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What to Wear

And now we turn to the world of music, and France.

“Since her 2007 album Dans ma Bulle (Inside My Bubble) debuted at the top of the charts by selling 50K copies in its first week, Diam’s has become the hottest emcee in France. Not the hottest female emcee, but the hottest emcee in general. Diam’s is known as a feminist rebel who spits rhymes about war, racism, poverty, and injustice–something that has placed the rapper in the line of French media fire. Unable to handle the constant public scrutiny she faced as a controversial celebrity, Diam’s retreated from the limelight in 2008 to go on a personal introspective journey. That journey led her to Islam, a faith to which she has now converted saying, “Modern medicine was not able to heal my soul, so I turned to religion.”

“Given France’s current hostility to observant Muslims (particularly Muslim women), it probably should come as no surprise that French feminists have been quite vocally intolerant of Diam’s decision. Safia Labdi, president of Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Whores nor Submissives), told Le Parisien, “With this new image, Diam’s represents submission, tradition and isolation. She was lost, and found herself by wearing the veil. This is something that we unfortunately see with a lot of young girls.”

Isn’t it amazing how much of a lightning rod the headscarf is in Europe, especially in France? You would think the artist was advocating that everyone needs to dress as she does. In reality the headscarf, like minarets in Switzerland, is nothing but a strawman that advocates of intolerance can use to rationalize their prejudices. In a free society like France it should be up to each young woman to decide how she presents herself. Some, for religious or cultural reasons, choose the headscarf, others do not. Trying to force people to assimilate usually has the exact opposite effect. Being French can also mean wearing the headscarf and it is up to the French to learn this lesson.

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