– Zineb El Rhazoui: « The veil is a visual marking technique, not of those who wear it, but of those who do not. »

Zineb El Rhazoui: « The veil is a visual marking technique, not of those who wear it, but of those who do not. »


Born in Morocco, a refugee in Europe and then a French citizen, Zineb El Rhazoui is an Arab professor, sociologist of religions and journalist. She is one of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre survivors. A feminist and secular activist, she is persecuted by Islamists and France’s most protected woman, under 24-hour police protection.

French version here


« When you are a little girl in Morocco, you quickly realize that you don’t have the same rights as men. And it was out of the question for me to accept that. Why should I get half of the inheritance, when I pay the same price for everything? Why are men allowed to be polygamous? As a little girl, I quickly realized that religion was a problem, which later led me to undertake a quest for research, reading and understanding of texts, after which I became an atheist.

I went to school in Morocco where the teaching of religion was compulsory, but women did not wear the veil, or at least not the one we know today. This one appeared in the 1980s with some young women from the university circles in major cities close to emerging Islamist organizations. When they walked the street, veiled, guys would approach them: « Oh, you come out of the hammam? », because when we got out of the public baths, we would cover our hair so as not to catch cold. I was able to observe closely this country’s evolution, which is not the worst in its kind, but the fact is that radicalization was gradually increasing. At the time, it was possible to wear a skirt and use public transport, today only women who own a car can dress relatively as they wish.

Some feminists have long since capitulated in this war being waged by Islamists. Thus, in order not to be called Islamophobes, they accept male guardianship over Muslim women, particularly in the form of the veil. However, this veil in all its forms is far from being a banal fabric synonymous with freedom of expression, the right to dress as one pleases, a symbol of modesty, or spirituality. It is indeed a sexist militant instrument, to advance Islamic fascism by domesticating women. Forcing a woman to wear a garment she did not choose is violence, but rather than punishing the perpetrator, these feminists propose to live with it. This amounts to being silent in front of a woman who has a black eye for fear that she will withdraw into herself and give up all social life.

Accepting the veil and its most rigid variations in the name of freedom to dress as one wishes is the very negation of feminism. How can one accept an outfit, enacted by « heaven », and mandatory in many countries, if the offenders are physically punished in the public place. What would these pro-veil feminists say to these Saudi women that the Moutawa agents, the « Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice » quibble in the street or shopping malls, with sticks, like cattle that do not walk straight, for a strand of hair that protrudes? That their niqab is just a piece of fabric worn in the name of freedom to dress as you wish?

The Western media, in an unbearable complacency, have defended the burkini as a « freedom » and a legitimate cultural expression. I am 35 years old, and I have never seen a burkini in Morocco during my entire youth. But they appear now that Islamists have knifed women in bikinis. There were whole pages of « slut shaming » on facebook by Islamists throwing pictures of women in bathing suits saying: « Look at these miscreants, these bitches ». Moroccan beaches are not filling up with burkinis, they are emptying themselves of women. Feminists who are not bothered by the burkini do not deserve to carry the noble feminist struggle. Because they are accomplices of those who want to make women’s bodies disappear.

In France, we see how the notion of individual freedom is reclaimed to defend the veil wearers. The veil is by definition the denial of women’s freedom, but it does not matter to Islamists: they only praise the « freedom » to be Islamist when in reality it is a consent. In countries where the veil is a mandatory uniform under penalty of corporal punishment, the same Islamists do not defend the individual’s freedom to dress as one wishes. Antiracism is also diverted by them and emptied of all nobility : they will never denounce the Islamic precepts that prohibit interreligious unions as being racist. Islamists who cry out against racism make it meaningless, because for them, it is not a struggle for universalism, to erase the differences between human beings, but rather a struggle to impose their own difference as universal. Islamists denounce the racism of others because they want to have a monopoly on racism.

There is also a part of the feminist movement that accepts the veil as a « freedom » while it serves as a visual marking technique, not for those who wear it, as they claim in France, but for those who do not wear it in countries where it is legally or socially obligatory. Not to wear the veil in a context where it proliferates is to be immediately identified as not adhering to the Islamist ideology. These feminists have accepted another intellectual imposture: Islamic feminism. Since when does Islam have anything to teach us about women’s liberation?

