THE QUESTION

France has rejected a citizenship application from a burqa-wearing Moroccan woman on the grounds that she has "insufficiently assimilated" to French culture. Should cultural assimilation be a requirement for citizenship?

Posted by Lauren Keane on July 18, 2008 9:48 AM

FROM THE PANEL

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff is a Senior Director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a transatlantic public policy and grant-making foundation. He overseas the fund's policy programs. He was previously the Washington bureau chief of the German newsweekly, Die Zeit.

Democracy and a Piece of Clothing

When it comes to citizenship, what you believe is more important than what you wear.

Posted by Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff Germany | 97 COMMENTS
Jul 18, 2008 at 11:55 AM
Shim Jae Hoon is a Seoul-based journalist and commentator writing for a variety of international publications including YaleGlobal Online, The Straits Times of Singapore, The Taipei Times and Korea Herald. He was a correspondent for Far Eastern Economic Review in Seoul, Taipei and Jakarta.

Citizens Must Accept Cultural Norms

Burqas are not suitable for a free, open society.Wearing a burqa, however, is a different matter. As a religious practice, it represents an extreme form of discrimination against women, even a hint of sexual bondage, as a burqa is mainly intended to keep its wearers from the gaze of males. It's more than a simple matter of religious practice or ethnic custom. In Malaysia once, I was startled by the sight of an Arab woman whose black figure in a burqa dispelled many people. Some Muslim friends told me a woman in a burqa would be the best way to keep their own women from accepting the fundamentalist form of Islam. Cultural diversity is today taken for granted in many countries, but fundamentalist Islam in the form of burqas -- we have seen what it did in Afghanistan under the Taliban -- is a sign of cultural exclusivity, not accommodation. If an Arab woman insists on wearing it in France, she should not seek its citizenship. What would happen when circumstances arise for her to remove her burqa in an accident or in hospital? Would her irate husband attack the policemen or doctors? No, she and her family should move back to Morocco and live there, not in France. Burqas repel, rather than invite acceptance. Accommodation is limited to the woman’s family. We've seen women wear them in the diplomatic community, in official status, but not as de jure members of our society because burqas set them apart. They are not suitable for a free, open society.

Posted by Shim Jae Hoon South Korea | 9 COMMENTS
Jul 18, 2008 at 11:31 AM
Dr. Ali Ettefagh serves as a director of Highmore Global Corporation, an investment company in emerging markets of Eastern Europe, CIS, and the Middle East. He is the co-author of several books on trade conflict, resolution of international trade disputes, conflicts in letters of credit, trade-related banking transactions, sovereign debt, arbitration and dispute resolutions and publications specific to the oil and gas, communication, aviation and finance sectors. Dr. Ettefagh is a member of the executive committee and the board of directors of The Development Foundation, an advisor to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and an advisor to a number of European companies. Dr. Ettefagh speaks Persian (Farsi), English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and Turkish.

France's Choice Defies Logic

State-mandated assimilation will only lead to formation of ghettos and more invisible walls.

Posted by Ali Ettefagh Tehran, Iran | 18 COMMENTS
Jul 17, 2008 at 10:20 AM
Originally from Pakistan, Anwer Sher is based in Dubai and writes for Gulf News, Khaleej Times and Emirates Today. His varied career experience includes banking, consulting, and real estate development. He has a Masters degree in International Relations.

Allegiance, Not Assimilation

All that should be asked of an immigrant is allegiance to a new country. Islamic theology's stronger message is one of tolerance, not imposition.

Posted by Anwer Sher Dubai, UAE | 40 COMMENTS
Jul 17, 2008 at 10:02 AM

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