13 March 2021

The left, the right, the veil

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The President of the Senate Maria Elena Alberti Casellati is a distinguished lady with a polite smile and a bombastic name. Politically, she is on the right. In other times we would have called her a conservative Christian Democrat. Feminism is also alien to it, This did not prevent her, in her inaugural speech, from speaking firmly and non-rhetorically about the phenomenon of misogynistic violence.

I happened to think of the lady again after the webinar on Veil and freedom with Marina Terragni, Sara Punzo and Maryan Ismail. Exactly two years ago, an infinite amount of time for the dilated rhythms of the Covid era, Casellati met in Doha with Prime Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani, another man who is no slouch when it comes to names and patronymics. At the same time she was received by Pope Francis. On both occasions, her dress was composed and formal, yet casual and in a certain sense strong-willed. Next to the Qatari minister she appeared petite, delicate but radiant, and quite direct. When she posed with the Pope she looked like an ancient princess or a pious noblewoman. But not submissive or annulled either, despite the conspicuous black veil.

We specify: she wore her veil in front of the Pontiff. In Qatar, she had presented herself bareheaded.

Out of disrespect for Islamic customs? We would not say so. Rather for that need, probably spontaneous, to define oneself and value differences. The conservative Casellati seemed to have understood that genuine dialogue did not entail the cancellation of the culture of belonging, but required a confrontation on the same level of dignity. The Madame of Palazzo Madama presented herself as an Italian politician, of Catholic tradition - i.e. universal - who carried out her role in full autonomy.

If we look at the photographs of left-wing, secular and openly feminist ministers and ex-ministers, the scenario is quite different. Laura Boldrini with an overly conspicuous veil in the Rome mosque (but without a headdress and in lacquered sandals in the presence of the Pope); Federica Mogherini at the Iranian Parliament, also wearing a veil - mimicked by Emma Bonino and Debora Serracchiani - arousing the indignation of the feminists of that country who fight at the risk of their lives for the freedom to dress as they like.

If you were ignorant of the political history of these women, to whom would you attribute the epithet 'progressive'? The former or the latter?

Not to rub it in. Perhaps it really was a matter of good faith, as well as obligation. We are well aware that Vatican protocol has not provided for a compulsory veil for women since the 1980s. In some countries, and Qatar is no exception, female modesty is more than simply recommended. But gestures go beyond the prescriptions; and, at times, one gets the impression that the pillory is being sought. The irritation towards certain progressive policies cannot (always) be ascribed to sexism, indifference or - we had to read this too - Islamophobia. It is about culture. And tradition. Which is not traditionalism but transmission. Even if critics sometimes unconsciously motivated of the above policies blamed them for exactly this: lack of culture.

Women with university degrees, cosmopolitans, supporters of a marked migrantism: and yet ignorant, because they do not escape from a mannered exoticism, pervaded, moreover, by a poorly concealed sense of superiority.

The portrait with the Pope fully demonstrates this. The perceived message, perhaps beyond intentions, is: 'Here I can afford to wear my hair down and my slippers, I don't believe it, I am modern. Elsewhere you have to show devotion, the good savages must be indulged. And then, 'it's left-wing'....

A left wing that has so far shown itself to be deaf to the persecution of Christians (and especially Christian women: deserves eternal shame the silence of Western activists on Huma Younus and Leah Sharibu) of Africa and Asia, because they are non-European "competitors"; because Christian culture, especially Catholic, must necessarily be considered a by-product of dark ages, from which a feminist doc, open and libertarian, must take decisive distance. Add to this the identification of Catholicism with the West - the same equation as that of the jihadists - which the very liberal westerners see as smoke in the eyes; while a "glamorous" queen like Rania of Jordan does not hesitate to show herself to Bergoglio in a white stole, with a naturalness that shows anything but submission and pandering.

The reaction to the current Left's snootiness is disaffection and tedium, even among long-time militants.

It is not surprising that at this moment in history the most reforming positions come from notoriously 'moderate' sectors. It is also obvious, however. If the error consists in ignorance - and loss of memory - the result is confusion, the overlapping of development and progress, the unhinging of perspectives. "Only Marxists love the past," wrote Pasolini - the bourgeois love nothing, their rhetorical affirmations of love for the past are simply cynical and sacrilegious: however, at best, such love is decorative, or 'monumental' [...], certainly not historicist, that is, real and capable of new history'.

But it is precisely a sense of history, of a history that is advancing and changing, that is lacking in today's left no longer Marxist, but liberal-capitalist, 'bourgeois'. Exactly, modernist and not modern. The right lives off this spoliation, rather than its own values.But the process has only just begun, and no one seems to realise this.

Daniela Tuscano

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