At least no one can accuse me of being knee-jerk pro-French

My goodness, talking about the headscarf law has brought up some interesting discussion on the blogs. It appears that my mistake was to think that this was ever about improving the lives of Muslim girls. From the responses there is one thing that is clear – this law is about legislating conformity.

For example, from Lilli Marleen:

So who is wetting their pants about what French do in their schools and Germany – hopefully – will do soon after? The girls can go to school, all they have to do is to behave like anyone else.

I’m sure that will make a stirring addition to the EU constitution: You have the right to be just like everyone else, especially if you’re under age. Any failure to take advantage of this right will be punished in the law. It is exactly this sentiment that leads people to think xenophobia towards non-Europeans is a deep seated problem.

 
From Stefan Isaacs, responding to the discussion on Crooked Timber:

Few in the discussion seem to grasp that different societies have different social rules. Most of the discussion seems to revolve about whether the French are right or wrong. There are some dissenters to the general chain of thought (I am one of them) who feel that either the French have the right to mandate certain changes in order to maintain the structure of their society or that these young women don?t have a freedom of choice (in their home or Muslim society) to not wear the veil and that it is a control mechanism.

What is striking to me is the general arrogance exhibited by most in the discussion. The presumption is that the French don?t really understand freedom of expression or religion. The commenters seem to be erudite and well educated but the narrowness of the viewpoint really bothers me.

I wonder how many other places we might apply this logic. Did the Taliban have the right to mandate that women wear the hijab in order to defend the structure of their society? And I wonder how many children of any religion have the freedom to choose whether or not to go to school, or what school they get placed in?

No, the French government and a large part of the French population doesn’t really understand freedom of religion and they don’t understand it in exactly the same manner that most Americans don’t understand diversity, multi-culturalism or freedom of expression. Islam is entirely secure in France, so long as it has no measurable significance and makes no meaningful demands on believers.

In the same light, we have this comment on a previous post:

Integration starts from the willingness to be integrated. For those who’d rather pay for private schooling and keep forcing their children to submit to an absurd dictate that demeans them as a person, it’s clear there is no willingness at all there. You can’t blame this on others.

So, this law really is about separating those who want to be just like everybody else from those sticks in the mud who thought that France was a place where people were free to be who they are. Perhaps we should attack other absurd dictates, like dietary rules. Any child who won’t eat pork should be excluded from the schools. We could do the same for Frenchmen who move to America. If you won’t drink Budweiser and can’t stand the Superbowl, then you don’t really want to integrate, do you?

From Phersu at Larvatus prodeo:

La loi sur la la?cit? devait simplement permettre aux Musulmanes non-voil?es de ne pas porter le voile si elles le voulaient, m?me si pour cela il faut exclure la minorit? qui veut transgresser la la?cit?.

So, forbidding girls from wearing headscarves (and boys from wearing yarmulkes and turbans), is in fact permitting girls to not wear headscarves. You’ll excuse me if I find interdiction is permission a touch on the Orwellian side.

The one good argument of this kind comes from Henry Farrell over at Crooked Timber, who is not using it in support of this law. He uses the example of anti-dueling laws, which provided an excuse for people to avoid duels. Does this law provide girls with an excuse to not wear the headscarf? It seems unlikely. If the kinds of parents who force their girls to wear the headscarf are really so disturbed that they are brainwashing their daughters into submission, why would this law not simply provide them with an excuse to not send their children to school? If girls wear this for fear of reprisals and out of peer pressure, will this law relieve any of that pressure? If they wear it out of choice, do you think the kind of girl willing to make a choice that is so contrary to social norms will be disuaded by pressure from school authorities? If you think so, you must have forgotten your own adolescence.

Indeed, the depth of unreason in this argument is just incredible. The headscarf is a symbol of oppression, so ban the symbol even though it will only further oppress its victims. Nevermind that it will only reinforce the will of its advocates. Nevermind that a ban will do more to hinder integration than to advance it.

But then, this law makes perfect sense if its intent was never to help Muslim girls at all. This is about compliance, identification, and above all about power.

La R?publique dans un foulard, par Bruno Latour

Le foulard islamique engage peut-?tre l’avenir de la R?publique mais je ne crois pas que ce soit pour les raisons invoqu?es par ceux qui souhaitent l’interdire. Si l’on veut mettre fin ? l’histoire de la nation, alors on peut se permettre, en effet, de d?finir le “type fran?ais” par un code vestimentaire. Le citoyen “de souche” sera enfin reconnaissable, comme sur les photos exotiques des vieux livres de g?ographie : “la Fran?aise” t?te nue c?toiera “l’Alg?rienne” voil?e ou “l’Abyssin” en peau de lion.

A ce compte, pourquoi ne pas l?gif?rer sur le port obligatoire du b?ret basque – sans oublier la baguette? Il faut que l’extr?me droite soit devenue bien influente pour que tant de gens de bonne foi prennent pour un “sursaut r?publicain” cette ethnicisation de l’appartenance fran?aise. Mais si la R?publique a encore le go?t de l’avenir, alors elle ne peut d?finir une fois pour toutes le prix ? payer pour lui appartenir.

The Veiled Republic

The Islamic headscarf question may well involve the future of the Republic, but don’t believe that it’s for the reasons given by those who want to forbid it. If we want to end the history of the nation then we can allow ourselves, in effect, to define “Frenchness” by a dress code. The “native” citizen will finally be clearly recognisable, just like in those exotic photos from old books of geography: the “French woman” with her head uncovered next to the veiled “Algerian woman” and the “Abyssinian” wearing lion skins.

So why not pass a law requiring people to wear Basque berets – not forgetting the baguette? The far right must be pretty powerful for so many people to take this ethnisation of Frenchness for the defense of the Republic. If the Republic still has any taste for the future, it can define once and for all the exact price of being a part of it.

This isn’t about oppressed Muslim girls. If it was, we would see the state insisting that all French children enjoy the right to public school. We would see people demand that the government relieve oppressive conditions in the suburbs, both oppression from those who live there and from the general environment of ghettoisation, unemployment, and public racism towards north Africans that prevails in much of France. Is it any wonder les beurs press for the visible signs of Islamic identity when they are told so often that they aren’t really French?

This is about provincialism. It is the French people saying that their model of immigration and multi-culturalism defines being French as acting French. That large numbers of Muslim women support the ban – some 40% is the number that gets bandied about – only says that this model has succeded with some Muslims and not with others. This is about deciding who is really French. It serves no purpose but to tell the inhabitiants of the suburbs that if France isn’t really willing to accept them, then it must be their own fault. It covers up a French failure to deal with the ghettoisation of its north African population.

It’s a farce of secular values and a pathetic parody of tolerance. It shows the world how little pious French declarations about les droits de l’homme really mean.

91 thoughts on “At least no one can accuse me of being knee-jerk pro-French

  1. And, Scott, it’s not just the French. this is becoming a European problem: http://www.stefangeens.com/000346.html

    When Eastern Europeans accede to the EU, many of these nationalities will previously have been illegal immigrants in the old EU (for example, Poles in Sweden). Would they bring a measure of sympathy to the trials and tribulations of their old fellow immigrants, the Muslims? Quite the contrary, I think.

  2. Of course, don’t expect a man with a dead horse to beat to ever give consideration to the opinions and experiences of those Muslim women in France who are supporting this law.

    It has been decreed supporting this law is bigotry or conformity or interference or intolerance, hence, no other view contradicting that shall be considered, inshallah.

  3. Yeah, Ginger – Here we go again, eh?

    They just completely ignore the views of the many women of Muslim background who do favour the ban. They don’t disagree with them or argue with them, they just totally ignore them. As if they were not there.

    It’s really staggering.

    And kind of disgusting, frankly.

    Look, if you want people who favour the ban, or who think there are good reasons and arguments on both sides, to take your arguments seriously – you might want to stop ignoring people like for instance Ni Putes Ni Soumises. As it is, we’re just going to shrug and think you’re hopeless and myopic.

