After two and a quarter hours of traveling, the two friends finally reached their destination, Paris, which Yousef had never visited before. They left the railway station (Michael seemed to know Paris very well) and he revealed that there was an intimate relationship between him and Paris.
Michael: Yousef, this is Paris, the capital of light… This is from where the world learned the emblem of liberty, fraternity and equality. This is where the principles of human rights were raised.
Yousef: (Surprised and pointing ahead.) Look! Look Michael! This woman is being stopped by a policeman, though it doesn't seem like she has committed a crime or any contravention.
Michael: Oh! Her face is covered with a veil. The act of banning the wearing of al-Niqab (face-covering veil) in public spaces in France was applied two days ago. Maybe he’s stopping her to fine her for violating this law, or to perhaps even arrest her.
Yousef: (Sarcastically and rhetorically.) In public places?! This means that the law permits the woman to wear al-Niqab inside her house... Masha'a Allah! ( ) What a liberty for women and Muslims! I do now recall this law and also remember that it is not applied in France only, but there is also a similar law in Belgium, and that it was applied by a country north of Italy too. And this brings to mind that there are raging efforts in Holland and Australia and other countries to pass similar acts. In Australia, policemen have been authorized by the government to uncover the faces of veiled women in order to identify them.
Michael: I personally believe that this banning prevents women from practicing their personal liberty in wearing what they want and passing this law is considered a retrogression of liberties in France; it is a real prejudice on personal freedoms in a country that has more than one hundred acts that demand others freedoms.
But here they see that it goes along with the principles of their secular country that prohibits the use of religious slogans. Moreover, French authorities describe al-Niqab as a new type of slavery which, on these grounds, will never be accepted by the French Republic.
Yousef: Secular principles ban the country or its organizations from the use of religious slogans, but they don't enforce the ban on individuals. So, why is this ban enforced upon only Muslims? Does it apply to the woman who wears a cross on her chest or those wearing nuns' uniforms?! How odd is their notion of slavery?! Isn't driving women to nudeness and allowing any man to enjoy her body a form of slavery? But when she willingly covers her whole body, it is then called slavery? (Sarcastically) Yes, sir, it is a form of slavery indeed! (Seriously) It is a slavery to God; the Lord of all creatures.
Now I understand the concept of liberty used in the French revolutionary slogan… it is the liberty from any commitment to God and from worshipping Him; not the liberty from being subdued by the creatures. This liberty originated from the authority of the secular state that occupied the status of God and monopolized the distribution of this liberty; permitting it to whomever and delimiting it however they wanted to. They used to say, "Your liberty ends where others' liberty starts." Do they consider looking at the bodies of women a liberty and right, for which the liberty of Muslim women should be restricted?! It is not a matter of the hair or a face veil, but it all boils down to Europe’s fear of Islam.
Michael: Don't make a big thing about it, Mr. Yousef. In Europe, many Muslims live and enjoy their rights, just like others, and have a chance of education and job opportunities which are not available in their own countries.
Yousef: I’m not making a big thing about it, but there is a lot of evidence that proves what I call 'Islamaphobia'.
Michael: Like what?
Yousef: Like prohibiting building minarets in Switzerland; the guardian of human rights; the country of neutralism and the Geneva Conventions. What harm or problems can be caused to the society by the minarets in a country in which Muslims do not constitute more than 4%?! There are only four minarets there!! It is crystal clear that this prohibition is a result of their phobia and aggressive attitudes towards Islam.
Michael: Though I personally don't support (or approve of) this prohibition, I understand that they view these minarets as a contradiction of the values of their state and also as a danger that threatens the identity of their country.
Yousef: Of course, when taking into consideration that this prohibition doesn't include all the religious symbols of the temples; like church towers and Jewish temples, then I come to realize the limits of secularism upon which their country is established, as they claim, and the reality of their so-called equity ... And it doesn’t stop there, they have proceeded to take down each and every symbol of Islam, even if it is Prophet Muhammad himself (mercy and blessings be upon him), as we have seen in the crisis of the offensive caricature of our Prophet that took place in Denmark and other countries that took part in this aggression.
Michael: Sir, this is freedom of speech and in our country there is nothing considered sacred or prohibited with regards to freedom of speech. Even Jesus Christ himself and other religious symbols have had their share of criticism and ridicule.
