Cultural Assimilation for Citizenship?


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

Readers’ Responses to Our Question (50)

Anonymous :

How-do-you-feel-if-all-women-all-wear-black-burqas?

Why do the women who wish to wear a burka immigrate to a country which culture and values do not accept it.
Similarly, a european woman who travels to Saudi Arabia or Iran is requied to wear a veil. The European woman will have to do it if she wishes to visit theses countries. Why do you think France should accept the burka?

Vic van Meter :

Citizen, while I certainly understand that in a Mosque or other religious setting, or especially between friends, your point is true, my point was a bit more broad than people who identify based on gesticulation and voices. Especially where the impartial collection and presentation of evidence in a likewise impartial court of law is promised (delivery of said promise being a constant contention), it is impractical to think that someone could be identified by their gesticulations and mannerisms. While size and build can be helpful, it is likewise difficult to present as anything other than circumstantial evidence. Facial identification is certainly without peer for identification in any sort of lineup. And, of course, receiving a voice recording is rare in any criminal case.

Don't get me wrong, I don't seriously believe that the woman is attempting to remain veiled so she can commit armed robbery. However, the point remains that when such a grant of anonymity is overlooked in the Arabic world for other considerations of modesty, as they refer to it, it is unreasonable to assert that the government should accommodate those same grants of anonymity where those cultural considerations are certainly not as strong (if existent at all). Just as I would certainly not visit a Muslim country expecting to live and be treated the same as I am in my own country as the legal structure is different, so should she realize that the nuance of her culture do not necessarily translate. Her culture in that regard is superseded by the necessity of identification.

Certainly, I have an opinion on the way women should be treated, how the law should handle their modesty or lack thereof, and I certainly have a personal opinion on a woman wearing the veil (by her choice and by legal action). But in a country or province where such laws and cultural nuances are generally accepted and respected, my opinion on the subject carries no weight. Indeed, that opinion is formed largely by American culture. It is difficult to speculate if I would have the same core values if I had grown up in a conservative Arabic village, but they would certainly have changed in that regard. It would be rather arrogant of me to assume that, were I a woman, some host country would accommodate my wish to not wear a veil because I am not a Muslim. I would certainly not expect to be granted citizenship on those grounds.

In reverse, that same logic is true in France. The cultural force which would require women to wear a full face veil is seldom present and is certainly not a majority opinion. However, there is a need to be easily visually identified. In a country which is predominantly Muslim with this traditional value, the idea of a woman being quite difficult to identify by unfamiliar persons is supplanted by the necessity to dress modestly, as it is referred to. In France, that necessity for security is not superseded. Therefore, I would tend to side with the government on its stance against the veil for that reason.

I do not, however, consider it to be culturally subversive. Culturally, every religion has their own particular nuance with regards to dress, and society itself has a certain set of expectations (which varies from the niqab we are discussing to nudity in public, with most falling somewhere in between). My expectations are different from men around the globe simply because of where and how I was brought up. The idea that the niqab is anti-French or anti-democracy is somewhat nonsensical. It is ultimately the same as a Jewish man wearing a kippah or an Amish woman wearing her strictly plain garb. It is a religious expression. Were it not to cover the face, it would have little bearing on society at large. People in a wider context would find it a peculiarity and move on.

But it is the facelessness of the subject to the wider world which brings it out of the realm of religious fervor and into a realm that the French government could reasonably act against. Conformity is certainly not a requirement for citizenship, but it can be expected that a French citizen would understand the necessity of an open environment where one could be feasibly picked out of a lineup. Unthinkable as it may be, if a woman wore a burqa to commit a crime, whether it was worn for religious reasons or not, it would make her quite difficult to identify by police and witnesses. In that sense, I would certainly agree with the French government.

Then again, some are certainly taking this far out of context. Perhaps it is my upbringing and living amongst immigrants of many points of origin, but I cannot see why her mode of dress would be otherwise an issue. Then again, it is not my country. Perhaps the French are simply anti-Islamic-modesty. And, as I previously stated, that is certainly their right and my opinion carries little weight. Still, that is my opinion on that matter.

How-do-you-feel-if-all-women-all-wear-black-burqas? :

QUESTION:
WHY BURQAS IS DANGEROUS AND MAKING EYES IRRITATION TO OTHERS?

ANSWER:

pls. read this:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7528117.stm

Needed more answwers? Pls wait and see more terrible outcomes from the bloody devils in Middle East! land of destroying each other! land of crazy men, women and educated themselves with murdering and anger of all sorts! to turn themselves into eagering to killing with the hope to land in the faked heaven!
No heaven has been found and only found hells everywhere in the surface of this planet earth!
Sad sad world! full with cultural garbages of all sorts!!!!!
free-as-the-wind

D:H. :

Mohamed Allam

Why do the women who wish to wear a burka immigrate to a country which culture and values do not accept it.
Similarly, a european woman who travels to Saudi Arabia or Iran is requied to wear a veil. The European woman will have to do it if she wishes to visit theses countries. Why do you think France should accept the burka?

Citizen of the post-American world :

Just to say I appreciate reading your comment, Vic. Security, and that citizens be identifiable, are indeed important considerations.

Being in a particularly cheerful mood, I wish you would perceive what follows only as a friendly morning smile.

Honestly, be it in Muslim countries or in the West, I cannot remember ever noticing people having any particular difficulty identifying each other, including women who had their faces covered. How is that?

Let me think... Well... those veiled creatures first come in different shapes and sizes... They also move, walk, gesticulate, so that body language sometimes betrays the creature's identity. That is how one can easily tell, for instance: "Well, look who's coming: Fatma!" This is made easier in the West, of course, when in the whole region, only Fatma and Lalla happen to cover their faces.

In addition, those veiled creatures speak! The tone of the voice, sometimes its softness... the enchanting words she uses, often reveal the mysterious creature's identity... and character. Not to mention that if and when asked who they are, it has been observed that those still invisible creatures more often than not can (and do) answer quite accurately.

There is always room for improvement, of course. The best might very well be that veiled creatures just wear a small pin that says, for instance: "Hi! I'm Suzy". It's just that apparently, no one seems to have thought it necessary. Yet.

All the best.

Vic van Meter :

Citizen, I think I mixed up that there are two ideas here of hiding your identity.

I was under the impression, originally, that she had refused to show her face for some kind of photo ID, which is apparently disproved (I had heard of it from a different source, and cannot read French, so I will have to take your word for it). That would have some bearing on the actual identification, but I don't think it would apply to all of the things I said about identification in general.

My comments were on the nature of the full face veil itself. In Arabic culture, I am sure that the connotations for it are very different. However, if her face is on a photo ID and she always has her face covered, it does little good. I was openly remarking on the nature of the garment itself.

Wearing a full veil in Arabic culture means one thing to them. However, she wishes to live in France as a citizen, and in that regard, I do not find it unacceptable that the French government finds her non-integrated. Not because of what covering the face means to her, but because of what it means to the rest of the French people. Culturally, I am sure there is an argument that will rage over the cultural implications of covering her face and body. That is not my primary concern. My primary concern is that covering your face is a security risk as wearing her veil even for cultural reasons has a real-world implication: she is anonymous and unidentifiable unless she removes her veil.

I live in central Ohio where a very sizable Muslim minority, mostly from Somalia and points thereabout, live. Seeing women wearing a full face veil, even for me, is extremely rare. Most women, though dressed moderately and garbed with head scarves, would not cover their faces. Some, however, did come from such conservative backgrounds. Often enough, they relinquish that particular custom because they need to be identifiable to partake in even mundane processes involving their identification.

