Europe Daily Bulletin No. 12638

19 January 2021
Contents Publication in full By article 31 / 31
Kiosk / Kiosk
No. 029

Un voile sur le monde


In this work, Franco-Tunisian journalist Chantal De Rudder brings the reader into a broad investigation of the veil, its various forms, its significance, what it says about the societies or communities which impose them and the women who choose to wear them, the role they are assigned and what they are used to hide. She does so making no concessions and in full independence, in full respect of the human element, without moving away from a feminist dimension, from her commitment to the freedom of expression and, more generally, fundamental rights. The investigation or story, which reads like an excellent novel, is richly documented, full of memories, reports that have punctuated her career as a senior reporter with Nouvel observateur and interviews conducted on the ground in recent years. Portraits, humour and atmosphere complement a story that takes us from Iran to Spain, via Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Denmark and the United Kingdom.


De Rudder does not simply interpret the historical and political logic behind this small length of cloth (the scarves worn by certain women in the 1960s and 1970s) that has grown with the proliferation through all European societies of hijabs and niqabs, but also asks the women who wear them about their reasons for doing so and our frequently naive societies about their reactions. She reminds us about something that our Western politicians and a great many intellectuals did not want to know or wanted to forget and are currently striving to ignore, for fear of laying themselves open to accusations of Islamophobia: the full veil is not a religious requirement, as the Koran states simply that women are obliged to cover their throats, in other words the general part of the body that even Tartuffe is not permitted to see! To wear a veil over one’s head and hair was a practice, a fashion or a religious requirement, depending on the temple one frequented, dating back to antiquity, long before Jesus and the Prophet. This practice was so deeply entrenched that following the advent of Christianity, women were required to cover their heads in church and nuns still retain the vestiges of this today in their dress, at least in convents which require them to wear “uniform”. As De Rudder points out, up to about thirty years ago, the most women ever wore was a small square of fabric, even in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East, and were no less Muslim for it and, with the exception of areas where Wahhabism, Salafism, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban and other conservative mullahs are rife, many women from those very countries reject dress conventions that are alien to them and are frequently dismayed by what they see happening in Europe today.


Over the course of 30 years, the veil and the veiled woman have, just like allegations of Islamophobia frequently put into people’s mouths, become instruments of communication aiming to normalise a political Islam that is seeking to impose Sharia values and rules. The presence of women veiled from head to foot in the street and at demonstrations aims to make a totalitarian Islamist ideology acceptable, in very much the same way as gay pride has done for homosexuality, the author notes.


Veil and blasphemy, blasphemy and veil, the Western nations constantly come up against this infernal pairing, developed by Khomenei to spread confusion in the West”, De Rudder stresses, adding: “once in power, the Ayatollah – whom France foolishly gave refuge, thereby allowing him to perfect his knowledge of European societies during the Glorious Thirties and mass Muslim immigration – launched his bone of contention at an old continent that he knew to be in the middle of a huge process of demographic change. Khomenei has died, but the gulf he succeeded in creating, which has distorted our ability to live together for decades now, lives on” (our translation). (Olivier Jehin)


Chantal De Rudder. Un voile sur le monde (available in French only). Éditions de l’Observatoire. ISBN: 979-19-329-0429-9. 301 pages. €21,00



Le Moyen-Orient et le monde


This collective work given over to the highly complex Middle East and its interactions with the world includes, amongst others, an excellent article by historian and sociologist Hamit Bozarsian, who examines the central role played by Western domination in the formation, then the transformations of the Arab world for nearly two centuries. In his article, the author stresses that in the region, “debates on the West appear more sterile than ever, as they feed on the idea of an eternal, disembodied monster, weak because it is ‘depraved’ and ‘effeminate’, yet constantly revived by its inherent anti-Islamic tendencies” (our translation throughout). He adds: “this anti-Westernism is in fact a smokescreen, clumsily hiding the responsibility of those holding power, the elites and, more generally, Arab and Muslim societies in their own tragedy. For how much longer will they be able to continue to deny that the most traumatic wars of the Muslim world were not external but internal, just like the fitna (‘disagreement’) that broke out after the death of the Prophet or the wars between the Ottoman and Persian empires in the 16th century, those that devastated Iran and Iraq in the 1980s and have made Syria into an ‘open-air cemetery’ in the 2010s? The future of Arab and Muslim societies will depend on the answer to this question”.


