Burqa-bla-bla, by Serge Halimi – translated from the French

Originally published in Le Monde Diplomatique, April 2010. For the longest time, it remained un-translated, but now that I’ve finally translated it, I notice that it’s been done by them too… and better. I’ll still publish my own – out of sheer pig-headed-ness, I suppose:

It seems that there are more French people who know the number of minarets in Switzerland (four) and the number of “burqas” in France (three hundred and sixty-seven [1]), than those who are aware that the Treasury has lost twenty billion euros as a result of a “technical” decision of the executive.

Eighteen months back, in fact, instead of limiting its rescue of the banking sector to buying shares, which could later have been sold for a nice profit, the French government preferred to give them loans with un-hoped-for conditions… for the banks, that is. The twenty billion euros they won for their shareholders is almost as much as the Social Security service’s deficit last year (22 billion euros). And forty times the amount of money the State saves when, for every two retiring officials, it replaces [/recruits] only one.

The electoral rehabilitation of the National Front, and more generally of the extreme right in Europe, is not entirely un-connected with the distribution of public attention between the beam of inflamed subaltern polemics and the mote of high-priority subjects that they pretend are too difficult to understand for ordinary mortals*. The fiasco of the regional elections safely behind him, Sarkozy will now get down to the “pension reform”. The social and financial stakes being considerable, we know already that the French government will work to distract the gallery by re-launching the “burqa debate”.

To counter this maneuver certainly does not mean that one gets bogged down in muddy terrain by giving the impression of defending an obscurantist symbol. And even less to accuse of racism the feminists – men and women – who legitimately condemn it. But how can one not be amused when a Right whose destiny has almost everywhere been associated with that of the Church, with patriarchy and with moral order should suddenly discover this boundless love for secularism, feminism and free-thinking. For this Right too, Islam accomplishes miracles!

In 1988, Mr. George H. Bush succeeded Mr. Reagan after a campaign of remarkable demagogy [2], during which he demanded that the burning of the Stars and Stripes be criminalised – an act that is committed between one and seven times per year… With the courage that we can imagine, more than 90% of American parliamentarians adopted a repressive measure that went in this direction – which was annulled by the Supreme Court. At the same time, one of the biggest scandals of the economic history of the United States erupted, that of the Savings & Loans associations deregulated by Congress, which had been pillaged by swindlers, emboldened by senators whose campaigns they had financed. In 1988, no one or almost no one, had warned of the danger of such a rip-off, even though it was already known. Too complicated, and in any case, the defence of the national flag was on everyone’s mind.

The American taxpayer paid 500 billion dollars for the Savings & Loans scandal. We will soon discover what the “burqa” really hides. And how much it costs.

* The mote and the beam (or plank) is a French expression used to highlight the contrast between two things, especially with respect to how they are perceived. It derives from Scripture, Luke 6:41.

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