Though it was otherwise reported that she had refused to remove her veil for identification (there was a similar debate in America about if a woman was allowed to wear a niqab in her driver's license photo). Even if not, the primary concern with the veil, from my perspective, is the same as a ski mask. If it were unobtrusive, there would be little trouble, as I make no distinctions between my neighbors. However, it does mask not only the face, but the identity, and there is not simply some cultural difference there.

Not that I would see a woman in a niqab and a man in a ski mask as having similar intentions, I am raising a point of debate. Cultural assimilation aside, there are certainly other reasons the niqab is an unacceptable form of dress beyond simple taste. It has a real world application which is overlooked in Arabic countries for religious ideas. America has cultural exceptions for guns, but that does not mean one can expect to be allowed to carry a concealed pistol in London because there is a 2nd Amendment right at home. Likewise, if she would like to be a French citizen, there is a reasonable expectation that she remain identifiable as any other citizen for security reasons.

SURENDER :

No foreigner can impose his or her will on any native nation.Every country has the right to restrict any garb where terrorists can misuse it for exploding devices to kill the innocent.Those who want to continue with their traditions and break the laws of any government should be advised to revert back to their countries and do what ever they want to do in their restricted socities and not compell and coerce liberal socities into submission under the garb of individual liberty.Will any middle eastern country permit a frenchman to take alcohol for the sake of individual freedom.Reciprocity for imposing culture cannot be a one way traffic.If you donot like a nation and you just enter that country for better life simply to misuse its liberty just go back to your native land ,this question will then not arise.Some people just act either due to instigation by others or think that they are the sole custodians of righteousness in the world and rest are just fools, if so one should get back to one,s native land and should not venture out and are advised to stay in.One should not try to blackmail other nations and ask for extra constitutional rights for one self for which one is just not entitled because you are a foreigner and back home you donot permit foreigners even to practice and say their prayers even in their homes.This is a classical example of hypocricy , fundamentalism and intolerance.Advice ..if you donot like a home donot go uninvited and donot enter it stealthly and don,t force your way in jsut because the dwellers inside are too good.

Citizen of the post-American world :

Vic van Meter writes : "I know the cultural brouhaha surrounding this has been exploited, but there is only one real concern, isn't there? She has to show her face for identification and she says she can't for religious reasons. And that ought to be the end of the debate."

Vic, it is not the end of the debate precisely because you are wrong: she did show here face for identification.

You only need to refer to Adriana’s comment, under Mr. Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff's piece (Adriana even provides one with the link to the "Conseil d'État"'s "Conclusions" on the case), where it is said in so many words: "Madame M. a accepté de relever cette pièce de tissu dans le bureau... à leur (des agents qui faisaient l'entretien) demande."

You therefore need not be concerned. And given you say that was the only real concern, you draw your own conclusions on the validity of the decision of the "Conseil d'État"...

Vic van Meter :

I know the cultural brouhaha surrounding this has been exploited, but there is only one real concern, isn't there? She has to show her face for identification and she says she can't for religious reasons. And that ought to be the end of the debate.

I don't know if, being an American, it is easy to sympathize with either the French or Muslim people involved in the cultural debate. To be honest, I hardly care. The issue is as simple as government.

To think of government as a contract case, people sign away a bevy of personal freedoms for protection under a ubiquitous law. Religious freedom is, of course, important. More important is the need for safety. It is extremely important in a society seeking to uphold the law to be able to identify citizens through identification cards. Not in and of itself a big deal. I renew my driver's license frequently enough. If my picture were not visible, I would be subject to all sorts of fraud, the police would not be able to identify me, und so weider.

If the woman believes she is destined to Hell for showing her face, then it is her choice to cover her face as such. However, it should not come as a surprise that she lose several legal rights considering she will not be easily identifiable. It is her choice to remain unidentifiable, and thus it is the French government's choice to not grant her complete citizenship. It isn't as much a question of assimilation as it is a question of the law. If I were a police officer, I would be suspect of anyone covering their face. Not because they were Muslim, but because their identities would be masked.

Call it a "big brother" mentality if you'd like, but that's as far as I've thought this case through. In the Arab world, I am sure having a bevy of women in burqas is the preferred norm. But now you move to France, where women are given much more individual independence and, subsequently, are given much more social responsibility. Women can kill, steal, commit credit card fraud, drive without a license, fake passports, and urinate in public areas if they so wish. The idea of keeping a woman's face shielded may surpass the necessity of keeping an individual identifiable in the Arabic world, but in France she is simply required to hold up to the same standards of identification as the rest of the country.

As far as wearing a burqa, I could honestly care less. If that is what she truly feels is necessary or if she really would like to defer to her husband, then it is her right to give up her rights. But it is not her right to ask for special considerations from the state. If she wants to be a French citizen, she will simply have to dress the part. In the Arabic world, she was supposed to hide any distinguishing features. In the French world, and the western world by and large, she will have to make sure she can be identified in a lineup.

How-do-you-feel-if-all-women-all-wear-black-burqas? :

QUESTION:
Do you want to see your wife or your girl friend or your daughter wearing burqa????


How do you feel if your wife wears a black burqa in the hot sunny day?

How all world men feel if all women in this planet all wear the black burqas and walk like billions of ghosts or devils around you?

How all French men feel if all French women all wear black burqas and they only can be seen with two holes at their eyes only?

if these hold true then all men in this planet earth will find ways to live outer space and won't return to the earth surface until all women dressing in burqas change their life style as abandon burqas and wearing bikinis or monokini to attrack men again!

mohammad allam :

Exellent question.
The goverment action is like action of the Taliban of Afghanistan.If you can give citizenship to the follower of the culture of you,it means you are denying the right of cultural identity of other.
The global world is witness the multicultural society in the world.And denying Visa means the denying the very basic of the emerging multicultural society.
This act shows the similarities between the cultural policy of TALIBAn and French.If you have right to deny the right of ther then why and how a person can prove the wrong to Taliban who advocates for the islamic cultural based society,to which we call a middle age society.
The french goverment act deny the very concpet of individual freedom of personal life.What the wrong if a person hide his body open his body untill he doesnot break the law of the land.

In fast moving wolrd nothing can be permanant in term of culture.the more the people coming together the more chance is of emergence to new cultural identity and culture norms.can the goverment gaurantee that the norm of culture on that ground the application has been turned down will remain in force?iS it not going to change over the period.
The other question is ,Is goverment has power to controll the cultural life of the people?Who has given such a right to this goverment.
This action also bringing the question of Islamic people in fore front in Muslim Society that west hate islamic culture and trying to destroy this.And havning a relation with this is to invite the enemy to destroy the islamic culture.
so on the above points the act of France cannot be justify but on the poin of descrimination they are right,what they want they can do.

Tom Wonacott :

Post American World (PAW)

"Your post has been held by PostGlobal's comment filter." etc. etc. etc.

Sorry, PG censored my post. I've been through this before, so I'll have to contact PG.

Shiveh, Daniel and BobL

I'll try to respond later, but I'm leaving tomorrow on vacation so I'm not sure I will have time.

Thanks

Tom Wonacott :

Post American World (PAW) (The length of this post is ridiculous. You can skip to the conclusions if you want)

Canada has done a phenomenally good job of controlling immigration, thus has avoided some of the problems of the US and Europe. Canada’s immigration policy really should be a model for all others, but there are some factors that favor the Canadians.

1. The Canadian government developed a policy in the 1960’s which favors highly skilled and or educated foreigners (needs-based immigration policy). For example, selecting highly skilled immigrants eliminates one of the major problems of assimilation - socioeconomic status. Most of Canada’s immigrants come from India and China - the most successful immigrants in the US. Chinese immigrants are successful no matter where they immigrate (which is one complaint of Tibetans). So Canada’s immigration population is different (naturally) than Europes. Immigration to France (Europe) comes primarily from Eastern Europe and North Africa.