  4. Using arguments just as specious, one could argue that opponents of the headscarf ban want Muslims in France to always serve as the other. Forget about having Muslim women feeling free to work side by side, or to have Muslims or any other immigrant group contaminating mainstream culture. We should make sure that we shouldn’t let any individuals who might want out in. French Muslim women must stand in as the Other, to be alternatively held up as signs of our tolerance for other cultures or to be used as negative examples of the need for a progressive politics in society–for everyone else, of course.

    I’ve said what I have to say on other threads, here at A Fistful of Euros and over at Crooked Timber. Suffice it to say that it’s not a perfect law, but given the conditions operative in France it seems to be the best thing possible.

  5. As one of those who has been critical of this law, I’d like to exempt myself from Ophelia’s criticism of completely ignoring the views of those Muslim women who do favour the ban. In the last thing I posted about this issue – here – I raised the following question:

    “Why isn’t the proper legislative course in these circumstances to continue to permit those who want to wear religious symbols to do so, as should be their right within any liberal order; and to make it a punishable offence under law for anyone to coerce or intimidate another into the wearing of religious symbols – or anything else for that matter – against their will? The question is genuine and not rhetorical. It’s possible that there would be difficulties with legislation of this kind of which I’m not aware, and if so I’d be interested to hear what they are. Obviously, social or family pressure is a slippery thing to deal with, but is it altogether beyond the reach of the law? I doubt it. In any event, abstractly considered, this seems to me a better course, though I hold the view tentatively for now in anticipation of some possibly compelling counter-consideration. (I’m aware, incidentally, that there’s an age aspect to the problem. But so is there with laws against hitting children. The question would be whether the appropriate kind of legislation can be fashioned round, and fitted to, the relevant practical difficulties.)”

    Not only I don’t “completely ignore”…, I’m also interested in possible answers to this question. And then there’d also be the question about those Muslim women who don’t favour the ban, and why they shouldn’t be able to affirm their religious identity when going to school.

  6. Brilliant arguing going on here:

    I wonder how many other places we might apply this logic. Did the Taliban have the right to mandate that women wear the hijab in order to defend the structure of their society? And I wonder how many children of any religion have the freedom to choose whether or not to go to school, or what school they get placed in?

    Do the British have the right to a state church that discriminates homosexuals? Yes.
    Do the US have the right to forbid judges to express their religion by forbidding them to decorate their courthouses with a statue of the ten commandments? Yes.
    Does Turkey forbid hijabs in certain places? Yes.
    Did the Dutch ban niqaabs in their schools and universities? Yes.

    Aren’t we all Taliban then? No.

    Your argument is mere hypocritical, flawed an wrong.

    If your against secularism say so, but as it is your opinion on this website doesn’t carry much weight – it’s just an echo chamber for those already opposed to the secular policies of France.

  7. Let’s look at this from a psychological perspective. I acknowledge that this is speculation on my part, but it is informed speculation. My speculation is based upon limited experience talking with Muslim families about their experiences raising girls in the USA.

    For some Muslim girls, going to school without a headscarf would feel very wrong. It may well be comparable to requiring a girl from a western culture to go to school topless. Perhaps it would not be quite so bad, but I would expect that it would be stressful for many, and traumatic for some.

    Furthermore, I would expect that there will be some cases of posttraumatic stress disorder among these girls. Being made to walk around in public, feeling like you are advertising yourself as a prostitute, could be expected to created feelings of helplessness, guilt, and vitimization. To prove this, it would be necessary to find therapists with the correct combination of clinical skill, cultural awareness, and credibility with the potential patients (in order for the patients to be willing to talk about it.) This would be difficult, but not impossible.

    From a public health standpoint, implemeting the headscarf ban could be a tragedy. Following this reasoning, I would say that the French government has a responsibility to investigate this risk.

  8. Mr. Geras:

    To your question, I’d say that such a law would be impossible because of its intrusiveness. You can’t control how people think, and you can’t control how people act save in certain public-safety and crime-control connections. You can, however, control actions in public facilities, particularly in areas like schools where agents can operate legitimately in loco parentis.

    It’s certainly not a perfect law, and I’d prefer it if there wasn’t a need, simply because of your below point:

    And then there’d also be the question about those Muslim women who don’t favour the ban, and why they shouldn’t be able to affirm their religious identity when going to school.

    If you can propose an alternative way to prevent people who don’t want to from being pressued into covering themselves, please do. As I’ve said elsewhere, though, I don’t believe that the state should be held responsible for supporting the sustenance of all manner of parochial (religious, cultural) traditions and prejudices.

  9. Sure, Norm, you can exempt yourself. I didn’t mean to say (that ‘they’ was a tad vague, I did notice that at the time) everyone who opposes the ban ignores the views of Muslim women who support it. But it is frustrating how many do.

    Your suggestion is one possibility, but…everyone knows (I think?) how impossible it is to do much of anything to counter peer-pressure. How are adults even going to know that boys are calling girls whores?

  10. It also seems to me the existence of liberal and open-minded Muslim parents (both women and men) is being completely ignored.

    You can’t talk about Muslims as if they were all 100% in favour of strict Islamic tradition. There’s many in France, for instance, who fled from Iran, and they’re really not all that fond of the veil, I can assure you.

    Let’s try again.

    The French government and a large part of the French population doesn’t really understand freedom of religion and they don’t understand it in exactly the same manner that most Americans don’t understand diversity, multi-culturalism or freedom of expression.

    First, those are all different things. This isn’t about freedom of expression, it isn’t being affected here. Someone at Crooked Timber, without taking position pro or against the ban, simply remarked that schools can enforce their own dress code. You don’t want to comply to that dress code, you don’t go to that school.

    If it was a private school deciding that all girls and boys must wear uniforms, you could even consider it a shameful insult to diversity, but that’s not gonna change the fact they have a right to impose a dress code and expect it is respected by people who attend that school.

    This is about state schools, not private. Hence, the state is the owner. It’s not enforcing anything that contradicts freedom of religion, or freedom of expression, or diversity.

    It’s simply reasserting its principles of secularism and equality between males and females, within an environment it controls, which happens to be the environment where education of citizens take place – for those citizens who want to take advantage of that free state-sponsored education.

    Just like in Turkey.

    Now, here’s a question for all those who agree with Scott: could you please tell me if you also think Turkish laws are intolerant, racist, irrespectful of diversity, just because Ataturk and its followers also banned the veil from schools, universities, and public offices?

    Is there no longer freedom of religion in Turkey, just because there is that law inspired by an even stricter secularism than the French kind?

    Are Turkish secularists holding intolerant prejudices against… their own people, their own culture, their own religion?

    Islam is entirely secure in France, so long as it has no measurable significance and makes no meaningful demands on believers.

    No, as long as it makes no demand to _disregard_ or come before the laws and principles of the state, within a state environment.

    It’s a very simple, very clear concept.

    No one is touching religion, no one is preventing people from practicing whatever religion they like, no one is preventing strict, traditionalist Islamic followers from holding whatever views they want about women and about religion itself.

    What’s being prevented is, the trespassing of these views into the public – areligious, secular – sphere.

    Allowing state schools to be the ground for active propagation of fundamentalist views of women is in contradiction with the secular foundation of French democracy. Hence, French democracy decided to reassert who’s boss and what rules must be respected _within its own state schools_.

    If you want fundamentalist views about women – or creationism, or gay-bashing, or repressive notions about sex – to be allowed and endorsed in a school, then go to a fundamentalist school.

    If you want to go to a state school, which is, incidentally, free, state-subsidised, paid by all taxpayers, then you have to stick to the rules that have been devised to work for everybody, and to accomodate every religion, every belief, as long as those basic rules are accepted by all. The rest belongs to the private sphere. But a state has a right to legislate on the public sphere, especially when doing so directly and specifically, targeting precisely what the state itself controls. Nothing more, nothing less.

    If you still don’t get this, then forget about France and try and apply your same reasoning above to Turkey.

    Including your scorn and dislike for secularists (and non-hijab wearing Muslim women), that is.

  11. “Why isn’t the proper legislative course in these circumstances to continue to permit those who want to wear religious symbols to do so, as should be their right within any liberal order; and to make it a punishable offence under law for anyone to coerce or intimidate another into the wearing of religious symbols – or anything else for that matter – against their will? The question is genuine and not rhetorical.

