Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

December 2005
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Colour Blindness Would Not Do

France would nurse for long the wounds caused by the nightly riots last month. The rioting youth were said to be of Arab-African origin and there were even direct references to the ferment and distrust among the Muslim youth in the French media. Having pursued a policy of being blind to diversity, the French have ultimately realised that problems of non-French speaking communities do not go away merely because France officially does not believe in multi-culturalism.

The French must have realised the problem of putting the millions of immigrants into hopeless estates on the peripherique ghettoes out of the sight of the ethnic French population, denying them equal opportunities if not rights, putting them into cultural straitjacket and subjecting them to high unemployment.

Though realisation has dawned, but not the recognition. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, with his eyes riveted on the next presidential elections, used the opportunity to exploit the white-French sentiments by calling the rioting youth ‘dregs’, ‘scum’ and expressing intention to karcherise (French term to rub something out of surface) them. French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin revived a 1955 law to enforce ‘curfew’ in the riot affected areas. The law was originally enacted to curb the unrest among Algerian immigrants. The move therefore symbolised French wish to treat the descendants the way their parents were handled.

French government’s desire to raise a homogenous society and not to create categories among citizens on the basis of religion, ethnicity, race and language may be laudable. Law may not recognise distinctions. But popular behaviour does take all such particularities into consideration. As has been pointed out in a survey, a Francois applying for 100 jobs may get 74 calls, but an Abdel with similar qualification has to remain content with merely 14. Pious desires do not exactly translate into equally puritan societies. It is why the global covenants prescribe special treatment of minorities despite equality before the law on the statute book.

France has not presented a good account of itself being the land of liberte, fraternite and equalite and has to learn a lesson or two in dealing with racial and ethnic problem from its next door neighbour, England. With unemployment running up to 40 per cent among ethnic Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians, ban on headscarves in government schools and Census refusing to correlate the prevalence of poverty to race and religion, France has for long tried to steamroll people into homogeneity. The riots have only asserted that French society is far from being seamless.

Indefensible Liberalism

Tennis star Sania Mirza must have discovered the limits of being liberal in the Indian context. The little lady who did the Indians proud with her feats on the court, should have weighed the consequences of extending her freestyle remarks in support of pre-marital sex. Pre-marital sex is not as easily acceptable to modest Indians who are charitable in tolerating the short dresses for girls on the tennis courts. Short skirts may be the demand of the sports, but socially ruinous impact of free sex is too obvious to become the acceptable norm for demure Indians, even if it is protected from biological consequences.

Mirza’s defence of the Tamilian actress was indefensible and warranted the reaction that it triggered from the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad across Andhra Pradesh. Mercifully, this came from the Hindutva bodies and left no scope for the media to dub it ‘fundamentalist reaction’. One could guess the contrast of response had it emanated from ulema or Islamic clergy. Evidently, the nubile lass walked into the highly glamorised trap laid by the media at the behest of their Western cohorts to make the outrageous pronouncement which she had to rue and rebut two days later. The ‘denial’ was more in the nature of an afterthought following the violent reaction.

Protest against the ‘liberal’ remarks inspires hopes. People here are not blind to the threat the Western cultural mores pose to the family integrity and its ethos. Sin and virtue guide the lives of the people, be they Hindus or Muslims.

Clearly, the West is hell bent upon pushing its agenda of free sex in its myriad form, primarily through the media and the celebrities from the sports and the cinema. Vulnerable youth flush with success and lured by the glitter of the moolah and the glamour of the media can hardly resist the temptation to utter vulgarities that make ideal sound bytes for the Western cultural strategists and pave the way for prying open the discourses considered to be taboo heretofore.

There are grave risks involved in confusing modernisation with Westernisation. The demarcation lines are blurred and the Indian media would be well advised to read the popular sensitivities with all the perspicacity at their command.