The political scientist Frédéric Charillon notes the “failure of the strategic thought, diplomatic practice and military expertise of America and its European allies” in the region. “The Euro-Mediterranean initiatives of Barcelona in 1995, to accompany a peace process that already no longer existed, stumbled and fell over a regional agenda that was too dramatic for the technical proposals of the European Union”, the author stresses, adding: “Sarkozy’s attempt in 2008 to relaunch a ‘Union for the Mediterranean’, without having sufficiently consulted his European partners in advance, broke down over the Palestinian drama (the Israeli operation Cast Lead in Gaza at the end of 2008), then the revolutions of 2011. Today, Europe no longer claims to have a role to play, other than reiterating its commitment to principles, with no illusions as to its capacity to save them”. The United States seems to want to leave a Middle East where they have not succeeded, leaving the field open to others, Turkey, Russia and Iran in particular. Even so, “the non-Arab regional powers do not seem prepared to take over the role long claimed for itself by America”, writes Charillon, who argues that the “future of the region could be decided more in the outcome of popular protests (such as those in Lebanon or, further afield, in Algeria), in the impact of television series, an intellectual renewal or online activism, than in the geopolitical plans drawn up in Washington, gambles made in Moscow or discourse repeated in Brussels”.


Will the European Union award itself the resources it needs to enforce the law in the Middle East? By way of attempting to answer this question, journalist Isabelle Avran makes an excellent job of reiterating the weaknesses of an EU that is scarred by internal divisions caused or maintained by certain foreign players, such as the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is prepared, if needs be, to sacrifice the memory of the Shoah for a blocking minority at the Council. She nonetheless considers that if there are any further annexations, the European Union will be forced to make a decision: “either it contents itself with statements the clarity of which is equalled only by their ineffectiveness, as there will be no effectiveness behind the words, with incalculable consequences, or it resolutely defends the rule of law against the law of the jungle, so that there is finally a possibility of achieving permanent peace”. (OJ)


Bertrand Badie and Dominique Vidal (edited by). Le Moyen-Orient et le monde – L’état du monde 2021 (available in French only). La Découverte. ISBN: 978-2-3480-6402-9. 260 pages. €20,00



Ce qui vient


Ce qui vient” plunges us headlong into the “fourth dimension”. Journalist Stéphane Paoli offers something delightful, which I have no hesitation in describing as a literary UFO. This essay, which can be read in a single setting, is as astonishing for its erudition, which takes us far from the stomping ground of political current affairs, as for the quality of the style in which it is written. Any attempt to sum up this veritable kaleidoscope of interviews is inevitably doomed to failure and I shall not attempt it. Like a spider, the author weaves a web between the knowledge and perspectives of 15 individuals with a broad range of professional specialities (astrophysics, anthropology, genetics, plate tectonics, IT, etc.) to sharpen the reader’s awareness of an infinite number of likely developments and uncertain hypotheses.


So, what could the world look like in the future? Here are a few of the characteristics, taken from the unfolding of the essay. “What is coming is that the animals (…) are forcing, or inviting, scientists to modify the epistemological frameworks in which they work. The intention, in other words the wish, the desire to act, is part of the register of animals and is expressed with our own intentions”, Paoli writes, urging us to rethink the notion of the centrality of man in nature and the universe, which physics also refutes (our translation throughout).


