Tag Archives: france

Strauss Kahn copies Clinton barefaced

In his first interview since he’s back in France, Strauss Kahn repeated Clinton’s apology concerning the Monica Lewinsky scandal word for word.

See this:

Many french journalists have accused Strauss Khan of preparing his come-back to politics, delivering a finely-prepared speech instead of honestly answering questions.

According to a survey, 53% of French nationals wanted Strauss-Kahn to confirm his withdrawal from politics before the interview which was broadcasted on TF1 last Sunday. But apart from not taking part in next year’s presidential elections, he didn’t mention quitting the game.

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Pakistan’s muted cry for help

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that the disaster in Pakistan is like “few the world has ever seen, requiring a response to match.” But compared to all recent major disasters, Pakistan’s flood aid is coming at a much slower pace. Is the West letting Pakistan down?

A friend of mine who was coming to visit from France last weekend made this comment to me in the tube: “so many people trying to raise funds on the streets here for the victims of Pakistan’s flood. In Paris, I barely ever noticed anyone collecting anything for them since the catastrophy started.” In London, she felt it was different.

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I believe it is true that here in London efforts made for the Pakistanis can be seen. Young people collect money in the tubes and on street corners for charities in action back in Pakistan. Posters are everywhere and I even received a text from Orange today telling me to send a text back to help UNICEF‘s efforts.

What’s behind the West’s lack of support?

I started questioning why the reaction is not like that in France. In fact, the BBC indirectly questionned and explained that recently in an article titled: “Who cares about Pakistan?” written by Jude Sheerin. In this article, Mrs Sheerin gives 5 main reasons why people are feeling less concerned about the Pakistani flood:

– “Donor fatigues” – There has been a number of natural disasters over the past couple of years.
-“Corruption” – The international image of the Pakistani government.
– “Terrorism” – The Talibans’ presence there.
– “Timing” – This is happening right after Haiti’s earthquake and the financial crisis.
– “‘Wrong’ disaster” – It happened gradually with no sudden catastrophe, and the media is missing its drama there.

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I understand most of the reasons given are well-grounded. The seemingly increasing threat of global warming, the recession, the current international conflicts… It’s starting to be to much for the western man.

Is the lack of support from the West justifiable?

Dr Marie Lall, Pakistan expert at the Royal Institute of International Affair, when she says: “The [2004] Indian Ocean tsunami, the Burmese Cyclone [Nargis, 2008], the [2005] Pakistan earthquake, and [this year’s] Haiti earthquake. It is getting too much; we are in a recession and people are short of money.”

This is quite understandable. But are we so much in our bubble that we’d rather care for our next month’s salary than a child stuck on a roof with no food?

I understand people’s doubt about corruption based on the current state of the Pakistani government. Dr Marie Lall says: “People in Pakistan are sceptical the government will be transparent. But they are giving to philanthropic organisations. In the UK, I think people are sceptical of [non-governmental organisations’] overheads and costs.” But will we also reach a point where we will stop trusting non-governmental organisations?

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And terrorism… well what do I say about terrorism? Hasn’t it been the best excuse for all mistakes perpetrated by the west in the past few years? A BBC article 2 days ago was titled “Pakistan flood victims ‘have no concept of terrorism'”.

And have we become so terrorised by the Talibans that we would let a whole population down because of them? After all it’s not about helping the Talibans. It’s about helping people, human lives. Couldn’t that actually participate in giving the west a better image than the Talibans in Pakistan?

Pakistan’s disaster and the media

And finally, how can there ever be any “wrong” disaster? Professor Dean Karlan says: “Sudden events seem to generate more funds. A flood (and droughts) happen gradually and build. There isn’t any one single day in which news is huge. For the same reason, this pushes the story away from the media spotlight. But massive and sudden earthquakes or tsunamis draw our immediate attention and shock us.”

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I feel the media is simply not doing the best of jobs in reporting the issues. This disaster doesn’t seem dramatic enough, but ironicaly lives have been affected more than ever before. The UN reported 13.8 million people affected by the flood.

A UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) press release said, “this is a higher figure than those who were affected by the 2005 South Asia tsunami (five million), the 2005 South Asia earthquake (three million), or the 2010 Haiti earthquake (three million). The estimate of homes destroyed or seriously damaged — 290,000 — is almost the same as those destroyed in Haiti.” So what exactly is less dramatic for the news?

Pakistan’s muted cry.

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However much we see happening and hear around us in London concerning the catastrophe in Pakistan, they see even less in France. But what is happening in Pakistan might deserve more attention than is actually given anywhere in the West and we are not actually seeing everything that is going on there.

All Pakistan needs today is an ear to catch their cry muted below all world’s issues .

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Is Transexualism a Mental Illness?

