French President Nicolas Sarkozy is the finest living example of Western hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, bias and double-standard are intrinsic in human nature and Sarkozy is no exception. Sarkozy’s racist, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant speech at Chateau of Versailles, south-west of Paris on Monday, is bound to draw criticism from the Muslim World. When one dissects Sarkozy and his personal life with the help of a literary and secular knife, he emerges as a confused personality whose hostility against Islam is steeped in his ascendancy; his Jewish origin. His language was quite similar to the one used by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu recently. The draft of Sarkozy’s speech itself narrates a tale of his outlook towards Islam in general and Muslims in particular.
The tone of his language must be understood clearly, it is only when one can draw conclusion about his intentions. “The burqa”, he said, “is not a religious sign, it’s a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement—I want to say it solemnly. It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic….In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity.”
Sarkozy is a self-appointed representative of the same West that believes in the doctrine of freedom. The definition of freedom in Western parlance is absolute. It includes freedom of choice rather than freedom of chance. The expression of freedom has been abused and used to suit Western convenience. So when it comes to freedom to choose one’s dress, they have no qualms about bikini but they would always have problem with burqa. A bikini is viewed as a symbol of women’s emancipation while a burqa is looked at a form of forced slavery. To men like Sarkozy, the bodily form of liberation is more important than the mental form of liberation. What more, when bodily form of liberation extends their desired limitation, they take the help of a flaccid morality evaporating slowly from the Western geography. So when an old nude photo of Sarkozy’s super-model wife Carla Bruni was leaked on the internet, Sarkozy left no stone unturned that it doesn’t get republished in any of the French magazine and tabloids!
Will an enlightened West question Sarkozy’s definition of secular liberalism? If he really believed in the doctrine that freedom is absolute then he should have allowed his wife’s photo to be published. That would have made him an icon and torchbearer of absolute freedom of expression!
Sarkozy’s comparison of burqa as a “prison sentence” can be understood if it is forced and made compulsory in a free Western society. But what if a woman chooses to wear burqa voluntarily? Won’t the same freedom to wear a bikini be extended to a lady who wants to don a burqa? In this hypothesis lies the irony of the West. This irony looks like an ugly and a repulsive creature on the mirror wall. The Western leaders claiming to be secular need to take a hard look in the mirror. There they will encounter a bitter pill hard to swallow.
The main problem of Sarlozy is not burqa but his inability to do nothing to stop the rise of Islam in his own country. According to one independent report, Islam is spreading most rapidly in France in the entire Europe. France is the only country in Europe which has the largest number of Muslims, 6 million to be precise.
Sarkozy need to understand the definition of secularism in the Indian context where multicultural and heterogeneous society is flourishing. Noted lawyer Fali S. Nariman has rightly defined secularism as, “secularism in India means the ability to comprehend and tolerate an infinite variety of social problems.”
The present Century is going to be a Century of soft power. In dress code, if a bikini is manifestation of West’s soft-power, then burqa is an Islamic symbol of soft-power. Men like Sarkozy fear that in this bikini-burqa collision, the latter may emerge as a winner given the rise of burqa in the West.
Sarkozy may be comfortable with his wife in a bikini on a beach front but the same will not be true in Eastern countries especially India. No seasoned Indian politician will ever do such a thing. He will not be comfortable in a bikini or a mini-skirt even with his wife. Therefore, if a burqa is a statement of separation as believed by Sarkozy, then a mini-skirt is not an invitation to familiarity.
The ongoing debate about separation of church and state raises some interesting points. If we apply that logic then the Church of England should be disestablished, the blasphemy laws abolished, and religious education in schools replaced by an objective consideration of the role of the various religions as a part of History and Social Studies.
Nicolas Sarkozy is a product of secular hypocrisy. He would do well to remember what a British scholar once wrote, “My old mother, a very proper Christian lady, used to wear a headscarf – whether to quell lust or just in order to look respectable I don’t know. The ‘simple fact’ is that in the customs of most societies men and women dress differently.”
Sunday Inquilab, June 28, 2009