    First – The legislation is just for minors in non religious, secular, state schools.

    Clothing affects behaviour in children. Some schools therefore have school uniforms. Not so in France. But the children wearing hijabs did cause problems, in that they refused to take classes etc. Teachers in France had a long list of problems. So they could expel those pupils, but that was legally difficult, and according to many not in the interest of the school system in general nor the pupil. As there was also a question of wether hijabs should be allowed at state schools, they combined these arguments and forbid the hijab. As I haven’t read either of the two reports on this subject that the France government published I don’t know the exact reasoning. Maybe someone who actually has read those reports could answer that.

    Second – your question contains some misunderstandings of the issue. First it isn’t “within their rights in any liberal order”.
    There are many schools in many liberal countries that have regulations about clothing. There probably aren’t many Jewish schools in Europe where you can wear a hijab for example. At least not in the Dutch Jewish schools. Which is ofcourse completely understandable. But therefore it can also be understood that you can’t have complete freedom with respect to religion in a secular school. And the ban only applies to secular schools in France.

    Third – the oppression of those wearing the hijab is an issue in two contexts, first in the context
    of the exclusion from school of those children wearing a hijab. Do they have a choice in wearing it, will their parents still allow them to go to a secular school? Do the parents have access to other schools that can provide the same quality education?
    And second the broader context wether this ban will increase or decrease the problems of those that are forced to wear a hijab.

    A better description of the problem is always welcome.

    As it is most people discuss only wether the principle of secularism or laicite is right or wrong or the last point wether the net result is good or bad for those that are forced to wear a hijab.

    And finally a short answer to your actual question, can there be other laws to fix it?
    No. People are free to raise their children according to the rules and habits of a religion.
    According to Christian, Muslim an Jewish regulations the issue is punishable with a good stoning if they don’t adhere to this. There are probably enough laws to prohibit abuse by parents.
    But even the cutting up of female and male sexual organs as religious habits is difficult to eradicate. Let alone the wearing of hijabs by those that don’t want it or are being repressed by wearing it.

  12. Ginger and Ophelia,

    Many Muslim women in France do dress secularly every day, and do not believe it is necessary to subscribe to a perspective on female dignity that requires headscarves. Others wear the headscarf but wish they did not feel social/familial/peer pressure to do so. Still others want to. Do the relative sizes of these three groups matter to the argument at hand? No. (40% of Muslim women support the ban, BTW.)

    Even if only 10% of Muslim women of school age actively wanted to wear a headscarf, this law will still constrain their religious expression. Democracy is not the tyranny of the majority; a large component is guaranteeing fundamental human rights of minorities and individuals. Rights to do things you think stupid.

    Laws protecting children from physical coercion of any kind is already on the books in France. Apply those instead.

  13. Even if only 10% of Muslim women of school age actively wanted to wear a headscarf, this law will still constrain their religious expression.

    Oh please. That is the most absurd definition of “constraint on freedom of expression” I’ve ever heard.

    You’re arguing that a state give up its laws, just because they won’t accomodate everyone. You’re arguing that everyone should accept fundamentalist views of women, just because some embrace them, voluntarily or not (and that line is very blurred since we’re talking children).

    So, should the US state accomodate creationism in its public schools as well, just because science and biology might offend the sensibilities of children of Christian fundamnetalists?

    And about Turkey – the comparison was specifically related to the relation between secularism and Islam. Not an overall assessment of how the human rights record of Turkey in the past 80 years stands up to fully democratic standards. I brought up Turkish laws and secularists as a very parallel with the law on Islamic veil, since the laws are the same there. But as an aside, Turkey is indisputably the most secular and democratic of countries with a Muslim majority, and also indisputably holds a much better human rights record than, say, Iran or Saudi Arabia.

    Back on topic, I’d like to get answers to that precise question: Are Turkish secularists, Turkish Muslims, French Muslims, women or men alike, who support the ban of Islamic veil in state schools, also being as racist, bigoted, intolerant and repressive as the French secularists?

  14. Laws protecting children from physical coercion of any kind is already on the books in France. Apply those instead.

    Do they solve the problem of children refusing classes? Do they solve any problems that teachers
    in France face in regard to the divisive behaviour of children wearing a hijab?

    Nah. Don’t think so.

  15. Stefan,

    “Do the relative sizes of these three groups matter to the argument at hand?”

    Well I do think they matter to these arguments. Since the ban is so often depicted as unfair to Muslims – I do take it to be relevant that not all Muslims (and what one might call post-Muslims – there is no good word for this, which is why I keep including ‘people of Muslim background’ which is damn awkward) oppose the ban. That in fact a lot support it.

    You’re right about protection of minority rights. Absolutely. But (obviously enough) not all minority rights, no matter what.

  16. … and to use your own example, the concept here is: even if 90% of Muslim girls were enthusiastical supporters of the hijab and of all the rules associated with wearing it (such as not taking phys ed classes with boys – as Luc mentioned above, there were actual problems emerging, not just a matter of wearing a scarf or not, otherwise there wouldn’t be all this controversy would it?), the state would still have a right to reassert its principles of:

    – secularism or better “laicite”, which means both freedom of religion AND total separation of religion from the public sphere

    – equality between boys and girls.

    If it failed to reassert these principles, it would be effectively tolerating and hence approving of those fundamentalist views of women and those beliefs about how girls should not do some things together with others etc.

    Secularism is meant to offer a foundation over which all religions, all beliefs, can coexist equally. But to do so, they have to first accept that basic little rule. If they don’t, it means they want to overstep into the public sphere and want their own rules to come before those of the state.

    This is not compatible with secular democracy as has evolved in France. End of story. In the US secularism has taken a different character, because it’s a different country with a different history; it works in a different way there, and as long as it works fine, then it’s fine for the US. It doesn’t mean the US model has to be fine for France. Ditto for Turkey. Each country comes up with laws based on their own history, and their own current situation and problems that have arisen. If you don’t know anything about it, and don’t have direct experience of it, then you can’t fully understand. Especially if you have no idea of how pressures on girls can work, and especially pressures of a strictly religious nature.

    And here, again, one must notice how little attention has been devoted to *all* the different voices and opinions among French Muslims, and especially Muslim women.

  17. SOS Racisme apparently disagrees that this bill is discriminatory:

    Si nous sommes inquiets, c?est surtout parce que le d?bat sur la la?cit? a ?t? pris en otage par ceux qui veulent r?duire le d?bat citoyen ? un affrontement communautaire. La la?cit? est pour ceux l? un obstacle ? abattre pour mieux attaquer la dignit? de la femme et enjoindre chacun ? se r?fugier dans une communaut? religieuse.

    Nous disons halte ? la r?cup?ration de nos id?es et de nos symboles : celle du f?minisme par le discours des femmes islamistes, celle du drapeau tricolore pour voiler ces femmes, celle du mot ? la?cit? ? contre l?id?e m?me qu?elle d?fend.

    Or, translated:

    “If we are worried, it is above all because the debate on laicity has been taken hostage by those who would like to reduce the citizenship debate to a community conflict. Laicity is for these people an obstacle to beat down, all the better to attack the dignity of women and encourage each person to hide in a religious community.

    We demand a halt to the co-option of our ideas and our symbols: that of feminism by the discourse of Islamist women, that of the tricolour to veil these women, that of the word “laicite” against the very idea.”

  18. I forgot to specify one point which everyone knows but I feel is being in fact overlooked: … all phrases about the state reasserting its principles are to be completed with “within its own state-controlled environment”. Ie. within the public sphere. More specifically state-controlled, state-subsidised, state-managed schools.

    Not outside of them.

    So there’s no issue of infringing freedoms that can be exercised in all other spheres. They just cannot take over the state’s own laws when in the public sphere.

    To make a very silly instance, if I own a bar, I set the dress code for my waiters. If I have a Muslim waitress, she’ll be free to wear the hijab, but not on the job.

    Ditto here. The girls will be able to wear a hijab, but not in state schools. Their education is being paid by the state, so, the state – not the girls, not their parents, not the mullahs – gets to decide what kind of basic principles should inspire that education. Basic principles of democracy and equality that still allow lots of space and respect for any beliefs, as long as these beliefs respect those basic rules in turn. Because the state is not owned by any religious group!

