PARIS — I never thought I’d find myself saying this, but for once I can sympathize with the confusion expressed by radical Muslims.
A Muslim woman was recently pulled over in rural France while driving in a full burqa—the kind that’s set for a full ban resolution vote in French parliament on May 11—and fined 22 Euros for driving with limited vision. The incident in itself is enough to stoke the ongoing debate here surrounding the burqa ban, freedom of expression, and how such a ban would even be enforced.
But no, we sailed right past that debate this time. That’s because the wife took her 22 Euro fine home to the husband she shares with three other women and children. He promptly hired a lawyer to protest her right to drive veiled. This incited French Interior Minister, Brice Hortefeux, to muse aloud about stripping the man of his French citizenship if polygamy is proven.
The Muslim man’s response? "If we can be stripped of French citizenship for having mistresses, then many Frenchmen would be stripped," he said. "It’s not banned in France, or in Islam. Maybe in Christianity, but not in France."
He has a point. It’s no wonder the stone-age sect of Islam feels right at home in a country where, for some people—including many high-profile ones—values and morals haven’t progressed since Napoleon was prancing around slicing and dicing in tights. At one time, the French had a somewhat valid reason for mistresses: their social status forced them into arranged marriages within their social class, leaving little place for love. So couples found workaround solutions to mandatory unions by having their "true love" relationships on the down-low.
There was a benefit to being a mistress, as they were showered with gifts and provided with resources—a sort of bourgeois prostitution, sex-for-bling, with either a dash or heaping of actual love.
Then something changed: society evolved. The monarchy fell and a republic prevailed. The caste system in France became somewhat less visible, although some would argue that it still exists. Still, no one sits around Parisian cafes nowadays complaining that they have to get married to mom and dad’s best friend’s kid for social reasons. If anyone in France has a mistress on the side, it’s not because society has failed to evolve—it’s because they have failed to evolve. And what’s in it for the independent woman nowadays who doesn’t need to debase herself and live life on a man’s disrespectful terms? Nothing.
But it happens here in France. Rampantly. Two cases in point: One man blatantly lies about being married, saying he was separated pending divorce. Says he wears his wedding ring "for show." Proof of divorce papers, or at the very least indication of such proceedings, fail to materialize upon request. Suspicions confirmed.
Very married "cochon numero deux"—known countrywide for jumping anything in a skirt and impregnating mistresses—muses how "extraordinary and formidable" Victor Hugo was—not exclusively because of his literary prowess, but rather "because he cheated on one mistress with another mistress and then yet another mistress!" Victor Hugo was a product of his time—and can’t be accused of being a throwback to an era of less evolved societal mores. I’m willing to give Hugo the benefit of the doubt in that he lacked another point of reference.
But what was French President Francois Mitterrand’s excuse, who was born in an era of running water? Both his wife and mistress and the families he had with both were subjected to an awkward situation when both came to pay their respects at his funeral. To say nothing of Jacques Chirac, who confessed to loving many women discreetly, yet not quite discreetly enough for his wife Bernadette to escape the realization that her husband should probably be subjected to a sanitary boiling before exchanging bisous.
Given the recent statements by members of the French government, perhaps these types should just go live in a small Afghan village already. Especially if, as the Interior Minister suggests, we’re going to now start sweeping France clean of this sort of multi-shagging behavior. Where can we apply to have womanizers stripped of French citizenship?
Why would a former President be considered any different from the radical Islamist who is married on paper to one woman but spending his life with three others as well? Should the Islamist be treated differently because the various women spend time simultaneously under the same roof rather than staggered in secrecy? I’d like to see someone just try to legislate that discrepancy. The behavior isn’t "romantic," it’s not "seductive," it’s not respectful. It’s also not the era of corsets and treating women as livestock or possessions. But I can understand why Islamists might get confused. The only difference I can see is in their fashion choices.