2. Canada has encouraged the development of ethnic enclaves (an ethnic enclave, or ethnic neighborhood is a neighborhood, district, or suburb which retains some cultural distinction from a larger, surrounding area - not necessarily economic status) but they follow Canadian laws. Canada will not tolerate the caste system or discriminatory practices against women, in other words, Canada rejects multiculturalism where it clashes with her laws and democratic values - as it should. Polygamy is not tolerated in Canada as another example, but in Britain, as long as the marriages take place in another country, polygamy is recognized (multiculturalism).

“…The concept of "subculture" seems not to exist in Canadian society,…”

You may not recognize it, but there are subcultures in Canada. European culture and laws dominate and Canadians will prohibit those immigrant cultural values that degrade Canada’s democracy. Europe has been very slow to follow.

Washington Times, September 2007:

“…In 2003, when Ontario moved to give Muslim organizations the same divorce arbitration powers given to Jewish, Christian and Mormon groups, various Muslim women"s groups loudly denounced any use of Islamic Shariah law in Canada. Ontario relented and canceled all religious-based arbitration…”

Does this example help put into perspective some of the problems in Europe? Its interesting to me that it took complaints by Muslim women to expose the lunacy of allowing Sharia law in Muslim communities! Europe has toyed with this idea as well, but its absurd to allow a different set of laws (discriminatory to begin with) within European society.

There was an article published by the Harvard University paper that projected the ethnic population of Europe in 100-150 years (as I remember, but I can‘t find the article). In this study, and at current immigration, reproduction rates etc., the ethnic European population is projected to be about 25% of the total. Clearly then, the European liberal democracy is threatened by immigration of people whose beliefs and values do not necessarily conform to the values of the host culture. A second future problem centers on ethnic enclaves and separatism in Europe - Balkanization.

“…they need to be reminded of the following historical realities: a) Upper Canada (English) and Lower Canada (French) antedate the country we know today as Canada; b) given a, when today's Canada was founded, it was in actual fact both a bilingual and a bicultural country (French-English);…”

As I’ve stated, the danger (danger might be a bad choice of words in some cases) of multiculturalism, as opposed to assimilation, is separatist movements as was (is) the case with French Canadians. Note that this was not the case in the US melting pot where there was a near complete assimilation of the European immigrant population. Complete assimilation is unusual, however.

“…For culture is identity, and one cannot shed one's identity as one would, for instance, a garment like the burqa…”

That burqa is very much a part of her cultural identity. By forcing her to take off the garment, you are, in effect, rejecting multiculturalism.

3. The US has shielded Canada from illegal immigration. That’s one big difference between the situation in Europe, the US and Canada. There are an estimated 35,000-120,000 illegal immigrants in Canada as opposed to the US - 12,000,000(+). Europe has a significant problem with illegal immigration but not to the extent of the US. I couldn’t find any total numbers although France has an estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants.

To sum up, successful “integration” of immigrants into Canadian society is based on several factors.

1. A highly competent “business” plan i.e., immigration policy.

2. Location, location, location. Canada is shielded from illegal immigration by the US and there are no easy route for boat people to enter Canada.

3. The immigration population is different. Over 25% of Canada’s immigration population in 2004, came from India and China - both groups have been highly successful integrating into western societies.

4. The Canadian system, while encouraging multiculturalism, has not sacrificed democratic values at the expense of multiculturalism, thus multiculturalism has its limits in Canada. Practice your beliefs, practice our laws. What could be more democratic?

5. Canada has experienced multicultural problems almost from the beginning of independence - a clash of English and French cultures. This highlights some of the problems with multiculturalism. There has been a near continuous threat by French Canadians to secede.

Two other notes:

I’m doing some more reading regarding France and multiculturalism so sometime in the future I’ll address that issue, but you can certainly be right about France rejecting multiculturalism - at least recently, but Europeans are also rebelling against immigration policy which could be driving the current elections of anti immigrant politicians like Sarkozy.

Your posting name may be a little optimistic in my opinion.

daniel :

Good post Tom Wonacott. Yours and A.S. were the best. I thought you made some pretty obvious points which had the added virtue of being clearly written. The only problem I have with your piece is that it seems not to recognize that there is no hiding place for anyone--that cultures will bleed into one another whether anyone likes it or not. What method of bringing cultures together? Or even better, what overarching method of having all cultures assimilate to one another and overcome one another in assimilation? Sorry if this critique is not as clear as I would like it to be...Let me put it another way: various entities have given birth to what we call modern America. How many more entities can be added without losing what we mean by America? How many more entities can be added which will transform America into something greater and more complex than now? The world is like a puzzle coming together whether we like it or not and the question is how chaotic or coherent beyond anything we are now it will be. Again, sorry for not being clear. But to be somewhat clear, I think the most advanced nations will have to link up and it will take a combination of hard and soft power for centuries to steer the world in a single overarching political direction. No doubt a single overarching economic direction will come first, but no doubt an overarching political direction must come next. Just some thoughts....

berry, ecuador :

Hello everybody.

I agree with France's decision. In every country, people have to meet some requirements to obtain a tourist visa, to become a resident, even to get refugee status. It's just commonsense that people must meet the host country's requirements for citizenship. And it's just commonsense that France chooses to deny citizenship to a person whose beliefs so profoundly contradict western humanism.

BobL-VA :

Tom Wonacott,

You have me really confused. On one hand you are stating the socialists in Europe are arguing for multicultural societies with applicable laws for each culture. On the other hand we're talking about a case where the French did exactly the opposite. They bascially said we're not interested in granting citizenship to people who are not interested participating in the French experience as defined by the French. In order to find out if an individual is willing to participate in the French experience they have set up a limited number of criteria very much like what we have here. This ruling isn't leaning towards setting up multicultrualism in a narrow definition of the term. It is designed to have the opposite effect. In order to become a French citizen you must live in the country for a period of time, learn to read, write and speak French, be of good moral character, pledge an alliegance to France and be willing to participate in their experience. You have an almost identical set of criteria to become naturalized in this country.

When I looked up this case on the internet I saw very little from the French over this case. The BBC is probably the source of this story. It made no headlines that I know of 3 years ago when the original ruling was handed down. She appealed on the grounds of religious freedom and a higher court turned her down and upheld the position she has not made any attempt at assimilating into French society. I wouldn't want her as a citizen either from what I read.

Every country has the right to set up their own set of criteria for immigration and naturalization. What I found odd is your picking on the Europeans over this issue. Had you been the French judge I sincerely doubt you would have ruled any differently. Countries also have the right to insist people who want citizenship are assimilated into the society. We're not trying to set up different societies we're trying to make sure people going through the process will embrace our culture. Even if that's too much to ask (and we know it is) we also know their children and their childrens children will embrace our culture or probably emmigrate.

Shiveh :

Tom Wonacott,

Thank you for giving me a better understanding of assimilation. Now I know why I always thought of it as irrational. And also thank you for making this subject interesting.

But first things first! I did not expect you to use my words to reach wrong conclusions in my behalf. I mentioned religions are not compatible with logical, knowledge based thinking. You do believe the same; otherwise you wouldn’t be an agnostic, would you? I do not think religions are equal. I like evolved Christianity better than stagnant Islamic or Judaism religions. But that is beside the point.