What is coming is a time machine. In 2022, the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch the mission Euclid, with the aim of observing the celestial sphere for six years, above and below the Milky Way. The depth of Euclid’s vision will allow us to go back 10 billion years in time since, as the speed of light is finite (300,000 km/s), looking a long way away means that we will be seeing the universe’s past. The Euclid probe will map twelve billion galaxies and their movements in three dimensions. The distribution of dark matter and that of the galaxies will tell us the story of the expansion of the universe and will tell us whether dark energy is due to an unknown energy and thus whether we need to revise Einstein’s theory of relativity”.


What is coming is “the return of what Shaman communities call ‘the time of myth’, when new forms of relationships and mutual understanding will come about, to make cohabitation possible”. “What is coming is the other face of the Janus that is the Internet, who, in the horizontal nature of the networks, is building a new political landscape fed into by the multitude of still and video images, images of climate chaos, multiple cultures and their imaginations. In many different forms, they have started to call the old alliance between political liberalism and economic liberalism into question, they are holding dictatorships and ‘démocratures’ (‘democtatorships’), an illuminating neologism, to account, they are speaking out against the lack of an alternative narrative, they are looking to change direction away from the Left-Right field”. “What is coming, more effective than the subject of the inequalities that are of concern to the global society, is the environmental threat and its generational dimension. The paradigm change must be an action by youth in favour of a return to a common good and its social construction against individualism, for solidarity between all ages, opening up the markets to new forms of trade, putting nature back into everyday life”.


What is coming – and these are the words of anthropologist Marc Augé – “is that boredom stems today from the fact that there is nothing on offer apart from a violent religious proselytism”. He adds: “I believe that if I said that religions will disappear, people would laugh in my face. But even so, I believe that the form taken by religious movements is showing a state of paroxysm, signalling its forthcoming end”. “We are currently building a human society on a new, planetary scale. It is an accelerated cultural hybrid. Even crises speak of what is at stake. Europe, it is true, is not doing too well, but we have to remember (…) what it was when I was young, in the 1940s. It was the German dream. There has been progress. It is possible that the current convulsions will precede a birth”.


And why not conclude with another quotation from Marc Augé: “reasonable optimism is more reasonable than pessimism. I am betting on intelligence. Throughout History, intelligence has won out and if we compare the centuries, we can believe in the notion of progress. I am tired of all the dandies condemning us to disaster”. (OJ)


Stéphane Paoli. Ce qui vient (available in French only). Éditions Les liens qui libèrent. ISBN: 979-10-209-0894-0. 282 pages. €20,00



Pour un nouveau cadre institutionnel de la politique de défense commune


Twenty-two years after Saint-Malo, 11 years after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, we cannot escape the observation that neither the CFSP nor the CSDP has had the anticipated results, even though these were listed with a great economy of words in 1998: ‘the European Union needs to be in a position to play its full role on the international stage’”, Frédéric Mauro writes in this analysis. It is hard to disagree with him. To break free of this situation, in which diplomats have, together with various political and military alliances, snuffed out any effort to develop European defence, condemning the European Union to be “nothing more than the power of the word, weak amongst the strong and strong amongst the weak”, the author calls for the creation of a European Security Council. This would consist of a “limited formation of the European Council”, allowing decisions to be made quickly and efficiently. Only decisions on launching military operations (missions in the true sense of the word) would be made unanimously, thereby allowing the other 90% of decisions, with no major short-term consequences, to be made by majority. Mauro also argues that the “EEAS should be geared to purely diplomatic matters and leave military affairs to the military, preferably under the political authority of a High Representative (or Commissioner) for Defence, a post to be created”. A true European headquarters for operations and a former parliamentary control involving the European Parliament would complete this structure. (OJ)


Frédéric Mauro. Pour un nouveau cadre institutionnel de la politique de défense commune: la mise en place d’un conseil de sécurité européen (available in French only). IRIS. This analysis can be downloaded free of charge from the website of the French Institut de relations internationales et stratégiques: http://www.iris-france.org