Yousef: But you have sacred things which cannot be touched; not by freedom of speech, nor by freedom of scientific research. After publishing the offensive caricature in the Danish newspapers, the infection seemed to spread to a number of other European countries and was adopted and defended by a number of western governments; though it defames the greatest religious symbols of one and a half milliard Muslims, (disgusted) and they refused to apologize using the plea of freedom of speech... But a Dutch appellate court fined a group of Dutch Muslims 2500 Euros for publishing a caricature suggesting that the Holocaust was an imagination of the Jews and that they exaggerated over its reality. The court justified this, on the basis of the European court of Human Rights, which makes a big deal over the freedom of speech and defends it strongly, excluding any denial of the Holocaust or any underestimation of it from the limits of freedom of speech.
In 1998, one of the French courts judged the French author Garaudy on the charge of questioning the Jewish Holocaust, for just questioning the commonly accepted number of the European Jewish genocide carried out by the Nazis.
In 2006, an Austrian court sentenced the British Historian David Irving to three years imprisonment for denying the widely accepted details about the Jewish Holocaust.
In 2009, the German judicial authorities fined the British Catholic bishop, Richard Williamson, 10,000 Euros because he declared that the number of Jewish victims that died in the Nazi genocide ranged between only 200,000 and 300,000 persons.
And there are many others who were not able to exercise their right of freedom of research and freedom of speech in this so called “sanctuary”.
Michael: Definitely, a long history of mutual enmity between Christians and Muslims, in addition to the recent cases of bigotry and Islamic violence, makes a lot of people fear Islam in a way that has no comparison, for example, Hinduists and Buddhists. Do you deny that some of the Muslims behavior played a significant role in creating this phobia of Islam?
Yousef: Here we come really close to the reality of it all. I don’t deny that the behavior of some individuals and sects of Muslims create the pretences that are exploited by hostile parties in stirring up enmity towards and a phobia of Islam and Muslims. Meanwhile, we should put things in their proper place and give them their true size. We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that there are other dimensions for the hostile campaign against Islam and Muslims. Using these actions that you have mentioned, they intend to achieve the goals of these dimensions in the interest of racial groups or groups that are anti-Islam and against Muslims. If we trace the actions objectively and impartially, we shall find that there is no religious or racial sect that does not have some members who exhibit some hostile or criminal actions. However, drawing attention to these actions, camouflaging them, or even passing over them places some actions in the highlight so they are observed and followed, while others are forgotten.
Michael: What do you mean by other dimensions?
Yousef: I shall mention some, but not all:
In the past, Europe opened the door for Arabs and Muslims to immigrate for certain purposes; among which were: increasing the European population to compensate for the imbalanced increasing population resulting from the disorganization of the European family and Europeans turning away from giving birth. Of course this openness was not aimed at the elderly who were absorbed with the Islamic customs and traditions, rather they sought the new generation that would be born in the West and that could be easily submitted to a process of cultural molding; in order to form the social, cultural and civilizational tissue in the west fifty years later. This is how the western strategists planned.
However, these strategists then noticed that the Islamic awakening which started in the Islamic World had moved to the Western World and had become an obstacle in the completion of merging Muslim immigrants and their sons into the western civilizational tissue. In this way, the children of the veiled women or the committed Islamic families are more exposed to being adherent to their religious values and genuine Islamic principles; which those strategists consider as an obstacle in the face of fully implementing their policy of merging.
This generation of the children of Muslims is a source of concern for they threaten to disperse the merging projects in the west. Thus the west found itself confronting a real problem in the emergence of a developing human mass that carries the characteristics of a civilizational identity which is different from that of the western one.
Then, the main reason for these racial campaigns is the west’s feeling of bitterness due to the dangers of their loss of identity, which resulted in the disturbance of any Islamic symbol or even its appearance. They fear that if they pass over these simple aspects, then the rest of the Islamic system will crawl all over them. Therefore they decided to kill it in the cradle. The clash of civilization has to deal with Islam now, as expressed in the call raised by the American thinker, Samuel Phillips Huntington, in his book “The Clash of Civilizations”, which describes the intellectual and political currents in the west.
Michael: We have arrived at the hotel and the topic you have opened needs a lot of discussion.