    All very plain and simple to me, I don’t understand why so many don’t get it and are turning this into an issue of repression of human rights, which is patently absurd.

  19. Randy, sorry for being so anal, but you left out one crucial bit at the end 🙂 – “a halt to the co-option.. of the word laicite against the very idea IT DEFENDS”.

    Thanks for adding that page from SOS Racisme. A position like theirs is not something anyone discussing this can ignore. (Doesn’t mean it won’t be ignored, of course…)

    Here’s a bit from the rest, they sum up the principle of the law really well:

    Nous nous r?unissons pour faire entendre une chose simple?: nous voulons vivre ensemble. Et nous sommes nombreux par del? nos croyances et nos diff?rences ? partager cette volont?.

    Nous voulons une France o? l??cole publique favorise l??galit? des chances par rapport ? la fatalit? de la naissance. O? la la?cit? soit clairement d?finie par la Loi, prot?geant chacun contre les int?grismes et rappelant que l?on ne fr?quente pas l?Ecole en tant que jeune juif, jeune catholique ou jeune musulman, mais en tant qu?enfant de la R?publique.

    Nous voulons une France o? l??galit? entre les hommes et les femmes soit le combat de tous. Une France o? ce qui nous rassemble est plus fort que ce qui nous divise. O? la premi?re des communaut?s est la communaut? nationale.
    =

    We united to convey a simple message: we want to live together. And there’s many of us and we all, beyond our beliefs and differences, share this goal.

    We want a France where state school favours equal opportunities regardless of one’s origins. A France where laicit? is clearly defined by the Law, as protecting everyone against integralism and reminding everyone that you don’t go to public school as a young Jew, a young Catholic or a young Muslim, but as a young citizen of the Republic.

    We want a France where the equality between men and women is a common goal for everybody. A France where what unites us is stronger than that which divides us. Where the community coming before any other is the national one.

  20. To those that oppose the French ban, it may be a good idea to read the report on which the law is based:

    http://www.publicsenat.fr/xox/data/special/rapport_laicite.pdf

    The issue of schools handled in paragraph 4.2.2.1

    I haven?t seen many handle the issues stated there.

    My own understanding of French isn?t that good that I can provide a translation, And knowing the French they certainly wouldn?t have done it themselves. So you?ll have to read it in French.

  21. Positions on this particular debate seem pretty well ensconced, and, to echo one of the commenters above, our respective horses are surely on life support if not already dead. That in mind, I’ll hold off on a reiteration of my own position on this particular debate. (Though, to tip my hand a bit, I find myself more sympathetic to Scott’s position, and think, in theory, that Turkey’s anti-hijab position is a zebra to France’s horse — that is, they look alike, maybe even sound alike, and certainly kick alike, but are distinct enough that the fundamental differences should be given ultimate priority.) That is for another time, though.

    For the time being, and in no way is this a polemic point for my parenthetical position above, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least link to this bibliography of ‘secular fundamentalism’. This is, I think, a pretty even-handed perspective on the topic, arising from a debate about Bangladeshi politics — even if the number of working hyperlinks leave something to be desired — and offers the beginnings of a healthy, though cautious, recontextualisation (or attempt thereof) of the hijab / secularity issue.

  22. Here you go, from Luc’s link, chapter 4.2.2.1 – quick and dirty translation, first part:

    The question of laicit? has come up in 1989 in the same place it first arose in the 19th century: the school. Its mission is essential in the Republic. It transmits knowledge, it furthers a critical approach, it assures autonomy, openness to the diversity of cultures, and the realisation of the person, it is targeted at the formation of citizens as much as at a professional career. The school thus prepares tomorrow’s citizens to live together in the Republic. Such a mission presupposes clearly fixed common rules. As a first place of socialization and sometimes only place for integration and social improvement, the school has a very deep influence on all types of individual and collective behaviour. State schools educate pupils to become enligthened citizens. The school is therefore a fundamental institution of the Republic, where minors are called to live together beyond their differences. It is a specific space, submitted to specific rules, established in order to assure the transmission of knowledge in a serene environment. The school should not be a refuge from the world, but it must protect its pupils from the “noise of the world” (“fureur du monde”): surely it is not a sanctuary, but it must favour a sort of distance from the real world in order to allow learning. Now, in too many schools, experience and testimonies have shown that the conflicts of identity can become a factor leading to violence, provoke threats to individual freedoms, and create problems for public order.

    The public debate has been centered on the wearing of the Islamic veil by young girls and more generally on the wearing of religious and political symbols in the school. The commission has summed up the different positions expressed by those interviewed:

    – For those wearing it, the veil can have different meanings. It can be a personal choice or on the contrary a constraint, which is particularly intolerable for the youngest. The wearing of the veil in school is a recent phenomenon. A trend that was established in the Muslim world in the 1970’s, with the emergence of radical political-religious movements, it hadn’t manifested itself in France until the end of the 1980’s.

    – For those not wearing it, the meaning of the Islamic veil stigmatised “the young girl or the young woman as responsible for attracting male desire”, a vision which fundamentally contradicts the principle of equality between men and women.

    – For the whole of the school community, the wearing of the veil is too often a source of conflicts, divisions and even suffering. The visible character of a religious sign is resented by many as contrary to the mission of the school which is that of being a place of neutrality and to nurture a critical awareness. It is also a threat to the principles and values that the school must teach, especially equality between men and women.

    The commission has listened to the representatives of the main religions, as well as to leaders of organizations in defense of human rights who have expressed their objections on a law banning the wearing of religious symbols. The motives invoked by critics of this law are the following: stigmatisation of Muslims, exacerbation of anti-religious sentiment, promoting the image abroad of a “liberticide” France, encouragement to drop out of school and develop Muslim confessional schools. The possible difficulties of enforcing the law have been highlighted by its critics.

    Others – nearly all school representatives, headmasters and professors – are convinced that a law must be passed. The commission has been particularly sensitive to their complaints. Insufficiently equipped, they feel alone in the face of the complexity of those situations and the pressure exercised by local balances of power. They disagree with official figures which minimise the difficulties encountered on the field. They have highlighted the tensions provoked by the revendication of religious and group identities, like the formation of clans, for instance. They express the need for a clear framework, for a rule formulated at national level, a decision taken by the political authorities and therefore preceded by a public nation-wide debate. They demand a law forbidding all visible signs, so that the headmaster should not be the only one left with the responsibility to decide if a sign worn by a pupil is offensive or not.

    The commission has also had talks with political representatives as well as many representatives of local associations. Like teachers, they often told about the calls for help from many young girls and women, daughters of immigrants, living in the cities. Presented as the “silent majority”, victims of pressures within the family or neighbourhood, these girls need to be protected and to this end, they call on the political authorities to issue strong warnings to Islamist groups.

    The commission, after having listened to all the different positions, has come to the conclusion that the question today is no longer one of freedom of conscience, but of public order. The context has changed in the space of a few years. The tensions and confrontatins happening within schools and revolving around religious and issues have become far too frequent. Pressures are exerted on underage girls to force them to wear a religious sign. The family and social environment sometimes forces the girls to submit to choices which aren’t their own. The Republic cannot remain deaf to the cries for help of these girls. The school space must remain for them a place of freedom and emancipation.

    It is for that reason that the commission proposes the following declaration be inserted in the text of the law on laicit?: “In the respect of freedom of choice and of the specific character of established private schools approved by the state, any display of signs and symbols of religious and political identity are forbidden in state schools and colleges. Sanctions should be proportionate and only taken after the pupil disrespecting this rule has been invited to comply with it”.

    This disposition will be inseparable from the explanation of motives: “Forbidden religious symbols and clothing are only the conspicuous ones, such as large crosses, veils or kippas. Symbols allowed are discreet ones, such as medals, small crucifixes, stars of David, hands of Fatimah, or small Korans”.

    This suggestion has been adopted by the commission with unanimous voting of those present, minus one abstained.

    It must be understood as a chance given to integration. It is not about setting a ban but establishing a rule for life in common. This new rule will be explained clearly in schools. Sanctions must not be used except as a last resort. The current procedures and efforts to mediate and to promote exchanges with pupils and families must be maintained, and developed.

