3 replies

  1. This was expected, just sad! These extremists from both sides out there to degrade Islam. Boycott france indeed.

  2. A woman in Niqab calling for nationwide headscarf ban!!! Interesting times indeed.

  3. A recurring obsession of colonial French to forcibly unveil the women of their colonised lands.

    Barrier to Visual Control

    Before discussing the colonizer’s attitude towards the veiled woman, a brief overview of the modern discourse on transparency is needed. The 18th century brought the ideal of a perfect transparent world. Rousseau’s ideal was a transparent society. In 1787, Jeremy Bentham elaborated the plan of the Panopticon. It was an architectural figure that consisted in a tower central to an annular building divided into cells. The occupants of the cells were isolated from one another by walls and subject to scrutiny by an observer in the tower who remains unseen. The Panopticon thus allowed seeing without being seen. For Foucault, such asymmetry of seeing-without-being-seen is the very essence of power because ultimately the power to dominate rests on the differential possession of knowledge.

    The metaphor of the one that is seen without being able to see the observer turned to be the most dramatic frustration the French colonists experienced in Algeria. Veiled woman could see the foreign colonizer, but the colonizer could not see her. The veil became a barrier to the visual control of the Western eye. Anger, frustrated desire and fantasy gave a distinctive character to French colonization in Algeria.

    The veil was seen as the concrete manifestation of resistance by the colonized to an imposed reciprocity: veiled women were able to see without being seen. Colonist desire was thus articulated as the desire to unveil Algeria, for women’s insistence on wearing the veil meant the colony’s resistance to the French authority.

    French Men’s Attitude towards Veiled Women

    …the political doctrine: `If we want to destroy the structure of Algerian society, its capacity for resistance, we must first of all conquer the woman; we must go and find them behind the veil where they hide themselves and in the houses where the men keep them out of sight.’
    Frantz Fanon. A Dying Colonialism.p.23

    Why did “la mission civilisatrice” have women as the first “target”?
    Since veiled women served as metaphors for Oriental culture, the political strategy did not have exclusively a military character. According to F. Fanon, the French colonizers perceived Algerian women as embodying the true and authentic self of Algerian culture. Since they represented the essence of the culture that was colonized, having access to them and their bodies symbolized the means for a successful penetration to the heart of the colonized culture. As a consequence, a metaphorical link between “Woman” and “Colony” was established. In this context, the veiled woman (the other sex) and the colony (the other culture) were related. Colonies themselves were idealized as female. Later, they were credited with the power of invigorating the greater France. The main question related to the Algerian case by the European colonizers was if there was any possibility for a complete assimilation.

    Source: The Veil as Metaphor of French Colonized Algeria – Maria Boariu


    In ‘Algeria Unveiled’, Fanon designates the veil as an important instrument of resisting colonial hegemony. Equating the female body with the land, Fanon asserts that unveiling an Algerian woman is synonymous with prostituting Algeria: ‘Every veil that fell, every body that became liberated from the traditional embrace of the Haik, every face that offered itself to the bold and impatient glance of the occupier, was a negative expression of the fact that Algeria was beginning to deny herself and was accepting the rape of the colonizer’ (1959, p. 42). Was unveiling a form of torture against Algerian women? Yes! The French occupation systematically targeted the veil as a remnant of pre-colonial culture and worked on its eradication.

    Many Algerian women, mainly from rural areas, were forced to unveil themselves and pose for the colonizer’s cameras. In a poignant abuse of power, the camera was an instrument of humiliation and subjugation of women: who were ashamed to even admit what had happened to them. In many of the photographs, the women’s gaze at the camera reflects their horror, helplessness and a silent reproach, as they hold on tightly to the veils draped on their shoulders and chests. The camera was therefore an apparatus of power; the French soldier’s gaze and the camera’s lens both scrutinize the helpless denuded female body.

    Source: Veiling and revolutions: from Algeria to Sudan

    A shameless display of such abuse :

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