are many women in France that do not wear one. Knowing that she has choices, if she chooses to totally submit herself to her menfolk, that is her decision. She is an adult.

    “@Matt”: Yes, it is the state’s right to accept or deny who it chooses. My argument is that the value of freedom, as enshrined in the motto of France itself, voids such an arbitrary criteria as dress length. Furthermore, to my knowledge the _burqa_ is not yet outlawed in France. If there is any other viable reason to deny her citizenship, then so be it.

  5. von Kaufman-Turkestansky says:

    I love the second comment. It was breathtaking.
    “What is freedom?”. I guess that depends on what “is” is.

    But I guess it’s decided then. If you are born into that society you are inherintly not free. Thus any sqawk of protest when, for example, we the free bomb your family is just the result of brainwashing.

    It eez klar to me zat ve must kontinu to free ze unfrei peoples of ze vorld!

  6. Oliver says:

    Europe has fought the Christian church for a long time. This has ended with the church being defeated. We don’t want this reversed, therefore we reject those who will not accept the same status for islam.

  7. Michael says:

    Oliver, have the Europeans not heard of Choosing Their Battles Carefully? In doing this, the French have (as YH said) gone against their own motto, taken up time and money that could have been used for other things and potentially alienated allies in the Muslim community. All for a piece of cloth.

    They would have done better to ignore the burqa and explain the French laws regarding marital relations and divorce to her instead.

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  9. Younghusband has excellently reflected my own libertarian beliefs. By rejecting her citizenship on basis of her burqa does make a mockery of what the French stand for.

    I am concerned we do not know the complete story of Faiza M nor of her husbands complete beliefs. We are left speculating and feeling in the gaps with what information? We also need to keep in mind the conflict between the state of Morocco and Algeria. The Algerian official could be making a jibe at the King Mohammad VI by implying “totalitarian political project” as cleverly saying his countries constitutional monarchy is a joke.

    Europe is struggling to find a balance between religious freedom and personal freedom. Expect this to continue as Islam tries to come to terms with secularism. It will be fascinating to watch the religion embrace/evolve to realities of today. Anybody else get a sinking feeling in their stomach when Sharia Law is trying to get passed, like in the UK?

    In the end, if we take this story at its face value one can surmise that the French have made a mockery of their own motto. While they have the right to reject her citizenship, one can still wonder if they were really justified to do so. From what we have read, the obvious answer would be emphatically “No!”

  10. Oliver says:

    Europeans have also heard of core values. Organized religion has no place in European politics. We’d rather have compromises elsewhere, if we have to choose our battles. The European view on freedom of religion is that it applies to what you do at home. The public sphere is something else entirely.

    In a reply to YH, she’s an adult she has made a choice we disapprove of in our fellow citizens, so she’ll not become one of them.

  11. Paleohawk says:

    This reminds me of Wilders calling for a ban on Islam in the Netherlands. I suppose halting Islamic immigration is somehow too difficult to implement, so let’s just anger them some more once they have become enfranchised, intelligent and more wealthy by living inside the West.

  12. Augustinus von Moltke says:


    I surmise that our libertarian friends are equally offended by state organized collective armies, rather than privatized security, as such government interference in organization of personal defense, be it policing, military, or intelligence, is perhaps more offensive to libertarian ideals.

    Like others among us, I find state action important in a number of applications. The right of a nation to defense is an fundamental right of statehood. “Fitness for citizenship” is a rather ambiguous test in jurisprudence, but it is not one that is beyond ability of the courts. As an example, the United States requires, among other things:

    1. demonstrat[ion of] good moral character; and
    2. demonstrat[ion of] an attachment to the principles and ideals of the US Constitution.

    While these things are subject to interpretation, I think it is not beyond argument that a foreign person seeking citizenship in a country which promises certain rights to all citizens, including freedom of religion, may present a problem for the freedom of religion of their issue, if it is clear that the person is a conservative Moslem.

