Friday, October 24, 2014

Saracen Discomfort into Modern Day Law

In 2011, a law was brought forward in France, which barred young women who went to state schools from wearing the hijab, also known as a headscarf, to school. It was seen as a threat to French secularism. This problem, which has emerged in recent times due to the increase of Muslim immigrants coming to France, has very obvious connections to our readings.

In writings, such as "The King of Tars" or "The Man of Laws Tale", there is a very clear divide between those who are Christian and those who are Saracens. The Saracens are written as manipulative and cruel, like the Sultaness, or emasculated, like both Sultans. They are not treated as people, but more so caricatures that the reader is supposed to hate and want gone. The only redeeming factor for these characters and their sub-sequential archetypes is either death or conversion. If a character, like the Sultaness, fakes conversion, then she is deemed to be cursed to die, whereas if a Christian princess fakes conversion, she will eventually win over Saracen beliefs, and kill all non-believers.

This creates a divide between what is okay for Christians to do, and what is okay for modern-day Muslims to do. It usually comes out being that Christians have the upper hand in European countries, which is how laws like this one, as well as the 2004 ban on veils and burqas, are passed. Since France, although claiming to be secular now, comes from Christian roots, these ideals still seep in. With most Muslim residents of France not having equal representation in their government, it is clear who will win and who will lose.

France, which has a strictly separate church and state, claims that this law doesn't target Muslim populations, as hats or any head coverings are also supposedly banned by this law in state schools. However, this could be related to the laws in the Middle Ages that have the Jews wearing certain identifier clothing. While one can claim that these laws aren't targeting, they seem to target certain groups, all of which face discrimination from both the laws and the resisting of the laws. Also, French Islamiphobia can quickly be traced back to our reading, where misunderstanding and differences lead to an unease that often results in attacks and violence. When people focus too much on pushing people into whatever ideal "normal" is, and then interprets backlash as insolence, there is a wasted opportunity to learn. Much like Medieval Britain would rather be ignorant when it comes to other groups, France seems much more willing to make it impossible to live in France as a Muslim immigrant than it would to address the needs of the entire population at large. That is a very sad, but not shocking, fact.

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