You can’t preach integration and practice segregation – A point of view

Abdulai Mansaray

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 September 2016

Burkini 2

The recent ban on what many will see as the aptly named BURKINI swimwear has become a tilting point in the history of France. There is no doubt that France has unfortunately bore the brunt of extremist barbarity in recent times.

Dozens of people were killed, including children, when a lorry driven by a 31-year-old Tunisian man, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhle  ploughed into a large crowd watching a fireworks display in Nice to mark the Bastille Day holiday, on 14 July.

On July 26, two 19-year-olds pledging allegiance to Islamic State (IS) slit the throat of Father Jacques Hamel in his church. Absolute madness.

France emerged from one of its worst security crises in decades after three days of attacks by gunmen brought bloodshed to the capital Paris and its surrounding areas.

It began with a massacre at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday 7 January and ended with a huge police operation and two sieges two days later.

But will the banning of a swim-wear help improve community relations and security?

One of the fundamentalist explanations for extremism has been that, they detest the way of life in the West. Those who planned and carried out the worst terrorist atrocity in the USA (9/11) were primarily of Saudi decent.

One of their reported arguments for such wanton destruction was that, the west was importing “its way of life into the Holy Kingdom”. These included the dress sense, alcohol and practically anything western.

The lessons learned and resultant values from the French Revolution (1789-99) — Liberty, Equality and Fraternity — were followed by other European nations, and continue to be the foundation of France’s political theatre.

So one would wonder why that renders France to be the focused target of religious extremism and IS madmen.

With the recent attacks in France, it is understandable that the country needed a swift and effective response, not only to ensure that such attacks are no longer repeated on the streets and communities or anywhere else in society but also to re-assure its citizens against such acts.

But in doing so, we should be careful not to pander to the very extremist’s views that threaten to divide us as a society.

Burkini FiascoFrance was one of the first countries on this side of the sea to make it illegal to wear the “Burqa “in a public place in 2010. The European court of human rights (ECHR) upheld France’s burqa ban, accepting Paris’s argument that it encouraged citizens to “live together”.

The rationale for the ban was all about “integration”; one of the arguments that is generally bandied around as reason, for the disaffection felt by  those in the business of committing such atrocities.

Those who opposed the ban  argued that  it was “inhumane and degrading, against the right of respect for family and private life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of speech and that it was discriminatory”.

In case you did not know, the Burqa is an attire worn, covering the entire head and body, and the niqab, leaving only the eyes uncovered. Ironically, this same law applied to balaclavas and hoods. How come there were no oppositions to the latter.

It was not surprising that the French government asked the court to throw out the case, claiming that the law was not aimed at the burqa or veil but any covering of the face in a public place, and also applied to hoods and helmets when not worn on a motor vehicle.

Many will rightly see this as a legitimate argument while some may beg to differ. The French government and proponents of the ban see it as a way of “helping everyone to integrate”.

“It’s about social communication, the right to interact with someone by looking them in the face and about not disappearing under a piece of clothing.” How ironical.

But with the recent attacks in France, it is understandable that the government is making every attempt to dispel the charge of marginalisation of certain parts of the society.

The recent attacks are bound to evoke emotions, but in trying to address such issues, care should be taken not to undermine the very foundations upon which the French, and to a large extent Western democracies have been built.

Burkini 1From a literal point of view, the term “BURKINI” looks like a clever concoction of “BURQA” and “BIKINI”.

Technically, you would say that it is a symbol of INTEGRATION; a confluence of two diametrically opposing types of attire.

While the “BIKINI” is a symbol of “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”, others will see the “BURQA” as “if you’ve got it, hide it”. As opposing as they may seem, the “BURKINI” may symbolise integration to many.

I can’t remember the last time I saw a Muslim woman in beachwear in Saudi Arabia, the supposed bastion of Islam. What the burkini may have offered Muslim women is the opportunity to inculcate some aspects of Western life, but at the same time maintain what many will argue, their modesty. In my book, it is the best of two worlds.

