Ed. Note: Dissent does not usually publish manifestos, but when we learned of the remarkable one below, we decided to make an exception. It was written by Tewfik Allal, an unemployed French proofreader and union activist who was born in Morocco of Algerian parents. Allal attended one of the demonstrations last winter protesting the recent law banning the Muslim head scarf in French schools and was shocked at the political slogans being chanted by Muslim fundamentalists and their sympathizers. He went home and wrote this Manifesto in collaboration with his wife, Brigitte Bardet, a teacher and feminist activist. This Manifesto seems to have inaugurated a small movement, with several hundred signatories and a list of “Les Amis du Manifeste” (Friends of the Manifesto) composed of non-Muslim intellectuals expressing their solidarity. Readers can find the original French version of the Manifesto and the list of signatories at www.manifeste.org
We are women and men of Muslim culture. Some of us are believers, others are agnostics or atheists. We all condemn firmly the declarations and acts of misogyny, homophobia, and anti-Semitism that we have heard and witnessed for a while now here in France and that are carried out in the name of Islam. These three characteristics typify the political Islamism that has been forceful for so long in several of our countries of origin. We fought against them there, and we are committed to fighting against them again-here.
Sexual Equality: A Prerequisite for Democracy
We are firmly committed to equal rights for both sexes. We fight the oppression of women who are subjected to Personal Status Laws, like those in Algeria (recent progress in Morocco highlights how far Algeria lags behind), and sometimes even in France via bilateral agreements.* We believe that democracy cannot exist without these equal rights. Accordingly, we unambiguously offer our support for the “20 ans, barakat!” (20 years is enough!) campaign of the Algerian women’s associations, demanding the definitive abolition of the two-decades-old family code.
It is also for this reason that we oppose wearing the Islamic head scarf, even if among us there are differing opinions about the law banning it from schools in France. In various countries, we have seen violence or even death inflicted on female friends or family members because they refused to wear the scarf. Even if the current enthusiasm for the head scarf [among some Muslims] in France was stimulated by discrimination suffered by immigrant children, this cannot be considered the real cause of the desire to wear it; nor can memories of a North African life...
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