Assimilation can not and will not happen in a single generation or two. It needs many generations to evolve. And it evolves favorably only among same people. Europeans assimilated in the United States because they had many same characteristics that when put together in the melting pot of America, it did not change the color of the mix, hence the appearance of immigrants losing their identity in the dominant culture of the host country. But the same way that when you add a little yellow to a blue liquid in a jar you change the color of the mix, by adding different and diverse cultures to any dominant culture, you gradually change that culture. It is inevitable and only natural.

Blacks in America will never assimilate in white America the way Irish eventually did. Neither will the Japanese or Chinese. Multiculturalism recognizes this fact and by emphasizing integration offers a valid solution.

Citizen of the post-American world :

Tom Wonacott brings into this conversation some very interesting points.

""Cultural assimilation (Wikepedia)- (often called merely assimilation) ... implies the loss of the characteristics of the absorbed group, such as language, customs, ethnicity and self-identity." ... Multiculturalism encourages retaining the immigrant’s cultural values and practicing the tenets of the immigrant’s culture. Many Europeans view this as “respect”."

So do Canadians, I understand, whose society is a multicultural one. Some readers may be interested to know how far that respect goes. In recent years, many Canadians have adopted babies from every part of the world. I know that many of those Canadian parents take their adopted children to cultural centres, so that their adopted e.g. Chinese children learn Mandarin, come to know Chinese customs and traditions, and socialize with Canadians from the Chinese community. The point is that should their children, later in life, wish and decide to know more about their Chinese identity and origins, they be in the best position to do so most successfully.

Tom Wonacott adds: "Multiculturalism encourages ethnic separatism and nationalism which conflicts with the idea of assimilation. In fact, multiculturalism may bring the opposite result - ethnic enclaves with a very different set of values than the host society. Celebrating diversity is one thing, but elevating a subculture to an equal status with the host culture is quite another - especially if the subculture is in obvious conflict with the host countries democratic values."

Three points:

1. As far as I can tell, Canadians do not consider foreign cultures as "subcultures" that need to be elevated to any particular level. The concept of "subculture" seems not to exist in Canadian society, so that the kind of salvaging operation Tom Wonacott may have in mind does not even arise, in Canada. Multiculturalism means integration into the host culture, while preserving one's own cultural identity. For culture is identity, and one cannot shed one's identity as one would, for instance, a garment like the burqa...

2. Readers are invited to go and visit Canada. It is precisely because of Canadian multiculturalism that there are very few if any so-called "ethnic enclaves" and no ghettos to speak of, in Canada. Canadian Chinatowns are fully integrated and open to all; they are not ethnic "enclaves". As far as I can see, that the vast majority of the Canadian population live in multicultural areas and work in multicultural settings is precisely what their successful multiculturalism is all about.

3. As for those who would like to see Quebec as the epitome of "multiculturalism encouraging ethnic separatism and nationalism", they need to be reminded of the following historical realities: a) Upper Canada (English) and Lower Canada (French) antedate the country we know today as Canada; b) given a, when today's Canada was founded, it was in actual fact both a bilingual and a bicultural country (French-English); c) official Canadian bilingualism (French-English) and multiculturalism only followed (essentially in the 1970's) from both a and b, as well as from years of substantial immigration, from many parts of the world, to Canada.

To conclude, I do agree with Bob-va: "The French government certainly has the right to refuse citizenship for a whole host of reasons." All we are doing here, it seems to me, is identify correctly those very reasons, as well as evaluate their socio-political justification and implications, considering of course alternatives that do exist and are relatively successful in other countries.

As for what Canadian identity is, I leave it to Canadians to tell us, as well as to visitors to Canada, upon their return to the US, assuming they dare to initiate such a highly controversial discussion...

Tom Wonacott :

Salamon and Shiveh

If we start out with the premise that all people are basically the same, then there must be other reasons that Islamic countries are disproportionately poor, uneducated and mostly undemocratic, and all of this cannot be attributed to environmental factors or bad luck. What governs their way of life?

When judgments such as “superior” or “better” are implied or suggested, there is a tendency to challenge or reject that idea, which is why you both responded to my previous post.

As an example, Shiveh, you posted:

“…You say fundamentalist Islam is not compatible with liberal democracies. It is simpler than that, Islam is not compatible with democratic thought. It is not compatible with logical, knowledge based thinking either (no religion is.)…”

Its not Islam, its ALL religions - equally - even though western society is Christian-based. More or less, that is how socialist in Europe think, and that’s why the idea of multiculturalism is so popular in Europe (amongst socialist). It not only promotes a “non judgmental” equality of cultures, but elevates immigrant cultures to an equal status with the host society. What could be more fair?

Definition of assimilation (Wikepedia):

“Cultural assimilation - (often called merely assimilation) is a process of integration whereby members of an ethno-cultural community (such as immigrants or ethnic minorities) are "absorbed" into another, generally larger, community. This implies the loss of the characteristics of the absorbed group, such as language, customs, ethnicity and self-identity.”

The concept of multiculturalism is (now) drawing a lot of criticism in Europe. Multiculturalism encourages retaining the immigrant’s cultural values and practicing the tenets of the immigrant’s culture. Many Europeans view this as “respect”. For example, some Europeans (multiculturalists) now believe Sharia law should be allowed for Muslims. About 40% of British Muslims support instituting Sharia Law in Muslim areas. This is a classic example of the minority ethnic group rejecting the laws of the host society. Multiculturalism encourages ethnic separatism and nationalism which conflicts with the idea of assimilation (see definition) In fact, multiculturalism may bring the opposite result - ethnic enclaves with a very different set of values than the host society. Celebrating diversity is one thing, but elevating a subculture to an equal status with the host culture is quite another - especially if the subculture is in obvious conflict with the host countries democratic values. The Europeans have been too accommodating to Muslim immigrants, in my opinion.

BobL-VA :

Please excuse Tom Wonacott. He's only interested in all US citizens being assimilated into the Republican Party. (or as Democrats and Independents like to call it the party of war, torture, and terrible economic policy)

The case that is brought up by this question centers around Faiza M who is 32 years old, has lived in France since 2000, is married to a French National (who is also a Muslim) and has 3 children all born in France. She lives a reclusive life, wears a burqa, speaks French and expressed no interest French laws, political processes or voting. She was originally turned down for citizenship in 2005 for not adequately being assimilated in French society and this was just recently upheld on appeal.

France's issue with Faiza is not a simple one. The French Constitution calls for freedom of religon. On the other hand France has passed a series of laws granting equal status to men and women in the society. The subservent role that Faiza lives is contrary to the norms of France. It should also be noted France is not trying to deport Faiza. They have just declined to make her a citizen.

The politically expedient way of rejecting her application would have been over the voting issue. France, like the US and most countries, has a requirement for naturaliztion the individual applying must be a candidate who wishes to assimilate into the country. This assimilation has as a compentent an individuals willingness to vote, ie., good citizens should vote. However, the French chose to make a statement. That statement was we are not interested in granting citizenship to individuals who live a life contrary to our social norms.

Since the granting of citizenship isn't a right, but a privilege I'm curious as to why this case is even an issue. The French government certainly has the right to refuse citizenship for a whole host of reasons. In this particular case I'm not sure the US would have granted Faiza citizenship either. We may have been less concerned with her life style, but we would have had a huge problem with lack of interest in our system of govenment, laws, history and voting intentions.

France has approximately 5 million Muslims living in the country. These are about evenly split between citizens and non-citizens. France can't be accused of being overtly religiously biased. Approximately 5% of French citizens are Muslim compared to about 1/2 percent in the US. Hence, it's fair to assume France didn't reject Faiza because she was a Muslim. They rejected her for living a life style that the majority of French find objectionable. This includes living in a subservent fashion and having no interest in participating French society (voting).

Personally, I find this action justified. I would have been appalled if they had rejected her because she was too ugly.