Have you ever though transexuals were psychologically retarded? Well, in every country, transexuals are scientifically recognised as mentally ill. The good news is: not in France anymore.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”false” link=”term=transexual&iid=309212″ src=”0305/0000305939.jpg?adImageId=10999398&imageId=309212″ width=”234″ height=”312″ /] Until the begining of the 70’s, homosexuality was viewed by psychologists as a mental illness in most countries. Back then, as we all know, the gay rights movement arose and could move things forward.

As of today February 10th, 2010, transexuals are still considered mentally ill everywhere in the world, except in France.

A “symbolic victory”

According to the Trans World secretariat,

“numerous personalities including first secretary of the Socialist Party Martine Aubry, the communist Marie-George Buffet, Green (party member) Daniel Cohn-Bendit and even Nobel Prize winners such as Françoise Barré-Sinoussi (medicine) and Elfriede Jelinek (literature), asked the World Health Organization (WHO) ‘to no longer consider transsexuals as being affected by a mental disorder'”.

One should remember that it is

“because the WHO decided on the 17th of May 1990 to remove homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses, that this date has been retained for the International Day Against Homophobia and transphobia, celebrated Sunday, starting Saturday in many places. It is therefore symbolic that France chose this time and date”.

By removing transexualism from its list of mental disorders, the French pride themselves for being the initiators of a state-level open-mindedness toward transgenders. They are indeed pioneering an evolution in the moral values of societies which tend to classify indivuals on their variable degrees of conformity.

But…is France truly accepting Transexuals?

However groundbreaking the news might be, many transexuals still say France is a long way from being a “paradise for transsexual citizens“.

As Gaelle Faure, from the Time Magazine online, notes:

“in practice, the declaration will do little to improve their legal or medical rights in the country.”

Today, men who identify as women in France can’t be legally recognised as women unless they have undergone a sex change. However, many transexuals struggle to get an operation in France. They don’t have the choice of their surgeons and the hospitals are often under-equipped for such operations.

Hence, laws in France make transexuals loose their identity if they refuse to be considered something that they are not.

Other countries are one step ahead in legal terms. As Times Magazine points out:

“Spain requires transsexuals only to undergo some form of hormonal treatment to modify their physical appearance before it will issue new documents, while the British simply ask applicants, with recommendations from their doctors, to promise to live out the rest of their lives as their chosen sex.”

France might therefore be taking a step forward but there is a lot left to do.

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The Burqa – about to be banned in France?

This coming January, right-wing politicians will suggest the adoption of a new law prohibiting women to wear the burqa in France. But, why does the burqa stir up debates?

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Under the assumption that France is a seculiar state, it is prohibited for anyone to display any religious symbol at school since 2004. 

Since then, just like christians are forbidden to display a cross at school, muslim girls can’t wear a headscarf when going to school.

Now, politicians want to prohibit the burka in all public places.

The burka is a piece of clothing worn by some muslim women that covers the whole face with only the eyes remaining visible, or not.

It’s different from the chador and it’s not the shayla. To see the difference between all these click here.

The French politicians’ arguments against the burqa

Jean-Francois Copé is the deputy who is arguing that the law should urgently come into existence. Here are his arguments beyond what might be its religious signification:

  • The burqa symbolizes the submissivness of women which goes against the principles of French republican and democratic values.
  • For security reasons, everyone’s face should remain visible at all times when in public.

But what if muslim women themselves say they feel closer to god wearing the Burqa? Would the French government be infringing religious freedom?

How do the muslim react?

Islam is the second most prominent religion in France. So, how do french muslim react?

Surprisingly, as of now no great defenders of the burqa have come forward.

The american journal, Time, argues it might be because women in burka remain rare to come across in France. Those who do wear it in France are considered to be more radical in there believes, even by muslims.

So why is the “debate” occupying so much place in the french media these days? Well mainly because politicians are pushing it.

After all, there is material for controversy.Women in Burqa, although rare, do exist in France.

Dounia Bouzar, specialist in Muslim affairs, says “that Salafist influence and activity is spreading, and if it takes political action to prevent their cult from leading Muslims astray of Islam, so be it.”

Foreign countries react

However, some other countries, like the UK, blame France for having such a debate.

Dr Reefat Drabu, a representant of the Muslim Council of Britain, said “the French President appears to be initiating a policy which is set to create fear and misunderstanding and may lead to Islamophobic reaction not just in France but in the rest of Europe too.”

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Where is Europe going?

Switzerland was debating over minarets earlier in 2009. Now, France is wondering how to react to the burqa and questions keep arising:

  • Is condemning the burqa alone an important step in safeguarding french culture?
  • Is it all really so important to be put forth as an issue the way it is?
  • Are we really saving women from being subservient by taking off their veils?
  • Are west Europeans trying to hide away their muslim populations?
  • Are these debates not just stirring up tensions with the muslim world more than ever needed at this time in history?

If there are any answers, please comment.

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