Fifty years ago while a student in Paris, a young right wing nationalist named Jean Marie-Le Pen, burst on the scene in a nation convulsed by the debacle in Vietnam and the outbreak of civil war in Algeria. His National Front Party has been around for over fifty years spouting an ultra-nationalist, anti-immigrant, anti-European, anti-semitic, and anti-Muslim rhetoric of hate and violence. The world wide recession has been a shot-in-the-arm for those who find a cause of economic decline such as the presence of immigrants. His daughter, Marine Le Pen, and her running mate topped the poll in Sunday’s municipal by-election in the depressed industrial area of northern France. Unless moderate and left wing parties can form a coalition to defeat Ms. Le Pen she might well win her party’s first town hall in years.
If all French parties of the center and left agree to cooperate they can defeat the voices of hate and division, but if they continue squabbling the National Front party will gain a foothold in the industrial area of France. Ironically, Marine Le Pen is viewed as the most moderate of the right wing leader’s daughter. Heck, she is even willing to support the right of abortion and wants to downplay racism.
Iranians are fighting for freedom in the streets of Tehran as they march directly into men wielding batons and chains, some of the protestors are wearing western clothes, some women are in jeans, and some women are wearing the burqa. But, to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the most critical issue confronting his nation is not the recession, it is not loss of jobs, it is not an education system which does not assist all children, NO, to the man with a beautiful wife it is the sight of women wearing a burqa. He told parliament the issue is not one of religious rights, but “the burqa is not welcome on the French Republic’s territory. It is not what the French Republic wants for the dignity of women” since wearing it is reflection that women are being debased and treated like second humans.
The highest estimate is that about 50,000 Muslim women in France wear a burqa which suggests the vast majority do not. A high percent of women who are protesting in Iran wear the burqa without conveying a sense of inferiority or personal debasement. Ironically, it is men wearing western dress who are beating them.
The issue of the burqa is much ado about nothing. Women have the right to dress as they please and if some prefer the burqa why is that a concern of government? If we allow government to decide women can not wear a burqa it opens the door for government to decide every aspect of the personal lives of people.
Ironically, first lady Carla Bruni of France goes around wearing a dress that reveals her ample breasts. I suspect there are people who view such dress as inappropriate for a woman. Frankly, who cares if she is bare breasted or all covered up?