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Algeria: Colonial Attempt to Eradicate the Muslim Veil


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Heba E. Husseyn
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« on: June 30, 2021, 12:47:22 pm »




A family house party in Algeria late 1800s


The tyrannical French general, Jacques E. Massu, led the "unveiling campaign" forcing women to abandon their Islamic dress code .. organized as ceremonies in which Algerian women were forced to burn their veils before an applauding crowd. The French tried their best to end culture orientation of Muslim women. By 1953 resistance in Algeria against French occupation became intense. People wanted freedom. The dastardly French refused.

Often mentioned as the "unveiling campaign" or "burning the veil" is a chain of incidents synonymous with the Algerian war of independence (1954-62) and the brutalizing of Algerian women by French occupiers in the name of ‘emancipation’  dubbing the episode as "intellectual backwardness of Algerian women."   It was not just forced assimilation of Muslim women into Western culture but also humiliation through hype and indoctrination of an intellectually learned and sophisticated community as 'intellectually backward.'

The French invaded and took over Algeria in 1830, the first such colonization of an Arab Muslim land after the nuisance value of the Crusades.  Muslim determination for freedom was stamped within their society since the 1830s.    From 1830 to 1962, the French occupied Algeria for a total of 132 years.



TRT World, while Algeria mourns May 8, Europe celebrates
 

In May 1958, four years into the Algerian war of independence, things got really bad.  As resistance deepened, the French occupiers pushed ahead to seize greater power through a "Committee of Public Safety"  as the deadly current of European colonialism continued in various Muslim states.   For Algerian women,  the French army was the epitome of a dangerous and barbaric force, rape and destruction of their cities, villages and homes.  Though a  bizarre French modus operandi, it was nonetheless a popular colonial tune upholding that  platitude, "social progress and emancipation."

The French knew that Muslim women culturally had a very central role in family affairs that included every bit of decision-making in every sphere of life.  Hence, culture disorientation of women and their assimilation with Western values was viewed as paramount for success in Algeria by French forces.  Whether the acclimation was voluntary or forced, the occupiers didn't care.   Yet they were confident that the game plan would work. 



Algerian freedom fighter, Zohra Drif


Women played a crucial role in the Algerian war of independence, fulfilling various different functions.  As the custodians of traditional social values, their influence was deep in thwarting colonial repression.   That made them one of the principal targets of the colonialists dubbed as "emancipation" as the cover of the book for international disinformation while the inside stories of hair-raising French savagery against the locals, women and men, remained unexposed.  Psychiatrist and anti-colonial thinker, Frantz Fanon, writes “To convert the woman, to win her to foreign values, to rescue her from her status, is both a means to have full control on the man and to have the practical and efficient means to demolish Algerian culture.”   Thus, the traditional Algerian (and Tunisian) veil became a prime target .. Fanon describing the veil as a 'resistance to French colonialism.'   

Aware the role of women in every Algerian household as the source of love and dignity for the family, the French colonialists used the bodies of Muslim women as a political weapon.   The systematic rape of Algerian women by the occupiers was a prime strategy of the latter to demoralize Algerian men with a spirit of defeat.  It was very similar to the recent genocide of the Rohingya Muslims by the Buddhist government, military, monks and people of Myanmar (Burma). 

Deep and active involvement of Algerian women in the war of independence focused on their liberation from the very people who masqueraded as their emancipators.  Algerian history, from the time of French occupation, would be incomplete without the detailed inclusion of the task and contribution of women.   It's just as impossible to erase the link between the French struggle for occupation and women's veil. 

It was an unprecedented chapter of Algerian history.  The consequences borne by women were insufferable - the brutality of the occupiers and in some cases patriarchal bias - yet it was borne and faced with tenacity.   The profound determination and courage of Algerian women in the war of independence as defenders of the land dispelled their image as "victims" which the French colonialists portrayed as an integral part of their blueprint.    For the first time in history, Algerian women emerged as war superstars and the 'white chargers' in a lengthy war.   Writes TRTworld  "The most dynamic phases of women’s direct engagement in the war came from 1955-57. During this period, many thousands of women participated as paramilitary fighters, nurses, cooks, fundraisers, and provided logistic support to the National Liberation Army (ALN) – the combat branch of the National Liberation Front (FLN), the party of the nationalist movement" and many also handled assignments in offices.    It didn't take long for female combatants of the Algerian war to attract international attention.   No wonder it's never been easy for orientalist artists and Western historians to balance the master plan of the occupiers and the hard truth on the ground.   It's just so tough for them to speak without needless mincing of words.    
Despite their military victories during battles, the French effort to Westernize Muslim women in Algeria and to continue the occupation beyond 1962 was a failure.



From TRT World

The Algerian war of independence forever changed the role of women in the Algerian society.    Consequently an element of 'letdown' kicks into gear leading to widespread feminist movements across Algeria, also spilling over into neighboring Tunisia.  In post-independence Algeria, Algerian feminists aren't happy with those in power, influencing the menfolk of the society who now emphasize on women's role as homemakers.    Several women who participated in the Algerian war, their children and grandchildren experience a feeling of betrayal that their leaders have largely forgotten the indispensable contribution by women in the war against the French occupation of their land.   Feminism and feminist movements in modern Algeria and Tunisia continue to remain strong with no signs of diminishing, inspiring Algerian women to stay on the forefront and not be voiceless in the face of oppression from whatever source.   The downside is that the French are again cashing in the scenario, albeit in a different way, yet readable between the lines.   To shorten a long story, segments of women in Algeria too deep into feminism at present are often seen hand-in-glove with Islamophobes in France.   That's another tragedy and yet another lesson that's still unlearned  .. the rationale and recognition of boundaries of a movement that help to sustain it as incorruptible.


