What We Don’t See

What was that I was saying only a day or two ago about smelly little orthodoxies and the hijab? This article from the BBC certainly gives a good illustration of what I mean. Two mentions of Muslim opposition to the ban, and no mentions at all of Muslim support for the ban. If you don’t already know a little about the subject, and read that article, you’ll be left with the impression that Muslims who have any opinion on the matter are opposed. But that is simply not true. Forty percent of Muslim women support the ban, according to news reports I’ve seen.

Most of France’s political parties, and around 70% of the population, support the ban which some Muslim leaders say risks being perceived as intolerant…Some French MPs, backed by Muslim leaders and rights groups, have warned that the new law could be seen as intolerant and undermine the integration of France’s Muslims. They say young Muslim women are being forced to wear the headscarf, though the few hundred who have turned out for demonstrations against the new law say they wear it of their own free will. Many governments and human rights groups have criticised the bill – including the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights and the US-based advisory group, the Commission on International Religious Freedom.

That’s it, those are all the places the word ‘Muslim’ is used. It says ‘some’ Muslim leaders in that first sentence, but doesn’t bother to point out that other ‘Muslim leaders’ are not merely indifferent or neutral or not bothering to say anything, but are in fact in favour of the ban. Sly, subtle, sneaky, and not a very forthright form of reporting, I would say. Though it may not be deliberate. The malodorous orthodoxy may be so well internalized that the reporter wasn’t even aware of giving a partial (incomplete) account. It may be so taken for granted that all Muslims love the hijab, and that a school dress code is an interference with religious freedom, that the fact that some Muslims don’t see it that way simply fails to register. As does the fact that many of the people who favour the hijab and oppose the ban are not just nice pious people but extremely reactionary, are well to the right of your Jerry Fallwell and your Pat Robertson, are in fact the kind of people who beat up and rape women for not ‘covering up.’ That’s how smelly little orthodoxies work, isn’t it, they just get dug in until people stop noticing them and stop being able even to see alternatives. A good reason to point them out then.

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