I can imagine that those who now wear the veil, full or partial, were not forced manu militari to do so. If this had been the case, there would have been complaints, because in France, laws allow people to defend themselves. On the other hand, this is far from being a free choice. Algerian feminist Wassyla Tamzali saw hundreds of thousands of women in Algeria during the Black Decade make this « free choice » all at once. It’s strange, isn’t it ? Therefore, Wassyla Tamzali explains that the veil is not a choice, but a consent. For me, it will become a piece of clothing like any other on the day that Saudi women can wear a veil on Monday, jeans on Tuesday and a bikini on Wednesday. On that day, I will say « OK ». But as long as there are places where women are covered from head to toe and are whipped by religious police if they don’t, don’t talk to me about choices.

Those who talk about choice in France are in reality either women who have consented to wear the veil, or Islamic ideology activists who use the dialectical tools of human rights and individual freedoms to impose the denial of human rights and freedom. This is a uniform in Saudi Arabia and other countries. As a feminist, I can only be fiercely opposed to the veil, whether integral or a simple scarf, because its function remains the same: to cover the woman, to ugly her to reduce unexpected erections. It is an insult both to the woman, perceived as a sexual object to be covered, and to the man, seen as a rutting primate who cannot help but rape as soon as he sees a tuft of hair. But beware, this aversion to the veil does not mean that I deny human dignity to all women wearing it. Because behind the veil, there is a human being, who has rights. But these women have rights as individuals and citizens, not as ninjas covered from head to toe. I am referring to the speech of France’s ’’Collective against islamophobia’’, which resorts to a semantic ruse by systematically referring to « Muslim women », when in reality, if they have been rejected, it is because of the ideology they represent and not because they were born in a Muslim culture. »

On Islamophobia and Anti-Racism:

« There are no more people really representing Muslim atheists than there are people representing Muslim believers in France. I am thinking of all these self-proclaimed community representatives who represent only themselves and who should never have been interlocutors for the Republic. Muslim atheists exist, they are numerous, and I dedicate my books to them because in France, we are now designating Muslims as a race. When you criticize the Islamic ideology, you are necessarily racist. Well, no! The fact is that Muslim societies are as diverse as all societies in the world and they also have many free thinkers and atheists who are unfortunately repressed. These people are very brave. But they are not as much of a minority as one might think. We tend to forget that the first impulse of the Arab Spring was made by a libertarian youth who wanted a secular society. Of course, we know how Islamists recovered the movement. This is what is happening today in Europe. Islamists steal from struggles to which they have never contributed, they steal concepts that are not theirs, or that they even have fought. Today, these Islamists use democracy and anti-racism, even though we know that they are very far from democracy and that they support an extremely racist ideology ».

Islamophobia does not exist on Islam land. Because where Islam has the power of coercion, there is no need for such a concept. There is the offence of blasphemy, apostasy, violation of religion… Those who make statements described as « Islamophobic » in Europe, would be put in prison in the Muslim world, whipped, assaulted or murdered. The last assassination was less than a month ago : Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar was killed on his way to trial for « insulting » Islam. There, Islamists have legal means to silence all those who criticize their ideology. In Europe, they do not have these means and they cannot send us to jail. They can either kill us, like they did with Charlie Hebdo’s editorial staff. Or, if they do not want to take the terrorist route, the only way left is to use the semantic ruse of Islamophobia. To criticize their ideology is to be racist, since it would be inherent to their race…

Islamists as well as the extreme right have the same semantic tools. The far right refuses to see Muslims as individuals and citizens like others, but considers them as a community that must be governed by separate laws. Islamists also refuse that Muslims are individuals integrated into a society or that they must be subjected to the same duties as the whole society. They insist that Muslims are a community deserving free passes, which nibbles at the common foundation of secularism to create its own laws, under the pretext of cultural difference.

In « Islamophobia » there is « phobia », which means « irrational fear ». I admit that I am afraid that Islam will govern the city by a total or partial application of Sharia law. But let’s make no mistake about it: Islamophobia is an intellectual scam towards the West and is intended to be a twin brother to anti-Semitism. In Europe, anti-Semitism is something concrete that has existed in history and has been translated into laws. However, Islamophobia is only an intellectual tool to silence those who cannot be silenced by coercive means by accusing them of racism. Because racism in France, for example, is not an opinion but a crime. As a result, today the notion of Islamophobia, this intellectual fraud in the form of a trap into which left-wing or self-righteous people have fallen, has entered the Larousse with this definition: « Hostility towards Islam, towards Muslims.’’ It’s tragic.

