“Cultural poverty and intellectual wretchedness” – The argument against practicing Muslims to integrate

SHAFAQNA – Here it is again the sound of ignorant bigotry dressed in self-righteous moralism … Muslims must absolutely integrate if they ever hope to be tolerated by Western society, and in this particular instance: France.

France is sitting at the centre of a rather peculiar debate – that of geography, religion, democracy and national identity.

Allow me first to break down France’s republican arguments.

Muslims, French officials believe and clamour, are inherently programmed to reject France’s very republican pillar: laicity (separation of the religious and the state) by the very nature of their faith. The premise to such narrative has been that Muslim communities ambition to lay waste the state, to rise instead their own socio-legal system based on the dreaded Sharia (Islamic law).

While this argument is completely removed from reality … Muslims have never made such claims – safe maybe from a few lunatics whose understanding of Islam is limited to the violent hatred preached by Riyadh’s clergy, those very men Paris calls allies and friends.

I realise it is a difficult concept to grasp but Islam does not call for governments to be laid waste to and communities to be hijacked. Islam actually calls upon all Muslims to always respect the law – regardless and no matter what. Islam I repeat does not call for rebellion or political unrest.

What Islam however demands is for Muslims to resist tyranny and offer safe refuge to the oppressed.

As I’m sure you will appreciate there is a big difference in between unrest and justice, violence and social compassion.

France also argues that Islam clashes with French culture and France’s traditions due to its “foreign” origin. What an interesting concept indeed that of geography.

What France is really referring to is Islam’s perceived colour.  Islam you see is brown! If we are absolutely honest this is what really bothers France – should Islam be a white religion, then France would most certainly be more tolerant of its practices. But Islam is the faith of the colonies. Islam is the faith of the infamous “other” whose skin remains stubbornly dark and unrefined.

France in its blind ignorance does not realise that Islam is not a colour, or a nationality.

Islam is a belief system. Islam carries within the whole of humanity, beyond all the differences which make us individuals – France’s argument that Islam’s geographic origins make it a thing to be feared is not only ludicrous but down-right prejudiced – never mind hypocritical. Christianity and Judaism were too born in the Middle East.

And then of course there is the little matter of integration … what a treacherous word it is that of integration.

By integration France really means that all foreigners … those hailing from non-white European countries ought to bow to the god of secularism and completely reject their cultural identity. If you can manage to bleach yourself snow white in the process all the better!


Here is how France explains Muslims’ insistence to hold on to their religious beliefs and cultural practices: “Over quarter of French Muslims believe legislation contradicts Sharia Law. In fact, 72 percent stick with French values, while 28 percent think otherwise … I believe it comes from low qualifications, cultural poverty and intellectual wretchedness.” Those were the words of Houari Bouissa, a teacher and specialist in Islamic history to Sputnik.

Today France equates all exterior signs of faith as a rejection of French values. The insanity of it all is that not all Muslims are technically foreign … many are 100% French, from French parents going all the way back to Charlemagne.

So my question is: does Islam sit you outside your nationality by geographic association? Do converts turn brown over night? Please excuse my poor choice of words but I feel important we use the correct terminologies when addressing racist bigotry.

There is another point I feel I need to make.

It is often that Muslim women are under aggravated pressure to “conform” to Western values to be accepted as human beings, as opposed to wretched creatures. It is often too that Muslim women feel the need to compromise their values and identity to fit in … thus making the hijab an object of hate and exclusion.

I absolutely and passionately believe that women ought to choose for themselves how they want to live Islam: hijab, no hijab, hat, no hat … it does not matter to me one bit. The hijab does not make anyone a better Muslim; it only makes you a visible one. God advises women to be modest … it is a choice. Modesty cannot be imposed it has to be lived and chosen to be valid.

Now, if Muslim women in France consciously chose to remove their headscarves for themselves, than by all means exercise your free will. If however you choose to change your identity out of a desire to conform to Western standards then what are you doing?

Changing who you are and denying your origins will only make you a non-person. No amount of secularism will make you less foreign or more white.

Colour after all is what we are talking about. French officials have, if you recall, asked Muslims to be less visible and quieter in their religious identity.

Are we all having a laugh?!

Diversity is the very definition of humanity. Why should anyone turn oneself upside down and inside out to fit within a cultural model? I was under the impression that democracy was about pluralism and civil liberties.

This actually leads me to my last point: democracy, or rather my question: what democracy?

You see Muslims and other so-called foreign entities have so far been under the impression that Western capitals valued such principles as multi-culturalism, equality, justice, civil liberties and human rights.

Imagine their surprise when they are met with contempt and prejudiced cultural grand-standing.

Let me put it to you this way: should you one day decide to travel to Saudi Arabia you will likely be aware that while there, you would have to abide by very strict rules. You will most likely check your human rights at the door and keep your tongue tightly in your pocket for in the land of Saud not a whisper of criticism is tolerated. For all its many faults … and they are MANY, the kingdom does not pretend to be a democracy. The kingdom does not even pretend to believe in human rights … it is much too busy chopping off heads to bother with such triviality. Bottom line is, Saudi Arabia is upfront about what it is: an atrocious theocracy.

France however is pretending to be democratic. France has muddied the waters by claiming one thing and implementing another. On paper France is a Republic, in practice it is a xenophobic police state.

So here is an idea: be true to who you are, and come to terms with what you are!

Secularism should not become a euphemism for fascism.

To be continued …

By Catherine Shakdam – Director of Programs for the Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies. This article was also published in the Huffington Post

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