    Whether or not an abstraction into jurisprudential and philosophical hypothesis will lead us to believe that this determination infringes on the religious practice of the applicant, realism will dictate that these laws and philosophies are sui generis to the Western Christian system. This system has not been successfully tested amongst the Moslem nation(s), likely because this religion, uniquely amongst world religions, purports to be the system of law in and of itself. Islamic practice can, in my opinion, make a person “detached from the principles and ideals” of the several Nations of Western society, to the laws (and customs) of which these applicants have chosen to subject themselves. Insofar as a person believes, as a matter of their religion, that they may deny certain rights to others, including life, liberty, or safety, that person, as an applicant to enjoy the benefits they seek to deny either themselves or others, may be unfit for citizenship of the nation sought.

    Immigration is not a right, and the freedom of religion is no carte blanche, but is a right that is curtailed to the extent that it infringes the basic rights of others. Aside from the massive cultural destruction that a blind tolerance of intolerance and austerity has wrought upon European society, I suspect that in a time of a war, the fidelity of a plurality of naturalized members of Europeans society could not be relied upon to generate a defensive armed force.

    I believe the time for abstraction and relativism has passed. Social cohesion and the sense of national identity has been sacrificed to the willful ignorance to the hostility of applicants to membership in these societies to the very values they seek to exploit. I find the decision of the French court a correct one in light of the statutory right of the nation to differentiate between applicants for citizenship, as well as for the strategic interest in national defense (likely contemplated in the former). If anything, such considerations are too infrequent in Europe.

  13. Rene Moya says:

    Your analysis on this case are, on the whole, misleading.

    The State didn’t reject Mrs. Faizal on the grounds of her dress; that was already ruled incompatible with French and European law by the Council of State in a prior decision. Rather, she was rejected on the grounds that her stance towards society at large was incompatible with French values, in particular with regards to the equality of the sexes. The veil itself is incidental to the decision, both by the government and of the Council; her religious practices, as channeled through her role in society, are what leads us to the conclusion.

    @ Younghusband, on the second point: your reasoning is muddled. If, knowing that I have choices, I choose to enslave myself (that would be a winner!) to another person (irrespective of my ‘owner’s’ wishes) contrary to the freedoms and principles of my country as set down by law, should my decision stand? As an adult?

    Also, as per point three, the State has the right to deny citizenship to anyone on non-linguistic grounds (a right already reserved to the govt. as cemented elsewhere) if doing otherwise would be reprehensible to the community (e.g. a known terrorist applies for citizenship) or the person fails on the grounds of insufficient assimilation. The govt. based its rejection on the second category and proceeded as such. You’re right, the burqa (nor the niqab, as in this case) aren’t illegal in France; but that isn’t what’s at stake here.

    @ Michael: Since when are mottos placeholders for the law? A motto is a nice little statement with no legal basis; it articulates a vision, not a legal principle. And, to repeat myself ad nauseum, it wasn’t over ‘a piece of cloth’.

    @ Glenn Anderson: Sharia Law isn’t being ‘passed’ in the UK. There are issues regarding Sharia community arbitration that are being debated in the public realm, and I agree there is something to that, but no one has proposed making Sharia law co-equal with British law…I’m sorry the press have been so sloppy in reporting the government’s stated reasons for rejecting her application…that doesn’t mean the French have got it wrong.

    and @ Oliver: Well said. Or as Alistair Campbell once told Tony Blair, ‘we don’t do God’…at least not in the public realm, and increasingly not even in the private one. As a young American living in Europe I couldn’t agree more.

  14. Michael says:

    @Rene: When publicly articulated vision doesn’t match practiced law, a country runs into problems.

    Anyway, both you and Oliver seem to have over looked the last part of my comment:
    “They would have done better to ignore the burqa and explain the French laws regarding marital relations and divorce to her instead.”
    As the article pointed out, she didn’t actually start wearing the thing until she moved to France, suggesting that she may have been under pressure from her husband and family. That suggests that teaching her what her rights are might have worked better than assuming she was a radical and denying her citizenship.

  15. Younghusband says:

    “@Rene”: who said:

    bq. If, knowing that I have choices, I choose to enslave myself (that would be a winner!) to another person (irrespective of my ‘owner’s’ wishes) contrary to the freedoms and principles of my country as set down by law, should my decision stand? As an adult?

    Yes, my Hamiltonian sense of liberty says that if by your own conscious choice you take action that harms only you and no one around you, then go wild.

    To all, how about the following: How about giving the woman “assimilation” lessons in French culture as how new immigrants to Canada receive free English/French lessons for the first few months they arrive in Canada?

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