Zoltan :

@ OM : "It's incredible how even people on the Left in France think this is fine. Maybe I'm horrified by this because I live in the US, but to me this is unbelievable. Obviously, the so-called French culture is specific to a certain time and location in French"

I live in France, and seeing completely hidden people - that you believe are women - is nothing "normal". Some - male - doctors were assaulted by husbands because they wanted to touch the woman: he insisted in having a woman doctor (now, before you answer, think what would happen if I asked to have a particular type of doctor, like blond, or tall, or without glasses). Some girls do not go to the gym classes because they, obviously, can't go there veiled. And imagine how distorted someone must be to go to an official interview completely covered.

Once, I've even seen such a figure in a McDonalds, with her 3 sons !!! I mean, how on earth can you go to a restaurant and hide your mouth ??? It's bigotry to the highest degree.

Citizen of the post-American world :

Tom Wonacott wrote: "Multiculturalism is a failed concept which has created the illusion that immigrants can retain their culture and assimilate in European society."

Everything about that statement is false.

1. Multiculturalism has nothing to do with assimilation, everything to do with integration, which is no illusion. Canada offers the world a prime example of multiculturalism. There, tolerance leads to the least problems with immigrants. Hence, one can find Canadians of e.g. Chinese descent who speak French like the "natives" and share common values with them, while remaining essentially Chinese. That explains why, last June 24th, for instance, the Montreal Chinese Community invited all Quebec citizens to celebrate with them, in French, Quebec's national holiday.

Tom Wonacott adds: "European socialist have advocated the concept of multiculturalism which elevates (and promotes) the cultures of immigrants to an equal status with the host society... Why ... does Europe support the idea of multiculturalism?" ... Because its “right” to respect other cultures and “fair” to view other cultures as equivalent (or “just different”) - even when they are obviously NOT."

2. Everything about that statement is false too. Europeans, generally, do not advocate multiculturalism. France has always been adamantly AGAINST multiculturalism, as it is practiced in Canada. In fact, the French never "believed in" multiculturalism. For them, integration was not enough: nothing short of assimilation would satisfy them. Yet, when it came to treating fully integrated French citizens of foreign descent as equals... assimilation broke down... foreigners continued to be treated as inferiors, would not get jobs under their Arab names, might be offered something only under their preferred European name!

MikeB :

SALAMON - I'm Native American, Blackfoot on my mothers side and Shoshone on my father's side with a touch of Scottish and Danish blood. As a consequence, I think I should be able to decide our immigration policies :)

Salamon :

This "court case" will join many which were disregarded due to social changes in due time.

Demographics indicate that much sooner then later the largest subgroup in europe, Japan, USA
will be immigrants, for the "white race" [whatever that means] - lost the will to reproduce [in the USA this also applies to "african Americans" whatever that means - according to the latest US Census report on fertility].

MikeB should relax, in a few years he will not have top put up with Chinese "visitors" for China's 30 odd year long ONE CHILD policy will lead to major decrease in the number of HAN CHINESE.
So sooner than later, Europe will be Muslim or
Hindu, the USA will be majority Spanish Speaking, at which point TODAY'S psuedo-culture driven judgements will loose their essence.

TOM W:

please recall that while Europe/western world has the so called highest culture [today possibly], this is but the result of the last 2-300 years, for before China was the richest and most cultured, most technically advanced nation for centuries. There are other areas of the world with advanced cultures of long standing, IRan, India among others.

In the passage of time being superior for a few years is nothing but a talking point. In our world's history no Empire, military or cultural lived for long, whether Europe based [e.g Greece, Rome and England/France/Spain/Portugal, or Asian such as Ghenkis Khan]

Marcus Aurelius' Meditations talked about the freedom of speech, which lately seems to be under persistent attack in USA. Confucius and others talked about importance of education of harmony in culture, but these lessons fell on deaf ears in ANGLO-SAXON world, for only the elite can afford the cost.

Perhqaps it is due to the lack of education that such events as this judgement are major issue, for those who can not place the issue in historical perspective.

Shiveh :

D.H.,

As you can see at the top of my post,I replied to Tom Wonacott. I mentioned your post only regarding history of Saudis influencing the French Muslems. I'm accually in agreement with your comments.

D.H. :

Shiveh

You got me wrong. Nobody requires immigrant who chose to adopt a new country to leave or forget their original traditions and culture. They will enrich the adopted country, only if they accept its laws, values and democratic system and try to live in a way which does not distinguish them as completely different.
You also ignored that millions who accepted assimilation and integration, did not renege their religion, traditions and culture, which remain their personal heritage.

MikeB :

DEB CHATTERJE - Actually, you've got it exactly wrong. The people we need as *legal* immigrants are exactly those people who share our family and other cultural values and work ethic. That would include poorer Mexican and Central and South American's and Muslim's. Both groups have far more in common with us, with our religious values, with our cultural values than the relatively well to do Indian and Chinese guest workers that U.S. corporations import as indentured servants. I actively want Mexican immigrants, just not illegal ones. Likewise, I have never met an Arab or Iranian or Lebanonese or Kurdish immigrant who wasn't someone I would trust my life with. They are wonderful and moral people. Now, I don't have much time for the nut jobs of Islam, but there aren't any of them that I can see that want to come here with their family. So, if I could make a change, it would be to grant immigration permits to intact families, giving priority to Hispanics, Scandinavian and Muslim applicants. (I'd still round up and deport illegals!)

Shiveh :

Tom Wonacott,

What is assimilation? Is it honoring the laws of the host country? Or does it include laughing at the same jokes too? Multiculturalism aims at enriching all cultures by interaction among them. It is a necessity as we approach the unified world of the future. The trick is to recognize what is good and discard the rest. In a healthy environment, this happens naturally and continuously. In a combative environment, it can be most divisive. It is the job of sociologists in the government to keep communities receptive to this interaction and the failure is also theirs.

D.H. has a descriptive view of what happened with the French Moslems. My question is that where were French authorities when Saudi Arabian agents inside Saudi Arabian built mosques were making Umma of French Moslems? To accept immigrants inside a country is a choice that brings responsibilities with it. To expect immigrants to leave their culture, their understanding of right and wrong, at the door when entering a country is irrational; to have a program to help them interact and learn the predominant culture of the host country is necessary; to recognize the conflicts and find solutions is prudent. Otherwise, why not just close the borders and start producing more citizens at home!

You believe that European cultures are superior to most immigrants’ home culture. If it is the case and if immigrants have nothing to bring to the host country, why not stop this charity all together?

Islamic fundamentalism is a fever that is burning some Islamic communities. The bug causing it should be isolated and destroyed. But it also should be understood that the fever is temporary and a billion people have a history and experiences worthy of recognition. We can’t throw away the baby with the bath water.

You say fundamentalist Islam is not compatible with liberal democracies. It is simpler than that, Islam is not compatible with democratic thought. It is not compatible with logical, knowledge based thinking either (no religion is.) That is why in vast territories of Islamic dominance, the fundamentals changed and a modern interpretation of Islam prevailed. The return of fundamentalism is caused by a burst of the massive anger accumulated by perceived social injustices and actual inability to adjust to cultural novelties by a fraction in Islamic communities. It will subside if the west does not make a huge cultural war out of it. Do not force Moslems side with the fundamentalists by declaring war at all of them. Do not use cultural differences to win political points at home. See the problem for what it is and react proportionately.

Daniel,

Thanks for the post. Rough times are usually temporary and always good character builders. Use yours as a jumping board.