  23. Final part (about schools – the rest covers universities)

    … The judicial aspect of the incompatibility of this law with the European convention on fundamental human rights, which has been frequently raised [by critics], has been examined and discarded by the Commission. The European Court in Strasbourg protects laicit? when it is a fundamental value of the State. It allows limits to the freedom of expression in public services, especially when it is a matter of protecting minors against external pressures. In regard to the French constitutional judge, he allows that the law establishes specific rules for minors in order to ensure their protection. The same judge considers the need to protect the public order and to safeguard the rights and principles of constitutional value as a goal with constitutional value itself. The law proposed by the commission in this respect complies exactly with this imperative.

    The argument according to which the law could push towards private schooling is not decisive… (“dirimant”). Some Muslim parents already prefer Catholic schooling because their children are given religious values there. On the other hand, other parents who have taken their children out of state schools because they were submitted to group pressures will be able to send them back to those schools. Besides, it must be highlighted that private schools may adopt, if they so wish, rules that are equivalent to those in state schools.

    On another level, the commission considers that it is not acceptable that pupils refuse to comply with the obligation to attend school, or refuse to attend certain classes, to study certain subjects or be examined by teachers of the opposite sex. Pupils cannot systematically be dispensed from attending school on a certain day. The commission has observed that, according to all those interviewed, the exemptions to avoid going to the swimming pool or the gym are accorded too often. To put an end to this complacency, medical exemptions shall be exclusively granted by school doctors, or by doctors recognised by the state.

    Finally, the commission has expressed alarm at the trend to drop out of school. The law will have to reaffirm rules on the matter of obligation to attend school. The commission wishes national education to remind strongly that distance learning is not a right except in exceptional circumstances. Taking into account the fact some young girls drop out of school after their sixteenth year, the commission judges it appropriate that pupils aged at least 16 years be allowed to choose to continue going to school without the need for consent from their parents, the same way a 16 year old can choose to become French without the need for consent from their parents. In this respect, the commission proposes that schools distribute information about the possibility for those who have reached 16 years of age to acquire French citizenship.

  24. Brad: the link you quote about “Fundamentalist Secularism” (…) is hardly unbiased, coming from a Muslim male who supports traditional Islamic views on everything and seems to have some problems with secularism not to mention gender equality and denies there is any problem whatsoever within traditional Islam.

    It’s like a traditionalist Catholic writing about “Repressive Modernity”. Amusing, wouldn’t it?

    He has an interesting definition, though:

    “The secular person, believing primarily in tolerance, has no difficulty dealing with the different belief systems surrounding him. The secular fundamentalist, however, insists on forcing his particular dogma on the rest of society”

    The ambiguity is in what is intended as “forcing his dogma on the rest of society”. If it’s meant as “trying to abolish all religious practices”, then that would indeed be a sort of “fundamentalist secularism”. But that’d be confusing secularism with some hypothetical form of fanatical atheism, of the likes no one has seen yet.

    When it’s a matter public legal system setting its own secular a-religious rules for its own public services such as state education, I’m afraid that’s not this hypothetical “fundamentalist secularism”, but simply “the law” in a “secular democracy”.

    (The “secular” being redudant since there has never been a form of governance known as “religious democracy”.)

  25. I certainly didn’t think it wasn’t biased. One need only read the rejoinder post of his to which he links near the top of the page. Bias is simply the name of the game in this particular debate, though. To his credit, he’s pretty clear in his position, thus allowing one’s reading to follow accordingly.

    As I said when I first linked to it, I was not nearly as interested in it for its polemical value, as I was some of the recontextualising opportunities it potentially opens — even if some of the links are just plain silly (i.e., the one to something about Bob Dylan’s Bootleg collection is clearly the product of a random Google search).

  26. Are Turkish secularists holding intolerant prejudices against… their own people, their own culture, their own religion?

    Kendinin dinine karsi, evet, tabiii…

    Sorry, wrong language. Let’s just say, knowing Turkey better than most, yes a large chunk of the Turkish ?lite are prejudiced against ‘their own’ religion and that part of the population which seriously holds to it.

    In any case, if Turkey’s enforced laicism is a model for France, I look forward to France assuming a much more positive stance towards Turkish accession to the EU. If France retains its hostile stance to Turkish accession, I’ll be forced to conclude that the French ?lite is riddled with Islamophobia.

    To make a very silly instance, if I own a bar, I set the dress code for my waiters. If I have a Muslim waitress, she’ll be free to wear the hijab, but not on the job.

    This analogy holds no water. If you ban the hijab for the staff in your bar, ginger, I have the choice as to whether or not I want to patronise your bar. If I have strong views about hijab I can either avoid or make a special effort to go to it, as the case may be. If I don’t care, I don’t care.

    Taxpayers, however, have no choice but to pay to fund state schools and government jobs. Conservative Muslims are being made to pay for institutions from which, if they are women, they are excluded. If I was in that position, I’d be pretty pissed off.

    As an aside, it’s beyond me why someone hasn’t brought a case under the European Convention of Human Rights. It’s pretty explicit about Freedom of Religion…

  27. As an aside, it’s beyond me why someone hasn’t brought a case under the European Convention of Human Rights. It’s pretty explicit about Freedom of Religion…

    Yes, and your not the only one thinking that.
    In the report that ginger translated it is stated as follows:

    … The judicial aspect of the incompatibility of this law with the European convention on fundamental human rights, which has been frequently raised [by critics], has been examined and discarded by the Commission. The European Court in Strasbourg protects laicit? when it is a fundamental value of the State. It allows limits to the freedom of expression in public services, especially when it is a matter of protecting minors against external pressures.

    So according to the French a case wouldn’t have much of a chance to succeed.

  28. If France retains its hostile stance to Turkish accession, I’ll be forced to conclude that the French ?lite is riddled with Islamophobia.

    There are other reasons to oppose Turkish membership in the European Union, including Turkey’s poverty, its rapidly growing population, its (hopefully dormant) Kurdish insurgency in the east, Cyprus if that doesn’t get resolved, and the whole question of civil/military relations.

    Conservative Muslims are being made to pay for institutions from which, if they are women, they are excluded. If I was in that position, I’d be pretty pissed off.

    Reactionaries of all stripes can get pretty easily pissed off by anything that doesn’t conform completely with their values. Their anger isn’t a convincing argument against that, though.

  29. Brad: my point is there’s no need of a “re-contextualization” because the context of a law in a secular democracy is the legal system in a secular democracy, its principles and workings – not the beliefs of a follower of a religion.

    That’s something some people don’t seem to understand here.

  30. Young Fogey: so the secularists in Turkey are prejudiced? Because they want the law and constitution in Turkey to be based on the principles of secular democracy, and not concede to religion?

    Have I missed some trend to redefine legal systems in democracy or what? I always thought the line was clear. You practice whatever religion you like, but in order to allow all religions and beliefs (or none) to be practiced (or not), the state itself must be neutral, hence, based on secular principles. And everybody, of any religion (or none), must respect those basic common rules.

    There’s just no other way democracy has ever worked or could ever work.

    I thought on a site discussing politics primarily, everybody would be familiar with that concept…

    “In any case, if Turkey’s enforced laicism is a model for France”

    And where did you infer that? I brought it up as a parallel specific to the law being discussed here, and to the relation between state and religion. It’s not a matter of models, but of experiences and conclusions. Which are similar in the respect of allowing or not allowing the veil in *state* offices and environments. Ie. in respect to the idea of the state protecting itself from religious interference.

    “Taxpayers, however, have no choice but to pay to fund state schools and government jobs.”

    All taxpayers, yes, of all different beliefs, or none. Of different genders as well. That’s why the schools must remain neutral in the face of religion. That’s why they cannot endorse views and practices that contradict with the principle of equality between men and women, for instance. That’s why they cannot become areas for religious indoctrination.

    All citizens are submitted to the law of the state, not to the beliefs or one religion or the other. The law of the state is secular, hence all citizens paying taxes accept the state’s own environments and educational institutions will remain secular.

    “Conservative Muslims are being made to pay for institutions from which, if they are women, they are excluded. If I was in that position, I’d be pretty pissed off.”

