“We must rigorously distinguish those who wear the abaya from Islam as such”

“We must rigorously distinguish those who wear the abaya from Islam as such”

The abaya has unleashed and fueled inexhaustible controversies for several weeks and even more so in recent days given the start of the school year. I observe this with circumspection, and also a touch of weariness and dismay. Having spoken about it with colleagues recently, I am far from being the only one in this situation. This outfit polarizes, electrifies and excessively focuses public attention, for one reason among others which does not dare to appear what it is: hypersensitivity, in this case uncontrollable, towards the visible signs of real or presumed belonging to Islam in society, at school and elsewhere.

Some, more in favor of banning any conspicuous or ostentatious sign at school, who consciously or not associate the expression with terrorism, only want to see it as yet another provocation, attempt at destabilization and work of undermining, conduct for a long time by the certified ideologues of Islamism or political Islam, following a perfectly rehearsed plan.

A serious misinterpretation

However, in this case it is a serious misunderstanding, to which this hypersensitivity leads precisely, porous from this point of view to a functionalist, if not conspiratorial, conception of social reality in all respects: men, preachers and other sermonizers, would teleguide behind the scenes, particularly on social networks, these young girls, urging them to wear specifically Islamic clothing and, in this regard, continue to defy legal prohibitions to “test the Republic” and advance the cause of Islam . I do not deny the recovery of Muslim men, which may exist here or there, but it is neither first nor majority for the subject that interests us.

This misinterpretation also draws on regular approximations and obvious confusions, both on the fact Islamic And Islamist. Let’s take the time to demonetize a few, for the sake of truth, avoiding having to comment (this is neither our function nor our priority) on the merits or not of the ban. Everyone, in this matter, will make their own religion.

Not a legitimate symbol

It is important, above all, to remember that we must distinguish as rigorously as possible those who wear the abaya, Muslim or not, from Islam as such. In other words, it is not because the garment in question is worn by Muslim women that it is in itself or thereby becomes a symbol legitimate of the Islamic religion; it is in no way coextensive with it.

If we refer to renowned lexicographers in this respect, such as Ibn Manzûr (1233-1311) or Kazimirski (1808-1887), the abaya designates a piece of fabric, a piece of clothing, neither more nor less; above all, it is not tied to any religious obligation whatsoever, or to any specific Muslim fashion. Furthermore, in the French case, in the current state of our knowledge, no collective actor belonging more or less to the heritage of the Muslim Brotherhood, or stamped “Brotherist”, endorses an “Islamic” reading of the phenomenon nor does not promote the wearing of this garment, by endorsing, even from a very distance, undertakings of disobedience.

An extensive definition of Islamism

However, unless we adopt an extensive definition of Islamism, and therefore anti-sociological, which would cover conservative behavior up to and including, there is Islamism only when there is a collective, organized approach, theologically and politically. motivated, with activists coordinated among themselves, with a real social base.

Furthermore, if there is now a politicization of the abaya, this was not led or orchestrated by those concerned, but followed, from a strict chronological point of view, the publicized controversies and the contradictory interventions of a plurality of actors, starting with political personnel, whether they are in favor of the ban or not.

A harmful Manichaeism

More significantly, what we do not see or pretend not to see sufficiently in this affair is the feminine agency which is indeed at work, and the latter openly challenges, in addition to men in general and other anti-veil feminists, by provocation or conviction, the prescriptions and recommendations of the most conservative Muslim preachers.

But, alas, a prejudicial Manichaeism predominates: these women are either manipulated, therefore manipulatable, or manipulative; no kind of “positive” autonomy is granted to them. Now, what sense is there in wearing an abaya without accompanying it with a veil or a scarf, considered obligatory by many theologians?

The legislator’s impasse

I obviously do not deny the religious significance that young women can attribute to the abaya, but we must admit with complete objectivity that without the veil it is no more than a garment or an assortment like any other, to the extent that women, in the Gulf or outside the predominantly Muslim world, wear this outfit, giving it no religious connotation.

The legislator finds himself in an impasse because, failing to judge stricto sensu the words which accompanies the abaya and its justifications, he instead relies on the presumed intentions of its users. In our opinion, certain sectors of the State are giving in to a moralizing reading of social behavior, linked to religion in general and Islam in particular, giving rise to “soft” or more “hard” forms of authoritarian pushes, precisely by seeking to regulate the world views of members as they do. This never bodes well for the community, in a regime that wants to remain democratic, liberal and therefore pluralist.

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