Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Jews and Muslims

Nouille wrote:

Two Muslim teenage girls in eastern France found a creative way to both abide by a new law banning headscarves in state schools and keep their heads covered -- they wore wigs.

"It's annoying but we have to deal with it," explained 18-year-old Fatima, who has worn a headscarf since she was 10 years old, as she arrived at her high school in Bischheim north of Strasbourg.

The teen's face was framed in a wig of straight medium-length dark brown hair and her headscarf remained tied in a knot around her neck so she could put it back on upon leaving the school.

Órthodox Jews do it, why not all muslims?

Well, the Orthodox Jews do it in order to seperate them from society. The Kosher diet, the clothing prescriptions, circumcision are all designed to maintain the ethnic group in a Multi-Ethnic setting. And it works well as 2.500 year of Jewish survival as a distinct ethnic group attests.

Christianity has abolished the restrictions on food (Acts 10: 10-17), cloths and the institute of the circumcision. This eased the gradual conversion of the Roman empire.

Mohammed imitated the Jewish particularities of diet, outward appearance and circumcision. The idea is to separate the ingroup from the outgroup and to create clear boundaries.

The reason why France and many Western nations allow the Jewish Orthodox to maintain their particularities is because they are a stable demographic group. Where the Jews rapidly grow due to immigration or high birth rates Western Nations have historically taken measures to weaken the boundaries between Jews and Gentile, occassionally also resorting to more extreme measures.

The key is the demographic threat. Restriction religious fashions is taking a cosmetic approach towards a looming threat, that needs to be dealt with in a fundamental manner: repatriation.


Shangrila said...

There is a fantastic book that you should know about that covers this subject in detail! Male and Female Circumcision: Among Jews, Christians and Muslims (كتاب ختان الكور والإنا) by well-known intactivist and Swiss Institute of Comparative Law Professor Sami Aldeeb. Check it out!

Esther said...

Hi Snouck,

Jews do various things for different. For example, head covering for women is for the same reason Muslims do it - modesty. Same goes for modest clothing. The current "ultra orthodox" type of clothing is simply because they don't want to change in anything.

The idea of separation by clothing, at least for most of the Jews' history, was due to the Christians/Muslims wanting to keep them separate from the majority, not the other way around.

As for France - Jews are as much affected as Muslims. A Jewish woman cannot put on hair covering in a public school and a Jewish boy cannot put on his kippah (skull cap, showing respect for God). However, most orthodox Jews in France go to orthodox Jewish schools. The Jewish kids who go to public schools have to deal with so much anyway (like taking tests on the Sabbath, writing is prohibited according to Jewish law), that this additional restriction is just that, an additional reason why they can't go to the public schools and keep their religion.

Snouck said...

Well, Esther if you have cover your hair in order to be modest like the Haredi say then all those who do not follow their pious instructions is not modest. One can argue about whether the Jews or their host societies wanted to be separate. But for a large part of the history of Europe the Jews were a more advanced (literacy, knowledge, income) minority living amongst a backward majority. So which side will want to remain apart? For the Christians it was only a strengthening of their community when Jews joined. And because of the low numbers Jews were no demographic threat, apart from instances in Poland. Finally the Rabbis opposed the laws of Napoleon when he made the Jews equal to the citizens of the surrounding communities and for a long time Rabbis tried to stop Jews from leaving the ghetto's and learning about the ways of Western Europeans. This is also a theme in European Jewish literature during the 19th and 20th century, the difficulties of Jews in leaving the orthodox communities and becoming active citizens of Western society. "Asher Lev" from Chaim Potok is a good relatively recent example.

In short I think both the Jewish leadership and the European Royalty who needed the finance of the Court Jews were interested in separating the communities.

Finally there is also the appeal of the sect which can be expressed by codes of dress, speech and behaviour, such as one can also observe in the small Christian churches or for instance modern subcultures.

A system of separation that endures for 2.000 years need the co-operation of all parties.