D.H. :

During the 19th and 20th centuries, France has received millions of immigrants. There were Russians, Spaniards, Portuguese, Yougoslavs, Polish etc. all of different religious faiths, i.e Christians of different interpretations and Jews. They all assimilated and integrated to the french way of life, its values, laicity and political activity. Ultimately, they all considered themselves as full french citizens and participated in political activities and being often elected at various political positions.
When the first moslem immigrants arrived into the country, particularly after World War II, the second generation assimilated and integrated. The men and women dressed like all the other french citizens and spoke excellent french.
Twnty to thirty years later their numbers started to swell and Saudi Arabia decided to finance the building of mosques and send radical wahabites imams to guide spiritually the french moslems and teach them the strict interpretation of the Coran.
The economic condition of a great number of moslems was weak and made it difficult for them to take care of their numerous children, who lived in small apartments in suburbs, which were mostly inhabited by various moslem communities.
The difficult economic conditions together with the radical and fanatic influence of their spiritual leaders, led to a radicalization of the third and fourth generation. They felt that they should abide by a number of 'religious traditions', such as having the girls and women wear veils and/or burkas and the men growing a beard and very often wearing their country of origin traditional attire. The increasing number of moslem women and men adopting the above was something that France never experienced before. Eventually, the moslem communities, influenced by their Imams, started to try to obtain from the french authorities that they abide by the laws of Sharia, which, very often, were in complete contradiction with the democratic laws and values of France, such as the strict equality between men and women, the freedom to convert and not be declared an apostate, whose punishment is death, or accept that a moslem girl may go out with a non moslem friend, without having the risk of being beaten or killed.
The active radical and fanatic minority was able to have a majority, who may not have wished it, to follow the strict rules described above in order to avoid being physically harmed or considered as pariahs within their communities.
It is strange to note that they wish a free democratic country to accept situations contrary to their way of life, laws and values, from moslem immigrants whose countries of origin, in many cases, refuse the building of churches or temples, and force the non-moslem women visiting their countries to wear a veil and strict attire.
Peope who decide to immigrate, should adopt and accept the laws, way of life and liberties of the country they have chosen to adopt. They should not expect to have the new country adopt their religious views.
Every immigrant is free to believe in the religion of his choice and practice it, as long as it remains a personal matter and does not bother the laws and liberties of their newly adopted country.
In conclusion, we must not ignore that the majority of the present terrorism is perpetrated by fanatical islamists. The democratic free world is now forced to take precautions, which never existed before.

OM :

It's incredible how even people on the Left in France think this is fine. Maybe I'm horrified by this because I live in the US, but to me this is unbelievable.

Obviously, the so-called French culture is specific to a certain time and location in French, and the elitism that has taken hold of the entire population is Class Control 101: You fool the masses into thinking they're part of a culture, you create an image of an Other (easy to do, as long as that Other dresses differently), and finally, you can do anything you want to the people who think it's for their own good.

http://www.politicartoons.com/

Deb Chatterjee :

The reason that I shall not vote for Barack Obama is tied to the "politically correct" notion of treating all religions as equal. I do not know, in his "war against terror" why would he not consider passing a law that would prevent Muslims coming to USA ? It would reduce the probability of being hit by home grown sleeper cells, just as it happened in UK 7/7. Is it not the duty of any presidential candidate to lay out the blueprint for "war against terror" ? Aside Obama's maiden foreign policy trip to far flung countries like Afghanistan, I have not heard anything sensible from him. Yes, Afghanistan is a problem. But what can USA do, other than sending troops, to keep the war there and not bring it here ? The short and unpleasant answer is to stop Muslim immigration to the West/USA.

Like it or not, Islam is the singular issue. Islamic tenets discriminate against non-Muslim cultures and religions. Islam is opposed to all forms of free speech (read *offensive* speech). Thus, it is opposed to the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Why should non-Muslim Americans not be able to make a offensive film about Islam, but still be able to make a very offensive film about Christianity (DAVINCI CODE, THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST) ? Why this discrimination ?

In UK there is huffing-puffing going around to make a place for Shariah. Muslims in Britain, whose more "radical" members have bombed the London subway, needed to be appeased. So, the Gordon Brown Government, while snooping on radical Muslims there, is tryiong to "bridge the gap" by reaching out (read pandering) to Muslim ummah there. There is a covert preparation for the recognization of the Muslim Shariah law in UK. This way, the UK thinks that even if Muslims in UK (largely of Pakistani origin) refuse to assimilate in the mainstream, their refusal cannot be considered as anti-nationalist if the recognition of a "modified" version of Shariah laws were in place.

What a bunch of wimps !

Obama is a wimp if he does not recognize and state openly that regulations on Muslim-specific immigration laws need to be enacted to fight the war on terror.

Anju Chandel :

The increasing instances of "discrimination" in name of religion - mainly towards Muslims - around the globe need to be understood in perspective.

The root cause is the ever increasing number of fundamentalists in almost all Muslim societies and the escalating threats of extremism being faced by the world thereof. In fact, many women in Muslim radical societies are also taking to terrorism in name of so-called jihad. So, how can people feel safe with females in "burqas" around?

Moreover, almost all Islamic societies are conservative in their practices and attitude towards others. If they base their identity on their religion, then should they expect liberal societies to treat them in any other manner?

Time to introspect and adopt necessary societal reforms for Muslims around the globe if they want to remain integrated into the global fabric.

S.Siddiqi :

Tom Wonacott's comment# 4 Islam cannot tolerate criticism ( free speech)- is the reference to the religion itself or customs/culture in countries with predominantely muslim populations?

France and the west seem to have no problems not only doing business with such countries that do not follow any democratic principles but also help in perpetuating their rule.

No-uggly-cultures-for-the-world-anymore! :

FOR EXAMPLES:

IF BIN LADEN OR HIS MURDERERS WEARING A BURQA AND WALKING WITH THEIR BOMBS VESTED WITH ABOUT 50 KGS OF TNT AND AK-47 IN FRONT OF US SOLDIERS AND CIA AGENTS:
then these murderous folks will still be treated as women protected their bodies with the nasty and dangerous burqas stinky rag!

In otherwords, whoever wear burqas must be stripped search to see what are inside the stinky burqas!!! in order to be able to avoid a big BANG! IN FRONT OF YOU!!!!

IN SUMMARY, THE ENTIRE WORLD MUST BAN BURQAS TO EXIST AROUND THEM IN ORDER TO AVOID DANGERS OF ALL SORTS AND ALSO TO TURN THEIR SOCIETIES INTO THE BURQAS-INFESTED WASTE DUMPING GROUND OF THE CRAZIES!!!

Tom Wonacott :

PG

Another interesting and controversial question.

European elite socialist have, in part, created the conditions for the immigration problems they face. The other part of the problem, however, is fundamentalist Islam which has challenged European rights such as free speech - one of the basic tenets of liberal democracies. Immigrants -especially Islamic immigrants - are not assimilating into French and European society.

1. Multiculturalism is a failed concept which has created the illusion that immigrants can retain their culture and assimilate in European society.

European socialist have advocated the concept of multiculturalism which elevates (and promotes) the cultures of immigrants to an equal status with the host society. Morocco, the home country of the burqa-wearing Moroccan woman cited in the PG question, is a Muslim nation. While human rights have advanced in this North African country, many of the cultural values that may be imported from Morocco are in conflict with European democracy - free speech, women’s rights etc. Why then does Europe support the idea of multiculturalism? Because its “right” to respect other cultures and “fair” to view other cultures as equivalent (or “just different”) - even when they are obviously NOT.

Europeans need to view other cultures from an ethnocentric point of view - not as an equal, “just different“ viewpoint. Simply put, the Europeans, over a long period of time, have developed a superior way of life (culture). European history, laws, values, language, Christian heritage, government, democracy, and other European traits should be emphasized in schools - especially to immigrants. European history is responsible for their uniquely democratic values like free speech. This wasn’t accomplished overnight. Why give it up overnight?