    That’s turning the whole thing on its head.

    Again, by the same warped reasoning, creationism should be allowed to be taught in state schools in the US, otherwise fundamentalist Christian paying taxes to fund those schools will be pissed off. Gay-bashing should be allowed to be taught in state schools, otherwise gay-bashers will be pissed off. Racist views should be allowed to be taught in schools otherwise the far-right racists will be pissed off…

    Where do you draw the line there?

    What you don’t really accept is that the line has been drawn at a neutral level, that of a secular system which allows freedom to practice ALL religions or none, to hold all kinds of political opinions or none, to think whatever you like of gays or women or other ethnic groups – but the state itself cannot endorse ANY of these views. That’s why all democracies are inspired by secularism. That’s the platform that sets basic rules, like separation of church and state, equality between all citizens of different genders, ethnic groups, religions, etc. If any belief is in contrast with those basic rules of co-habitation, you can still hold it, but you can’t use state schools attended by minors to spread it.

    In other words, you can’t expect your positions to be given by the state more weight than the basic COMMON rules of the state itself.

    It’s simple really! There’s no discrimination at all. What you’re advocating is a reverse concept of secularism, indeed, like SOS Racisme says, using secularism to push something completely opposite to what laicite itself defends. You’re advocating endorsement for all kinds of views even when these contrast with basic legal principles and human rights. You’re advocating the state give up its right to legislate on common principles.

    That’s not how peaceful co-existence of different beliefs works.

    “As an aside, it’s beyond me why someone hasn’t brought a case under the European Convention of Human Rights. It’s pretty explicit about Freedom of Religion…”

    I assume you haven’t read the French commission report -quoting again:

    .. The judicial aspect of the incompatibility of this law with the European convention on fundamental human rights, which has been frequently raised [by critics], has been examined and discarded by the Commission. The European Court in Strasbourg protects laicit? when it is a fundamental value of the State. It allows limits to the freedom of expression in public services, especially when it is a matter of protecting minors against external pressures. In regard to the French constitutional judge, he allows that the law establishes specific rules for minors in order to ensure their protection. The same judge considers the need to protect the public order and to safeguard the rights and principles of constitutional value as a goal with constitutional value itself. The law proposed by the commission in this respect complies exactly with this imperative.

  31. As an addition, it is important to point out that the European Union is also based on the same concept of secularism.

    Actually, all democracies are. Even if they don’t adopt the same standards in state schools, the principles underlying the legal system as neutral and a-religious are the same.

  32. Randy : “Reactionaries of all stripes can get pretty easily pissed off by anything that doesn’t conform completely with their values. Their anger isn’t a convincing argument against that, though”

    Ophelia:”Not to mention the fact that, of course, they’re not excluded.”

    Exactly.
    Not to mention the fact that not all French Muslims are reactionaries. A point many of the most passionate bashers of this law seem to overlook.

    (Only to be quick to accuse secularists in France or even Turkey of “Islamophobia”! the irony)

    Not to mention that, in the case of the strictest reactionary Muslim parents, it’s not them but their daughters, minors, who will be attending state schools.

    Where the idea is the state decides on state education, not the parents.

  33. And, lastly: freedom of religion is not being affected here.

    I’m free to practice my religion. I’m not free to impose it on the state itself, on others of different religions, or of no religion.

    If my religion dictates* I cannot be examined in class by a male teacher, or to join a physical education class, or to take a biology or sexual education class, or to go to the gym or swimming pool – then my religion will have to take a step back, take a look around, realise this is not a church school but a state school, and accept the role of the teacher is to teach, my role in this place is to learn, according to common rules that work for everybody and still allow everybody to practice their religion. Just not demand its views and practices that contrast with the law, as well as the basic functioning of school teaching and learning itself, be given preminence over the common law itself.

    * of course, Islam doesn’t really “dictate” that, just as it never dictated the compulsory wearing of the hijab. That was, like the Commission report recalls as well, an invention of radical Islamist groups in recent years, for the obvious purpose of applying greater social control and pressures, which coincidentally almost always result in repression of human rights of women as individuals. See the Taleban dictatorship for most obvious instance.

    All that is something those brandishing human rights to *defend* the hijab haven’t quite understood…

  34. Ginger, the recontextualisation to which I was referring was, if for nothing else, analytical purposes. Namely, to see how this debate is fleshed out in other issues, in different places.

    If you find no use for that, eh . . . so be it.

  35. So according to the French a case wouldn’t have much of a chance to succeed

    Governments have been known to make misjudgements about what is and isn’t permitted under the Human Rights Convention before, Luc.

    Randy:

    There are other reasons to oppose Turkish membership in the European Union, including Turkey’s poverty, its rapidly growing population, its (hopefully dormant) Kurdish insurgency in the east, Cyprus if that doesn’t get resolved, and the whole question of civil/military relations.

    Large numbers of which apply to Romania, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia, etc. I didn’t hear Giscard d’Estaing say their accession would ‘destroy Europe’ or that those who supported their accession were ‘enemies of the European Union’.

    Reactionaries of all stripes can get pretty easily pissed off by anything that doesn’t conform completely with their values.

    Including secular reactionaries.

    Not to mention the fact that, of course, they’re not excluded

    Ophelia, according to the Conseil d’Etat decision, conservative Muslim women in France are excluded from a career as a civil servant if they choose to follow their religious beliefs.

    Ginger, Ginger, where to begin:

    Not to mention the fact that not all French Muslims are reactionaries.

    No, indeed. Nor are all women who wear hijab, nor indeed are all the husbands and families of women who wear hijab. By using ‘reactionary’ to describe them – a term with entirely negative connotations – you choose to demonise an unpopular and vulnerable minority within a minority. Do so if you choose, but I’ll happily point out what you are doing.

    If what you mean is that not all French Muslims believe in hijab – well, so what? Does the degree of minority rights depend on the size of the minority? Does the fact that say, most French Christians do not believe in the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady mean that miraculous medals should be banned? Can we infringe the religious rights of Parsees because there aren’t a lot of them?

    Not to mention that, in the case of the strictest reactionary Muslim parents, it’s not them but their daughters, minors, who will be attending state schools.

    Similar laws apply to civil servants. What’s your justification for them?

    I’m free to practice my religion.

    If you’re a conservative Muslim women attending school or working in the Civil Service, you are no longer free to practise your religion in France.

    I’m not free to impose it on the state itself, on others of different religions, or of no religion.

    I am confused. How does my wearing a headscarf ‘impose’ a religion on those of other religions or none?

    * of course, Islam doesn’t really “dictate” that, just as it never dictated the compulsory wearing of the hijab.

    Whether or not Islam dictates hijab depends on the Denomination of Islam the Muslim belongs to, the school of Shari’a jurisprudence followed and to a certain extent local cultural factors. And obviously whether or not the individual is a practicing Muslim. Similarly, whether or not I believe it is necessary to attend Church on Holy Days of Obligation depends on the particular branch of Christianity I adhere to, as well as, obviously, whether or not I practise at all.

    Some Muslims certainly think wearing hijab is crucial to their faith, and have done for more than a millennium.

    That was, like the Commission report recalls as well, an invention of radical Islamist groups in recent years

    If that’s what the Commission report says, the Commission report is, well, completely wrong. Hijab goes back centuries,

  36. As an addition, it is important to point out that the European Union is also based on the same concept of secularism.
    Actually, all democracies are. Even if they don’t adopt the same standards in state schools, the principles underlying the legal system as neutral and a-religious are the same.

    Well here I disagree a bit with you, ginger.
    Altough the principle of separation of state and religion is present in almost any democracy, it is not implemented in the same way. Sometimes for historical reasons, like the state religion in the UK and the state financing churches in Germany, and sometimes because of principal reasons. The secularity can conflict with the freedom of religion.

    To quote the part about law from the French report about laicite:

    The European Court in Strasbourg protects laicit? when it is a fundamental value of the State. It allows limits to the freedom of expression in public services, especially when it is a matter of protecting minors against external pressures

    It implies two things – first that laicit? is not a fundamental value in all states, and second that laicit? limits freedom of expression.

