Friday, September 03, 2004

Hostages and headscarves

Although the reports are still cautious, it looks like good news for the two French journalists kidnapped in Iraq. They apparently have been handed over to a group which favors their release. Some comments:

  1. It appears that the moron kidnappers went out to capture some foreigners to pressure the home country of those foreigners to remove its occupying forces from Iraq, and accidentally ended up with some Frenchmen (but read this for an alternative possibility). Not knowing what to do with them, they then foolishly tried to tie the lives of their hostages to the recent ban on headscarves in French schools. They weren't smart enough to realize that attempting to blackmail France goes against what they claim to be fighting for. Their just cause is to be able to live freely in their own country, unoccupied by foreigners. They do not want another country telling them how to live. How is this consistent with attempting to tell the French how to govern their country? Their foolishness not only undermined the logic of their desire to be free of foreign oppression, it ran the risk of alienating one of their main friends in the world.

  2. You have to give France full credit. It moved heaven and earth to call on all its Middle Eastern and Muslim friends to show support for the captured men, and this groundswell of Muslim opinion may very well have saved the lives of the men. Americans should comtemplate what would happen if George Bush tried a similar effort to save the lives of American hostages (not that he ever would try to save an American hostage). He would have been met with all the contempt he deserves. Sometimes being considered to be the asshole of the world has a cost.

  3. The attempt of the moron kidnappers to force the French to change their law banning headscarves in schools was an utter failure. Democracies can't bow to such pressure. It is one thing to stop doing what you shouldn't be doing anyway, and withdraw your troops from Iraq, but entirely another thing to alter your own properly passed domestic legislation due to blackmail. France was absolutely right not to even consider changing its laws, just as the Philippines was absolutely right to withdraw its troops to save the life of one of its citizens.

  4. The first day of the French headscarf ban went without incident, with almost total compliance. My guess is that most Muslim girls are quite happy to have a legal excuse to dump the medieval patriarchal symbol that they are some man's property (and let's face the fact that the real reason for the insistence on headscarfs has nothing to do with religion or tradition, and everything to do with patriarchy). Amongst those who added their voices to the request for the release of the hostages was the French Muslim community, and the attempt at blackmailing the French state had the effect of removing almost all the opposition to the headscarf ban. The hostage taking put into stark contrast the brutality of fundamentalism, as against the wisdom of the French secular state. French secularism is what protects all its citizens, including its Muslim citizens, from the violent stupidity of fundamentalism.