There can be no better example of integration. Can you imagine how the extremist will frown at such Muslim women wearing a burkini to the beach? There have been a lot of accusations that moderate Muslims have not raised their voices enough to condemn atrocities in their name.

Since the tragedies in France and elsewhere, islamophobia has gone up a notch. In Britain, there has been a steady rise of Islamophobia and xenophobia since the referendum. It is an open secret that Brexit was fought on the platform of immigration, among others.

The outcome of the referendum has been seen by many as a tacit approval or acceptance of the majority of British people, who sees immigration as a problem. Others may beg to differ.

But what are the implications of the attempt by France to ban the BURKINI? For starters, it goes against every grain of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

There is this notion that Islamic terrorists want to change the way of life in the West; that the Islamic terrorist wants to promote Sharia law in the West. But by banning the Burkini, are we not pandering to the very base instincts of extremists?

In Saudi Arabia, women are still fighting for the right to drive. Can you imagine how many lifetimes it will take for Burkinis to be allowed on some beaches?

Burkini 2By banning the Burkini, what is the message that the French authorities are sending to moderate Muslims, who are equally affected by the atrocities. In real terms, there have been more Muslims killed by these terrorists than any other denomination.

Take the combine death toll in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Somalia, Nigeria, The Philippines and Turkey. How many Muslims have lost their lives, thanks to the bombings by terrorists?

So what will the French police do when they find a male surfer in full speedo swim suit and a Burkini clad woman on the beach together? Are we about to see ONESIES banned on beaches?

A French court has overturned a ban on burkini in Nice, concluding that the decree against the full-body swimwear was illegal because there were no proven risks of disruption to public order.

The court also ruled that “in the absence of such risks, the emotions and the concerns resulting from terrorist attacks, and especially from the attack on July 14, are insufficient grounds to legally justify the contested ban. “It also found that Burkinis posed no risk to “hygiene, decency or safety when swimming”. (Al-Jazeera).

Since the court ruling, ban on the women’s full-body swimsuits has so far been lifted in Villeneuve-Loubet, Cannes, Frejus and Roquebrune.

The lessons that can be learnt from this ugly saga are that, in responding to terrorist attacks which carry significant emotional weighting, care should be taken not to unconsciously pander to the very instincts of those that promote chaos.

Care should be taken not to further marginalise the moderate Muslims who see integration as the way forward.

Tarring every Muslim with the same brush could not only be counter-productive, but could also be tantamount to providing oxygen for extremist views. Finally, it could also negate the very foundations of the free world.

You cannot preach integration and practice segregation at the same time. The natural evolution of society is integration; and it should neither be political, nor theoretical.

We should learn to live by what we love, not by what we hate. Because when unity is evolved out of diversity, then there a real and abiding national progress.

Don’t forget to turn the lights out when you leave the room.

Author: Abdulai Mansaray

6 Comments

  1. The West was not built on the foundation of human rights (slavery, colonialism, genocide of the Native American race is not human rights). The West was built upon the foundation of exploitation and institutions. Exploitation of resources and people is what made the west wealthy.

    Institutions of educations, institutions of medicine and state institutions like the judiciary, parliament is what made the west to develop and to transform the wealth they acquire from other people using brutal tactics.
    Human rights was a movement that arose within the global community to prevent the Jewish Holocaust from happening.

    There is nothing wrong with human rights but my belief is that nations like Saudi Arabia have every right to create the laws and the institutions that are compatible with their beliefs and culture. Nations like the French also have the right to dictate what is acceptable to their culture.

    Most of the Muslims in France were not brought their by force. they came their on their own volition. For them to enforce their own values on another community or nation is going to be strongly resisted. and knowing the French if it means going to war to die for their rights to shape their own laws and cultures they will.

    If that culture is so disgusting to other people those people have a right to go to their houses pack their things and leave.

    • You still don’t get it AY. My advice again is this: Read my article 6 times and we can talk. Otherwise, I am getting off this train at the next stop. Ciao.