This word of Islamophobia originated in the Iranian Islamic revolution and was then used to describe counter-revolutionaries. This word is nowadays dubbed in the West. This notion has also been adopted by the European Council, hence a real problem: we no longer distinguish between what people intrinsically are and the criticism of ideas. If hostility towards Islam were the same as hostility towards Muslims, then criticism of Islam would be prohibited de facto as it would be considered racist. Those who promote the notion of Islamophobia with the support of anti-racism useful idiots provide weapons to Islamists and convey an ultimately racist discourse or, in any case, a kind of paternalism towards a community called « Muslims » ‒ a word that has replaced « Arab ». To affirm that this religion would be free from all criticism and that, beware: « It is a religion of peace and love and that it must not be touched », means that Arabs are congenitally condemned to be governed by their customs. Isn’t that racism?

I know people who develop a very rational criticism of Islam, but who will never openly criticize it for fear of being called racists. That too is reverse racism. I do not allow anyone to make an argumentum ad hominem. When I say something, whether my idea is intelligent or not, I demand that the person respond to my idea and not to my origins.’

In France, one can hardly mention Islam without preceding it with the usual precaution: « Islam is a religion of peace and love ». This indicates that there is a problem. When speech is confiscated, we are facing totalitarianism. I see absolutely no reason why Islam should be the only religion of peace and love in the world. Let’s come back to reason: Islam is a religion written by Arabian Bedouins 15 centuries ago, and it is strongly influenced by their context. To claim that it could govern our society and morals today is a heresy. It is essential to return to the written sources of religion to understand to what extent they are – like other monotheistic religions’ writings ‒ a summary of myths and barbarism. The specific problem of Islam is not so much the archaism of its texts, but the collective lie that they would be texts that promote peace and love. In reality, there is much more peace, love and justice in the French constitution than in the Quran. As long as we do not tell Islamists that we are not fooled by their religion’s message, they will continue to want to make it universal.

The cultural differentiation advocated by some anti-racists is the antithesis of anti-racism. To accept a totalitarian ideology that represses women, homosexuals and otherness in general as the legitimate expression of a cultural difference is to deny certain cultures the rights that we ask for ourselves. Human rights, equality between men and women, are not the prerogative of whites, they are for everyone. Unfortunately, anti-racist differentialists have allowed Islamists to have a monopoly on the definition of an entire culture. The most dangerous form of racism today is not someone who would go up on a roof and shout: « the crooks out! », because whoever would do that would be subjected to anti-racist laws. The most pernicious form of racism is that of considering « Muslims » as a race/culture/religion condemned to be governed by its customs. Praising the ‘Enlightenment’ when it comes to Western culture and denying it to Islam (with a capital I), that’s racism.

For me, anti-racist differentialists are not the only collaborationists of Islamic fascism. There is also a part of the far left that lets anything go for Islamists because it is condescending enough (and lacks political intelligence above all) to consider the « Muslims » as a new proletariat. One only has to look at the fate reserved to communists by the Islamist regimes to defeat this premise. It is also enough to recall that Islamist ideology is financed by the richest in the world: Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to realize the extreme left political stupidity.

I have lived in Morocco all my life, I was born in Casablanca, I graduated from high school in Casa, I speak Arabic, I studied maths, philosophy, physics… In Arabic, I studied the sociology of religions, participated in the 2011 Arab Spring, called for freedom there. I have been arrested several times in Morocco, worked as a journalist, taught Arabic at the French University of Egypt, in Cairo, etc. I don’t have an identity problem. I am not someone who grew up here in France with a kind of identity to which I am assigned, but that would be a lost identity to which I do not have access. For these young people, who were born here, on the scale of civilizational advancement, people like me are ‘’little Berb’’. We are inferior to them, we speak their grandmother’s language, in fact we are their lost identity. All those who have had an identity crisis such as Kouachi or Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who have trouble pronouncing vowels in Arabic and who will put on a Saudi outfit thinking they are getting closer to their Berber or Maghrebian identity. I am their lost identity. It is futile to call me Islamophobic. »