Clowns & Jokers

Stuck in the middle.... Left, right, centre. It's a mess out there.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

"Not Whores or Submissives"

Young Muslim women in the working class suburbs of France have two choices: slut or servant. Fadela Amara is trying to offer them a third option: respect

Fadela Amara has a mission. One sees it in the intensity of her eyes and feels it in the passion of her speech. A good two years ago, the daughter of an Algerian immigrant family in Paris, she founded the organisation "Ni putes ni soumises". This is also the title of her book, which won the "Prix du Livre Politique" of the French national assembly last year. In the book, Fadela Amara tells in a simple and direct style the story of her fight against the growing violence and social disintegration in France's suburbs.

Reading Amara's book, one understands quickly the gravity of the situation. On October 4, 2002 in Vitry-sur-Seine, a satellite town of Paris, 18 year old Sohane Benziane, the daughter of Kabyle immigrants, was burned alive. The perpetrators were two men her age of North African descent. They lured the girl, who refused to submit to the "norms of the neighbourhood", into a cellar. While one kept watch outside, the other poured gas over Sohane and set her on fire with a lighter.

This horrible deed was a catalyst for Fadela Amara. A few days later, she along with 2000 other men and women took part in a silent march. Then she organised gatherings at which girls and women could speak openly about violence in their districts. In February 2003 she initiated a "March of Women from the Suburbs". It went through a total of 23 cities and drew the nation's attention to the particular repression of the "girls of the city". Today "Ni putes ni soumises" has more than 6000 members and 60 local committees. The organisation encourages young women
and men in the suburbs to act against ghettoisation and the suppression of women, and to support equal opportunity and rights. Fadela Amara wants to break the law of silence which has masked the violence of the suburbs, mafia-style.

Bellil's book and Amara's activites have woken up politicians. In various cities, emergency
hotlines and hostels have been set up for women and girls forced to flee their neighbourhoods. In police stations, specialised workers are being trained to deal with "migrants' problems". But
Fadela Amara believes that these measures address only the symptoms of the grievances; to eliminate the roots of the problem, steps have to be taken against mass unemployment and
the ghettoising of the suburbs. But the author does not hold political forces responsible. In her
book, she is very critical of the way many immigrants bring up their children."In Muslim immigrant families, the sons are treated like kings. They are not just preferred over the girls,
they are spoilt and coddled." The crux is that when these young men encounter resistance beyond the family for the first time - when they don't get into university or college, for example - they react helplessly and destructively. They compensate for their fury and inferiority complexes with machismo and violence against those who are socially and physically weaker – girls in particular."In the suburbs, sexual education takes place through porn videos
– how can these boys not have a twisted image of women?"

Her colleagues discuss with students their notions of marriage, virginity, forced marriage, circumcision, tenderness and love.

Amara emphasises that this is the difference between those who talk about cultural relativism and her organisation, which is aimed at achieving universal human rights. "An exaggerated tolerance of supposed cultural differences which results in the maintenance of archaic traditions - that's just not acceptable."

The movement fights against violence targeting women and it focuses on these areas:
Pressure to wear the hijab
Pressure to drop out of school
Pressure to marry early without being able to choose the husband.



At Saturday, 10 February, 2007, Anonymous Steve said...

Alison, I linked to your piece at ATW, in a post on Muslim women opposing Islamism.

Did you see the piece on Gina Khan yesterday?

See Pub Philosopher for more details.

At Saturday, 10 February, 2007, Anonymous Dawkins said...

Hi Alison

Sorry to butt in like this but I can't reach David Vance. I seem to be blocked from posting to ATW. I'm sure it's a glitch because I don't recall being rude to anyone :0)

Could you pass this on, please? Much obliged.

At Saturday, 10 February, 2007, Anonymous alison said...

Thanks Steve

Dawkins - I doubt that very much! Ill email him now


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