  2. Until Saudi Arabia stops beheading an average of 150 people per year and allow French women to walk in Riyadh in bikinis half naked, the global Islamic community does not have the right to tell the French what they should and should not ban.

    In Saudi women are not even allowed to drive and nobody is calling them Chriatianophobes. In the past ten years hundreds of thousands of Christians have been killed for their faith by adherents of Islam, and not once have I heard the term Christianophobe. I am not sure the term even exists.

    • So AY, are you asking that the West, and France do the same like Saudi Arabia? If a dog bites you, do you bite the dog back?

      This article was not aimed about comparing religions. The thrust of the article was to say that, the west should not undo it’s own culture to address this problem of radicalism.

      If we are to engage in comparative analysis, we had the period of crusades, and the less said about that, the better.

      Just a gentle reminder: If the west undo what it actually stands for by riding roughshod over all the freedoms that mark it out as democracies, what will be the difference? By implication, this will be self denial and who will be the winners?

  3. The writer of this article fails to understand the real battle going on in France and the rest of the world. France recently has been a victim of devastating attacks by terrorists especially those who claim alliance to the Islamic State.

    This holy war being waged against western Europe is one were certain followers of Islam are deliberately trying to spread the influence of the religion in other parts of the world. Islam – a religion were it’s holy books call for the complete destruction of Al Fitna (unbelievers) is the fastest growing religion and it is currently fighting to dominate Europe, culturally.

    From a small religion practiced by a few men in Mecca, saudi Arabia, the method of violence and coercion has seen the religion rise to become one were it is followed by over a billion adherents. Jihad has been crucial to this fight.

    Should France and the rest of Europe in the name of human rights, allow their societies to become dominated by this religion? Are French values really compatible to Islamic values? These so called immigrants were not forced to enter France and if the culture of France is reprehensible to their religion then they are free to leave.

    Just like French women are not going to Saudi Arabia to uncover their nakedness in the name of human rights, people from other regions in the world should enter France to accept their laws and culture and not attempt to immigrate their laws and culture from other parts of the world.

    The french have every right to maintain their customs, values and culture; and if you do not like how they operate you can just leave. Arab expansionism has been so effective that it is difficult to hear about the ancient people of the east such as Phoenicians (Lebanese), Hittites (Turkey), Babylonians (Iraq), Assyrians (Iran) and much more.

    Every human being in the middle east apart from Jews and a few Christian has morphed into the Arab identity. Because this identity tied to Islam calls for the destruction of other religions, ideas, and cultures. Europeans unlike we are well versed in history and will ensure that this does not ever happen on their soil.

    • I would advise AY to read the article again and perhaps get the thrust of it. Like I said in the article, the “BURKINI” is confluence of cultures. in case, you forget, cultures have evolved through integration not segregation.

      Jews and Arabs may look different but they all share a love for long robes and beards. They all place their heads on a wall or floor to pray. They all turn to the East ( rising sun) to pray. Just a few examples. Taking the opinion of a few people for the majority is misleading. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all white people are “supremacists or racists”.

      In an ever evolving world, there is bound to be flash points and cultural gymnastics. We need to avoid the dangers of extremism. We can do so by acknowledging our differences, but at the same time promote the things that hold us together and not such differences.

      It is about embracing the finer points of cultural evolutions. If a cat sat on a pillar, it doesn’t make it a caterpillar. Once again, the article was not about differences. It was about what can be done to enhance cultural co-habitation.

      Remember that freedom and human rights form the foundation of western democracies. So are you going to dismantle that, because the extremist view is different. By doing so, are you not technically doing their bidding? When we stand together, be you Muslim, Jew, gay, atheist, or otherwise, we can can beat extremism in all its forms.

      But if we allow the extremist views to throw a wedge among us, there will only be losers and not winners. But again, please re-read the article and take away whatever emotions that may be lurking in the background. Just an open mind; you may find out that we are singing from the same hymn sheet.

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