    But at least France is clear about it’s secular principles, and has a proper implementation in law. Whereas many other countries have a rather flawed implementation in law of the principle of separation of religion and state. And this leads to a lot of ambiguity about this subject.

  37. Brad: but the problem I see in the discussions of this is that there is not enough knowledge and acknowledgement of the specific context and framework of this law.

    We all know already what believers who are fond of strict, traditional Muslim views of women and of religion think. They all portray the state setting its rules in its state schools as interference and attack-on-freedom-of-religion.

    What we don’t hear a lot is discussion on the actual legal basis for legislating, as is outlined in the Commission report on how to re-assert “Laicit?”, which like it or not is a fundamental constitutional principle for France, in schools.

    Young Fogey: I wasn’t the one to use the term reactionaries, I was referring to people who accuse the French legislators and supporters of this law of discriminating against Muslims, an interpretation which equates “reactionaries” (fundamentalists, traditionalists, etc.) with all Muslims.

    So your argument shouldn’t be with me on that.

    Regarding my insistence that not all Muslims are “reactionaries” or whatever you want to call religious fundamentalists:

    If what you mean is that not all French Muslims believe in hijab ? well, so what? Does the degree of minority rights depend on the size of the minority?

    Nope, absolutely not. In fact, the main point here, stripping down the whole issue to its legal core, is quite simply that the state has a right to legislate on its state schools in order to enforce those principles of secularism and equality already enshrined in the constitution, hence, already at the foundation of the state.

    And that right to demand its common rules of equality and integration on a secular basis be respected is totally independent of the size both of those approving this law, or of those disapproving of it. No matter how popular or unpopular this law is, it is still 100% in line with the legal system in France.

    (As well as in all secular democracies, but the French application of secularism is indeed a more treasured – and more threatened – principle than elsewhere in the west, for instance).

    My intent, therefore, was simply to point out that there are different positions, even among Muslims in France, so perhaps those using the “intolerance against Muslims” argument should consider that.

    If you?re a conservative Muslim women attending school or working in the Civil Service, you are no longer free to practise your religion in France.

    Ok, where do we start here, cos you seem to be talking about Mars, not the real world, not France…

    – schools are not places of religious worship, but of education
    – Sstate schools are places for state education
    – the State, according to the principles set in its own constitution and laws, which like in any democracy are upheld by the representatives of citizens, sets the rules for its own state education
    – everyone is free to practice their religion, what they’re not free to do is demand that in state schools their religion take precedence over the state’s own rules

    All clear so far or..?

    I am confused. How does my wearing a headscarf ?impose? a religion on those of other religions or none?

    You are indeed very confused. You may start with reading all of the Commission report quoted above, for instance. While reading it pay particular attention to the practical cases mentioned as origins of the problems that inspired this law. Pay attention to the items brought up by teachers, for instance. You may also read SOS Racisme’s statement, quoted above.

    Since you have no first-hand experience of the situations mentioned, reading about them should be enough in getting at the least the beginning of a clue.

    Otherwise we may as well be discussing the pop charts.

    Some Muslims certainly think wearing hijab is crucial to their faith, and have done for more than a millennium.

    Not really, since it’s a recent thing. It certainly isn’t in the Koran, for instance. But ok, that’s a debate for Islamic courts and imams, not that relevant here.

    What’s relevant is that even if 99% of Muslims enthusiastically and freely and liberally approved of the wearing of the hijab and all that’s associated with it in terms of behaviour of girls in class as dictated by fundamentalists (again, see practical instances quoted above) and views endorsed by that practice, even if it was a practice that’s 50,000 years old and engraved in gold on the sacred black stone in Medina, and written in clear and perfect Arabic in the Quran, it still would not matter to the French state in setting its own rules for its own schools.

    Unless, that is, you want to give more weight to fundamentalist views than to the legal principles of equality and secularism.

    That might be one position. But the fact is, it’s not a position that’s compliant with the legal system in France. And since it’s the legal system in France, not fudnamentalists, who decide to what principles state education should be inspired, well, it’s a no-brainer really.

    The state schools are submitted to the state, and the state law is not submitted to religious beliefs. End of story.

    I read sometime ago about a sheikh in Syria or Lebanon (I can’t remember) who issued a fatwa approving the French law banning religious symbols in French schools. He got the Muslim Brotherhood (the mother of all fundamentalist organizations, and the one which conceived of the practice of the hijab as tool of political-religious radicalism) very angry, and they all obviously issued counter-fatwas. But what’s interesting is his motivation, which went: yes, the hijab is a dictate all Muslim women should adhere to; but France is not a Muslim country, it’s a secular one, so if you go to state schools in France, you have to respect the laws of France, otherwise, don’t go to state schools in France.

    That imam has understood the legal principles there beautifully.

    And mind you, he does approve of the practice of the hijab in itself, and he’s a conservative Muslim too. A “reactionary”. But he knows and accepts the borders between religion and state, in a secular democracy at least.

  38. … and that (understanding the concept of separation of church and state, and the concept of who gets to decide rules for state schools in France) is something that some self-professed “secularists” attacking this law as “interference with freedom of religion” don’t seem to be able to do…

  39. What’s sad is that many of the people talking here, who have no experience of the current French culture, do not understand that this is an appeal to the vast Front National vote: the racist, far-right xenophobe party, and very important since it nearly took last presidential elections.
    This law appeals to the “arab”-haters, and with a feminist bone thrown in, the other side of the political spectrum approves as well!
    Never mind that this law will actually cause so much damage. Very clever politics, but bad policy.

  40. Matthew
    What’s sad is that many of the people talking here, who have no experience of the current French culture, do not understand that this is an appeal to the vast Front National vote: the racist, far-right xenophobe party, and very important since it nearly took last presidential elections.

    This is ridiculous. You can criticize secularism without using insults.
    80% of the opinion support the Law. Socialists and most Trotskyists support the Law. Are you accusing them all of being racist?

    BTW, the FN did not “nearly take the presidential elections” except if 17% vs 82% is within your conception of “nearly”.

  41. Randy:

    There are other reasons to oppose Turkish membership in the European Union, including Turkey’s poverty, its rapidly growing population, its (hopefully dormant) Kurdish insurgency in the east, Cyprus if that doesn’t get resolved, and the whole question of civil/military relations.

    Large numbers of which apply to Romania, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia, etc.

    But not nearly to the same degree. Let’s take the example of According to Eurostat figures, the last three countries you cite have seen some degree of convergence with European Union average GDP per capitas since 1995. Romania has stagnated.

    Turkey stands out with Bulgaria as being the only potential European Union member-state to have suffered relative decline. Bulgaria, though, has a falling population of less than eight million people, and is so a relatively affordable burden. In fact, all of the non-Mediterranean applicant states to the European Union have stable or declining populations, with demographic patterns increasingly dominated (as in the EU-15) by low fertility rates and growing levels of net immigration.

    In contrast, Turkey has a growing population of more than seventy million. Turkey is beginnings to show signs of becoming a country of net immigration, but as yet these signs are equivocal.

    And granted that other applicant states have had problems with political and ethnic pluralism. Turkey, however, stands out as fairly unique in the magnitude of its problems. Poland hasn’t killed thirty thousand Ukrainian rebels in its southeast over the 1990s; Romania hasn’t invaded Moldova to transform Romanian-speaking areas into an unrecognized satellite state; Hungary’s military hasn’t staged silent coups against democratically-elected leaders.

    I didn?t hear Giscard d?Estaing say their accession would ?destroy Europe? or that those who supported their accession were ?enemies of the European Union?.

    No. Remember in 1990, though, when Mitterand suggested that rather than allow poor and potentially quite unstable central European states to join the then-EC, a broader European Confederation should be set up to keep them on the margins of Europe?

    Right now–economically, politically, socially–Turkey is about as prepared for European Union membership as Poland in 1990. It’s making great strides towards the model of a democratic and reasonably prosperous European society; what it has to do is consolidate those gains, and advance still further. You don’t have to b

    Reactionaries of all stripes can get pretty easily pissed off by anything that doesn’t conform completely with their values.

    Including secular reactionaries.

    Demanding that people who don’t want to be pressured into joining a conservative religious subculture be guaranteed some degree of autonomy is hardly reactionary.