2. European socialist have proudly created the largest system of entitlements in the world. Unfortunately, immigrants disproportionately are on welfare, thus welfare - in Europe - replaces economic opportunity.

From the Harvard Magazine (July issue):

“…American attitudes focus on equality of opportunity, while Europeans tend to see fairness in equal outcomes [entitlements, redistribution]…"

The elite Eurosocialist confuse welfare with opportunity, and the recent riots in Paris are a testament to how badly the French government misunderstands the problem. Violence has increased significantly throughout Europe, and in large part, from immigrant communities.

People from North Africa and Middle Eastern countries immigrate to Europe where they live in poor ethnic enclaves. Immigrants are encouraged to retain their cultural values and of course, they are victims of poverty and past European colonialism. In addition, generational welfare keeps people poor and unable to advance upwards in society. Without economic opportunity, assimilation is difficult or nearly impossible. Young Muslims especially have a high unemployment rate.

3. Much like the United States, Europeans has allowed uncontrolled immigration into their countries. High rates of illegal and legal immigration are tolerated under the guise that “its good for the economy” and “they do jobs that the natives will not”, in other words, its “right and fair“ to allow people to seek opportunity - especially at the expense of rich, western societies. A high influx of low skilled and uneducated immigrants cost the state more in social services (government housing, schools, hospitals and welfare) than they return on the economy. In the US, immigrants compete with immigrants for the same jobs keeping wages low. Assimilation is much more successful if low skilled (highly skilled as well) immigration is regulated so that unemployment is kept low and immigrants interact with the host society - and learn the host language.

4. The other part of the equation is Islam itself. Fundamentalist Islam may not be compatible with liberal democracies. Democratization of many Islamic immigrants may not be possible to the standards of the European liberal democracy. Its obvious, for example, that Islam cannot tolerate criticism (free speech). Many (European) Imams reject western colonialist societies, and preach hate and violence against the west. This makes an impression on poor, young unemployed European immigrants who consider themselves the victim. Obviously not all radicalization can be attributed to poverty, but it’s a factor.

In conclusion, its unfortunate that this immigrant of Moroccan descent is caught up in a complex societal fight on immigration. She has been put in a stock on display for the French public. The French government has assaulted their own democratic values and her freedom of religion to deny her citizenship. What is “French” enough? The problem appears to me to result from a combination of factors including multiculturalism, socialism, unregulated immigration and a religion that may not be compatible with liberal democracies.

mhr :

I spent much time in Paris in the 1980's and 90's and got accustomed to the sight of the riot police who gathered inside their big blue carriers when trouble threatened. That was the era in which islamic Algerians and Iranians took turns in acquainting the French with methods terrorists employ- they preferred fire bombs. A popular bookstore on St.Michel was bombed and exhibits at museums that came to France from countries the islamists did not like necessited extra precautions. Israel was one such country.
Two years ago the Seine-St. Denis area, populated by muslims, underwent many days and nights of rioting. I will let the French decide what their requirements for citizenship should be and no civil liberties extremist has any right to decide that question for them.

cpw10025 :

This is an easy one. It's much more difficult to notice an explosive suicide belt on a woman wearing a burqa or a niqab than a woman in western clothing.

MikeB :

Not only can a country require assimilation, it should. In Denmark, you have three years to learn Danish. If not, you are out! Same with virtually every other country in Europe, in the world really. The U.S. is almost alone in it's suicidal insistence on silly P.C. ideology lie implied by the authors of this forum. Moreover, just to take up the implied debate on illegal immigrants, illegal immigrants in Europe receive no social services, no medical help, cannot hold jobs, their children do not gain citizenship for merely being born, they cannot attend schools and are actively sought out and deported. Once caught, they can be held in a prison camp for up to 18 months. I submit, we need to copy Europe's example for required assimilation, required language and cultural knowledge and skill, treat our illegal immigrants in precisely the same manner, and emulate them in regulating businesses, universal healthcare and much more. Old Europe, I would remind everyone here, gives every indication of riding out the U.S. led economic catastrophe just fine while we face complete ruin.

daniel :

Good to hear from you Shiveh. I agree that A.S. piece is nicely written. I wish I could write that well (especially these days when I am going through a rough time. I can hardly concentrate).

This discussion is a really interesting one and leads to some serious problems the more the world gets globalized. We tend to think of democracies being free from blame, but in a globalized world it seems even democracies are getting picky as to what constitutes a citizen and therefore are subject to the accusation of being somewhat totalitarian. CERTAINLY WE CAN SEE THAT DEMOCRACIES ARE HEADED TOWARD DEFINING A CITIZEN BY INCREASINGLY COMPLEX INWARD QUALITIES THE MORE THE WORLD BREAKS DOWN (BECOMES GLOBALIZED) AND ALL OUTWARD APPEARANCES WHETHER OF CLOTHES OR SKIN BECOME LEGITIMATE. OR TO PUT IT ANOTHER WAY, THE MORE THE WORLD COMES TOGETHER IN ITS VARIOUS SKIN COLORS AND CLOTHES THE MORE THE ADVANCED ECONOMIES BECOME NERVOUS AND BEGIN DEFINING A CITIZEN BY TESTABLE INWARD QUALITIES. WE HAVE EDUCATION AGAINST A CONFUSION OF SKIN AND CLOTHES. THIS EDUCATION IS SUPPOSED TO LEAD TO DEMOCRACY WHICH ALLOWS A PROLIFERATION OF SKIN AND CLOTHES WITH NO HARM. THE QUESTION IS WHAT EXACTLY ARE THE LIMITS OF EDUCATION? HOW DO WE COMPRESS THE WORLD INTO USEFUL CITIZENS OF DEMOCRACY? HOW EASY WILL THAT BE? HOW DIFFICULT WILL THAT BE AND THEREFORE TOTALITARIAN? WE WANT THE WORLD TO JUST LEAP UP TO DEMOCRACY AND WE WANT A PERSON TO WEAR ANYTHING HE OR SHE WANTS, BUT IT SEEMS NOT ONLY IS IT DIFFICULT TO GET PEOPLE TO JUST LEAP UP TO DEMOCRACY, WE CANNOT EVEN MAKE AN OUTER CHANGE IN A PERSON MUCH LESS AN INNER ONE. SO WE ARE LEFT FORCING OUTER CHANGES ON PEOPLE AND STRIVING TO GET AT THE INNER PERSON--BUT THE INNER PERSON REBELS AND IN FACT TAKES ON AN OUTER APPEARANCE AT ODDS WITH DEMOCRACY.

A really complex problem. No simple answer to it.

Shiveh :

PG,

Some people like the eggplant look. But they are not French. French like to French kiss. And they extend the privilege of citizenship only to people they can relate to. Anybody who has problem with this does not understand the difference between a right and a privilege.

Assimilation can not be forced. But countries can pick and choose by regulating the path toward citizenship.

A.S.,

Nicely written. Your argument regarding group behavior concerns me. The whole concept of democracy is built on the individual (and not the groups) rights and responsibilities. Anytime we have judged and punished groups of people (Jews and Gypsies in Europe and Japanese in U.S. during WWII) for a perceived threat, we regretted it later. Although you are not suggesting such a collective reaction, your argument for taking action against a belief structure can be used to justify it.

A.S. :

Modern democratic states evolving in the west have gone through transitions resulting in religious belief being made subordinate to individual rights. Even if religious faith continues to play a role in state activities or in individual actions, religion of any persuasion, in principle, cannot be imposed on any individual. Likewise, the force of the state cannot limit individual rights to religious practice so long as that practice does not unreasonably impose on the rights of others within that society. Given this prescription, the wearing of an article of dress, in itself, is insufficient cause for disqualifying application for citizenship.