Plenty of details @ TRT World's Role of Women in Algerian Independence Movement.



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N. Truth Seeker
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« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2021, 05:14:49 am »



No doubt a great historical feat.   However, Algerian women were fighting in the forefront as an army to defend their land.  I don't think even at that time they were focused much on defending the Islamic culture.  Most of those women who took up arms against the French, which no doubt was applaudable, didn't don the hijab even at that time.

When feminism gets too intense it has its downside just as misogynism too intense is devastating.  In the case of Algerian women during the French rule and now, women's resolve to oust their occupiers was transformed into seeking their rights from their own men in post independence Algeria.  Though women were treated far better and with much greater respect by local Algerian men in the middle ages, in modern times women in Algeria and Tunisia have been victims of quite a lot of harshness from conventional men.  Believe it or not, but there are still women in Algeria who are getting killed for refusing a man's advances or refusing to wear the hijab.  The participation of their mothers and grandmothers in the Algerian war of independence in mid 1950s made them aware that they are capable of achieving what previously they hadn't contemplated.  It's only when some women join hands with French and European outlets to discredit their country that looks nasty as rightly said by Sister Heba.   That's the stage when feminism gets corrupted.


Here is Djamila Bouhired in the summer of 2019 leading a protest for women's rights in Algeria.  As can be seen, many Algerian men also support her. 


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« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2021, 05:26:32 am »



True brother ....  As we see its waves of influence today, it's a bit complex.   Many steps by those feminists are right.  Only few slip, allowing Westerners to take advantage.




.. It's only when some women join hands with French and European outlets to discredit their country that looks nasty as rightly said by Sister Heba.   That's the stage when feminism gets corrupted. 


That's precisely the downside ..


Good to see that pic of Bouhired.   She must now be in her mid 80s but still looks strong and active.  Also encouraging to see that many men support her.  What protest was this about?

Additionally, several (not all) of these Algerian feminists also have secular streaks.  Not all are practicing Muslims.  Jamila Bouhired was married to a French lawyer ( ethnically half French and half Viet-namese) who supported Algerian fighters and represented her case in court.   She later married him but no information of him converting to Islam.  The marriage lasted for only 5 years with 2 kids.   

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« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2021, 05:58:34 am »




What protest was this about?


I think it was to about call for Bouteflika to resign.  Was probably in the spring of 2019, not summer.   Revolutionary women again rallied together to push out Bouteflika as he had done nothing for women's rights in Algeria neither were the retired veterans - women and men - getting enough pension.   I'm not sure to what extent those demands have been met by the new government of Abdelmadjid Tebboune.  Bouhired had reportedly urged Bouteflika many times to grant more pension to her and her retired comrades to no avail. There's so much dissatisfaction in Algeria today in all spheres of life and protests by everyone, the issue of women's rights isn't seen as a priority at the moment.  That's the way it seems. 







Additionally, several (not all) of these Algerian feminists also have secular streaks ....  Jamila Bouhired was married to a French lawyer ( ethnically half French and half Viet-namese) who supported Algerian fighters and represented her case in court.   She later married him but no information of him converting to Islam.  The marriage lasted for only 5 years with 2 kids.   

Yes right.   There are differing reports on her divorce to this man.  Some say the marriage ended in 1970.  Other reports mention they separated in 1991.  At the moment she is single.
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« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2021, 05:59:45 am »



Okay, I see ......
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« Reply #5 on: July 03, 2021, 08:05:40 am »



Very, very interesting read.     I compared this with the British occupation of the South Asian sub-continent during the Mughal rule.  The British first arrived in early 1600s as traders.  They knew they could expand trade and develop their economy by colonization.  They also tried to establish cordial relations by constructing railways.  There were several skirmishes, even battles, between them and the locals.  A battle they won in mid 1700s strengthened their trade policies.  Finally the war of independence fought between them and the locals was in 1857 in which the British won and exiled the Muslim emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar.   The British rule lasted until 1947 .. that's when Pakistan came into existence and a year prior to that in 1946, the British gave away Kashmir to India for occupation.

In comparison, French came to Algeria in 1832 and they officially took over in 1834 making Algeria into a French colony.  Despite the Algerians fighting for France in WW2, by 1954 local resistance against French occupation of Algeria led to an 8-year war - war of independence - in which the French lost in 1962.  Otherwise the Algerians would probably still been living under occupation. 



Related posts:

~  Suffering of an Emperor
~  Former Mughals now a forgotten footnote

 
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« Reply #6 on: July 03, 2021, 08:23:04 am »



Thank you for this info Sister Ruhi.    The links you provided are poignant.  A clear example why colonialists colonize lands that don't belong to them and the destruction they proliferate.  It's all about deposing legitimate rulers and robbing their riches.  Many of those diamonds, rubies and emeralds which that 95-year-old widow of Britain wears studded in her crown were robbed from the Mughals and preceding Muslim rulers of the subcontinent. 
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« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2021, 08:25:14 am »



That's right sis .....
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