    True. No one here, though, is advocating (say)

  42. If that?s what the Commission report says, the Commission report is, well, completely wrong. Hijab goes back centuries

    Modesty is a requirement. The hijab per se is not; as it is currently worn, however, is a neologism invented in late 20th century Lebanon.

  43. I’m happy to see that ginger has abandoned all pretense that the ban is for the good of Muslims girls. If France wants to doom the Muslim girls whose parents will pull them from their main secular contact, it can certainly do so. I just objected to the idea that it was done for the good of those girls.

    As for the European Court allowing the ban, I’m unsurprised that France believes there isn’t a case against it. France believes that EU rules are for France to dictate to other countries. They certainly don’t apply to France. See also economic ‘rules’.

    Oh, I’m so sorry, am I looking at actions instead of words again? How simplistically American of me.

  44. Mr. Holsclaw:

    I’m happy to see that ginger has abandoned all pretense that the ban is for the good of Muslims girls.

    Um, no. No one said that it can save all Muslim girls from oppression. All that has been said is that it’s the best solution possible, which certainly does not imply that it’s a complete solution.

    What would you recommend?

  45. I would recommend that the police actually crack down on the gangs who treat non-hijab wearing women as ‘whores’.

    I would recommend that you set up a system of escape homes if these girls want to get away from the oppression of their fathers.

    I would recommend engaging with Muslim leaders who are not so willing to ghettoize their people as the current leaders seem to be.

    I would recomend not allowing these girls to be pulled from smchool for at least six months.

    In short I would recommend dealing with the real problems, as opposed to dealing with the symbols of the real problems. France as for too long allowed the Muslim ghettos to be ruled differently. This isn’t a step in correcting that. This is only a step in making it less obvious to the naked eye.

    And you say this is the best solution possible. For what problem exactly? It is no solution at all for the child who gets pulled from school. It is no solution at all for the girl who is subjected to more abuse from her neighborhood when she goes to school without the hijab. It imposes rules on Jews and Christians for no apparent reason.

    Is the problem that religion exists at all? If so this is really a poor solution.

  46. I would recommend that the police actually crack down on the gangs who treat non-hijab wearing women as ‘whores’.

    Sebastian, for the 100th time, continuining from the discussion at CT: not all parents who pressure their girls into wearing the hijab are doing so in a violent way. Not all fundamentalists are thugs. Those gangs are already being cracked down, like any other gang of any religious/ethnic group, when they actually do commit crimes, abuses, violence.

    The state cannot act on families who have brought up girls according to the strictest views on women but without abuse or violence. There are girls who have received a strict religious education, not necessarily a violent one.

    The state can act on its own schools to make sure those pressures, even of the non-violent and gentle kind, are not endorses in a state, secular, neutral education environment.

    If you want to teach your kids creationism, the state cannot prevent you. If you want to teach your kids gays are evil, the state cannot prevent you. If you want to teach your kids premarital sex leads to damnation, the state cannot prevent you.

    If you, however, like fundamentalists here are doing, want those views to be accepted into the state’s own schools, then the state has a constitutional right and duty (for the sake of equality for all citizens) to prevent that demand of yours is accepted.

    What’s still not clear about that?

    I would recommend that you set up a system of escape homes if these girls want to get away from the oppression of their fathers.

    That’s a good idea. There are already organisations like Ni Putes Ni Soumises, and other women’s groups helping girls in case of abuse. There should be more, of course. There’s never enough, and not just in France. There’s also social services. And then there’s teachers and social workers in schools. See, I don’t understand how advocating that kind of help for girls submitted to abuse and or pressures should EXCLUDE the state’s right to keep its schools secular.

    Don’t you think that, for those girls already at odds somehow with the pressures for hijab-wearing, now that they have the chance of an environment that’s entirely free of those pressures, they’ll be even more encouraged to come out and rebel against those pressures elsewhere?

    Or do you only envision the girls-being-pulled-out-of-school scenario?

    That doesn’t cover all the different cases and outcomes.

    I would recommend engaging with Muslim leaders who are not so willing to ghettoize their people as the current leaders seem to be.

    The Interior Minister has set up a Council of Islam, officially recognised by the state. Wehther it’s a good idear or not is beside the point here, but it does show the state is indeed engaging with Muslim leaders. But I don’t know of any means where it can enforce, in the short term, a reformation of fundamentalist Islam. I’m afraid that’s just not possible by way of state intervention.

    Secularism also involves the state does not mess with the church’s own affairs. It’s up to the religious groups.

    I find it so curious that you don’t want the state to intervene where it has a legal right and duty to, but you vaguely suggest it should intervene where it cannot.

    It cannot do more than talks and exchanges with religious groups; it can set laws on its own areas of competence.

    I would recomend not allowing these girls to be pulled from smchool for at least six months.

    Not allowing as in by decree? by law? You want the state to abolish the right for any parents of any religion to choose private schools instead of state ones? That’s not possible. Whether you or I would like it or not, it just cannot be done. Not in France, not in the US, not anywhere there are private schooling systems recognised by the state.

    If that’s your idea of arguing about facts and actions…

  47. It is no solution at all for the child who gets pulled from school. It is no solution at all for the girl who is subjected to more abuse from her neighborhood when she goes to school without the hijab.

    And that should be the fault of this law?

    It sets a rule. There’ll be many Muslim parents who accept this rule, and they already have; there’ll be others who don’t accept it, but their option to put girls in private schools was there even before. The most fundamentalists were already putting their girls into religious schools, either Catholic or Koranic.

    The girls whose parents are not forcing them to wear a hijab as of today, or who have successfully rebelled against their parents if these were pressuring them, may be already getting insulted in their neighbourhoods by the fundamentalists and mysoginists and reactionaries.

    So just because that happens, we should accept it’s better for the girls, even those who are *already* rebelling or inclined to rebel, to comply with these pressures, so as not to get insulted?

    That’s exactly buying into the fundamentalist idea of women as “provoking” men, lock stock and barrel.

    Very similar to the “provoking rape” idea…

    I’d love it if there were no religious schools where religious fundamentalists of any kind get to educate minors according to their views. It makes me cringe to think young kids, minors, subjected to such pervasive choices that aren’t their own by their parents. But these schools exist. And they’re an option for everybody. If they can afford it, if the school is near enough, if the pros they perceive are greater than the cons.

    Now, state schools also exist. And they’re also a more accessible, not to mention free, option for everybody. And they’re not run by religious fundamentalists.

    Should those schools act only on the basis of a “competition” with those religious private schools? Should state schools accept fundamentalist views just so they can “get” more pupils from private ones?

    You can’t grant that’d be the result; you can only grant the result would be state schools lose their autonomy to fundamentalists, and disregard their own principles of equality and secularism.

    No law is perfect. With this law, there will be parents who will SADLY pull out their girls from sate schools to go for private schools, an option they always had anyway, and whose abolishment would, if it was even legally conceivable (which it isn’t), provoke 10,000 times the controversy this law has provoked…

    On the other hand, without this law, you’ll keep subjecting everyone in the state schools – including the girls wearing a hijab, and those not wearing it, and then those whose parents would be likely to accept the compromise of girls not wearing a hjab in exchange for free state education; and then of course everyone else from other pupils to teachers – to the views and demands associated with the hijab, such as exemption from certain classes and from speaking to male teachers, etc.

    You’ll “fundamentalise” state schools just because of the demands of some fundamentalists, who incidentally represent only a fraction of the Muslim community.

    All laws are compromises. But I think the one you envision would be a far worse compromise, for the girls themselves. The message would be one loud clear victory for fundamentalists, and bye bye to the hope of helping all those young girls to grow up in a pressure-free environment…

    At the bottom, there’s still the “strict” and “heartless” issue of secularism and the right of the state to legislate on its own area of competence. But there is also a clear and obvious concern for the girls, as is explained also with practical instances in the Commission report, and as has been voiced by those Muslim women and organization in their defense who support this law.

    With this law, you have a larger chance of reaching more girls; without it, you give up on that very possibility.

    You can’t make laws based only on the pre-existing choices of some fundamentalists and ignore everything else.

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