However, we know today that people living in democratic societies can utilize their "rights" to become part of antidemocratic communities. Such groups may run the gamut from small cloistered communities to active recruitment systems whose objective is the replacement of the democratic state with an alternative form of governance.

In that regard, democratic states are not obliged to submit to insurrection by groups of individuals with an implicit objective, even if passive, of nullifying, disrupting or dismembering democracy. Such states, for the sake of all its citizens, are obliged to defend themselves against antidemocratic threats.

The actions taken by the judges in France in disallowing citizenship for the veil-wearing applicant was based on an evaluation of the level of threat to the state and its citizens represented by the beliefs of this individual. Such an evaluation is based on a combination of circumstances, which includes the tenor of the times and forces at work.

Today, fundamentalist Islam, through the agency of jihad, is considered a threat to democracy. The fact that the applicant for French citizenship held beliefs that were sufficiently close to such doctrines, even though peaceable, put her in a threatening category. It is true that there are French citizens who hold similar beliefs and are not subject to such tests. They represent a more demanding stress for the state in preserving the balance of individual and collective rights. And to be sure, citizens who violate the rights of others in this regard are subject to the law.

But the state is under no obligation to take into its community individuals whose beliefs are toxic to democracy, even if such beliefs are passive and chosen freely. At some future time, if the threat of fundamentalist Islam has diminished, the subject may be moot.

No-uggly-cultures-for-the-world-anymore! :

FOR EXAMPLE:

IF MRS. OBAMA DECIDED TO DRESS A BURQA AND WALKING DOWN THE USA STREETS DURING HER HUSBAND TO SEEK A SEAT INTHE WHITEHOUSE IN THE 2008 THEN NO SINGLE AMERICAN WILL CHOOSE HIM FOR A BLACK TO SEAT IN THE WHITEHOUSE ANYMORE! FOR SURE, ONLY THE MUSLIM VOTERS WILL CHEER HIM AND VOTE FOR HIM!

In otherwords, this above example that shows the burqa is a very offending rag that no one should dress anywhere in the world except in middle east the land to invent this burqa!

No-uggly-cultures-for-the-world-anymore! :

None should condemn France to step up to get rid of the nastiest burqa rag dressing in its society!
FRANCE DOES THE RIGHT DECISION THAT ALL THE REST OF THE WORLD SHOULD WAKE UP AND LEARNING FROM THIS WONDERFUL NATION! "VIVRE LA FRANCE!!!!"

For using a minimal commonsense, then even a poorest minded individual still realizes that a burqa-wearing woman walking in front of the individual that she makes him/her feels so horrible like to confront a ghost or an evil creature!

In otherwords, a woman wearing a burqa seems to behave like a ghost or some very evil creature in front of all people that are unable to accept the one of the most primitive and uncivilized way of dressing in the sunny day!

Yousuf Hashmi :

No need to talk about logic,human rights and double standard etc.

the message is very clear and it should be well understood by all Muslim community.

That if you want to enjoy high standard of living then you have to sacrifice your traditions and transform to new way of life. If you like then yes you may be considered otherwise stay where you belong.

the problem is that in a conservative society girls are brought up in traditional clothings . they are taught to cover and protect themselves ,once they are grown up some fairy prince arrives from west throwing money like he robbed some bank and the parents think that their daughter is luckiest.

After the marriage when the time comes for getting immigration then poor parents realize that what mistakes they did

Any way it is not the problem of France or Britain. They are doing what they should do to benefit their own country.

For poor women in our society they are born to sacrifice and suffer.

daniel :

Should cultural assimilation be a requirement for citizenship?

Yes, cultural assimilation should be a requirement for citizenship. But even more important from the perspective of advanced democracies (France, U.S.) there should be an advanced workforce to keep the economy moving forward--in fact evolving to more complex types of human beings.

Lately I have been reading a very interesting book: Daily life in Spain in the Golden age. Spain's golden age was so brief because too many people had aristocratic pretensions and did not want to work. Spain was fine as long as she was conquering other peoples, but she failed to develop a workforce which could produce goods at home. Worse: she came to depend on immigrants to do the work that she did not want to do. And she was relatively lucky because the immigrants were a high quality workforce--not like the immigrant workforce that modern democracies have to draw from today. The glory of the advanced economies today is that for all their military glory they have the greater glory of having an advanced workforce AT HOME. Democracies today must not only keep up an advanced workforce but anticipate the next great change in social structure--what types of human beings come next.

Cultural assimilation must move in the direction of an increasingly advanced workforce or allowing people into the culture is negative--not only a lack of assimilation but a turning of the culture to less advanced forms of development. Spain in the golden age refused to develop a workforce to have a great home economy apart from an economy based on carving gold and silver from the new world. But she was lucky to have quality immigrants. Modern democracies refuse to see how fragile and difficult it is to create in the first place a great home economy not based on conquering other peoples. Spain should have grown from within. Modern economies must beware of collapsing from too many primitive immigrants. The question is the relationship between the level society is at and the quality of immigrants entering. Spain was relatively lucky to have immigrants do all the work the "aristocrats" within her did not want to do. Modern societies in the West have no great pool of immigrants to choose from except those from like nations or the Far East.

The problem then is not so much cultural assimilation but forces which can drive a society upward or downward. Needless to say advanced democracies do not need forces driving them downwards.

No-uggly-cultures-for-the-world-anymore! :

France did the right decision!

A person wearing a ghost-like rag on het body makes the entire world feel terrible for their eyes! vision irritation develops to the eyes of non-burqa wearing people! and who pay for this loss????
So the world should let all burqa-wearing women to change their habit as to wear bikini that make them feel fresh and may show other males to watch their beauties!!!

If women wish to wear burqas then let them stay in their own nations to enjoy themselves and they won't come to disturb people from other nations!!!!! So deport them all!!! and let them enjoy their own cultures in their own lands!!!!

Darden Cavalcade :

In another section of commentary on this topic, someone questioned whether the garment the Moroccan woman wore was a burqa or a niqab. The former is from Afghanistan and Pakistan, not the Arab world. The latter is a Moroccan garment, but its use isn't widespread apparently.

It would be important to intelligent commentary on the topic if we knew what the facts were: burqa or niqab?

If the former, the French were right. If the latter...well, it's just not clear.


Cantankerous Gus :

I applaud the French decision. When a national government awards citizenship to an immigrant, it should be based on conclusive evidence that the person seeking citizenship has assimilated (and endorses) common national values: native language, native literature, understanding of national history, understanding of government process, support of national political ideals (liberty, equality, fraternity in the case of France).

No immigrant to a new country should expect that he or she has the right to transport the "old country" and its habits of mind, customs, and mores to their new home. That's colonization, not immigration.

The failure to assimilate can be a complex problem in which blame is rightfull shared. When I read about France's Muslim population and its difficulty in finding success in mainstream French culture, I don't believe anyone should put the onus of failure exclusively on the immigrant.

The burqa, as I understand it, is not a religious requirement of Islam, but rather a cultural artifact of Arab society. French officials have every right to see a woman in a burqa and decide that she hasn't assimilated sufficiently.

I would say the same thing about an American immigrant to France who appeared before a French immigration magistrate in a cowboy outfit.

Salamon :

Apparently overt/covert racism is well establ;ished in France among others.
No doubt this is another sign of libety and equality, as is the racial profiling in USA, and the reaction by some "proressives" to the name Hussain

BobL-VA :

Apparently so in France.

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