Bernard-Henri Lévy: ‘Hijab Day’ at Sciences Po
I realize that this is a minor event that has no more importance than we are willing, here and elsewhere, to give it. And yet I cannot quite get over the “Hijab Day” staged last Wednesday (April 20) by a group of students at the Institute of Political Sciences in Paris.
That things have reached this sorry pass at one of France’s best schools, one where future government officials are supposed to be trained and where what is left of the spirit of republican democracy should be preserved and cultivated, that its students should descend to such an absurd and obscene provocation, that by putting on display (and thus, whether intentionally or not) celebrating a symbol so deeply inconsistent with the founding principles of democracy—all this is nothing short of staggering.
It does not matter which way you look at the issue. Whether the veil is required or desired; a symbol of the law of one’s fathers, brothers, and bosses or the expression of a choice; a mark of the violence done to the one wearing it or of a submission recognized as such and willingly borne. In either case, it signifies the effacement of women, their defeat, their formal inequality. In both cases, and, come to think about it, in the second perhaps more than in the first—that is, in situations where the abasement is premeditated and self-aware more than when it is the product of alienation but dimly perceived—it is the visible face of an ideology and, in certain countries, of a political order being battled by women and men who reject the new form of fascism that is radical Islam.
After Hajib Day, what next? Sharia Day? Jihad parties? Must we look forward now to Stoning 101, complete with hands-on workshops that enable us to “open up the discussion,” to “better understand” the phenomenon, and to do away with the “stigmatization” attached to this fine form of punishment?
Bernard-Henri Lévy is one of France’s most famed philosophers, a journalist, and a bestselling writer. He is considered a founder of the New Philosophy movement and is a leading thinker on religious issues, genocide, and international affairs. His 2013 book, Les Aventures de la vérité—Peinture et philosophie: un récit, explores the historical interplay of philosophy and art. His new play, “Hotel Europe,” which premiered in Sarajevo on June 27, 2014, and in Paris on September 9, is a cry of alarm about the crisis facing the European project and the dream behind it.
This article was translated from the French by Steven B. Kennedy.