Sunday, July 13, 2003

of course the real crime is the 2.50 € I paid for a Fanta 

The Counsil on American-Islamic Relations wants you to know that France definitely has issues with its Muslim population. If you're running around this country afraid that the USA has turned into Germany circa 1933 maybe you should ask yourself why Bush hasn't revoked the right of a muslim woman to wear her head-scarf, because that is exactly what happened in France the other day. A court in Lyon ruled that a muslim woman wearing her head-scarf on the job constitutes a "particularly serious offense" against the French state. They're warm and fuzzy people, aren't they? Perhaps this explains why the UN ranked France so poorly?

And since it costs money to register for the Ireland Times i'll just copy this next article straight out of the daily e-mail that CAIR sends me, emphasis my own:
Lara Marlowe, Irish Times, 7/12/03

Nothing is as certain to make you unpopular in a French gathering - whether left-or right-wing - as saying you don't understand the fuss about le foulard islamique.

I recently committed the faux pas of asking: "If a Muslim woman wants to wear a headscarf, what's the problem?" The decibel level of the dinner conversation exploded. Normally rational French men and women, including one of Arab origin, tried to outdo each other with denunciations of Islamic fundamentalism. For a reporter who has worked in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where men are obsessed with forcing women to cover their hair, it sometimes feels strange to live in a society where the majority seem determined to force women to uncover their hair.

It was an example of what the former cabinet minister, Jean Glavany, called the "plus laic que moi tu meurs syndrome", which translates roughly as a nose-thumbing taunt of "I'm more secular than you are." Mr Glavany heads the socialist party's "Permanent University of Secularism". In an interview, he accused the right of "trying to appropriate the issue." Over the past two months almost all French politicians, including President Jacques Chirac, have become involved. The debate is meant to encompass secularism in general, but invariably zeroes in on the headscarf.

It is partly an attempt to placate the millions who voted for the extreme right-wing, anti-immigrant leader Jean-Marie Le Pen last year. It may be related to September 11th and events in Palestine, Algeria and Iraq. In any case, "it's not caused by an upsurge in veiling in France," Mr Glavany admitted. "The numbers are levelling off." At the end of July a tribunal in Lyons will decide whether Nadjet ben Abdallah (33), a lawyer of Algerian origin, has the right to wear a headscarf at her government job. She sued after being suspended. "I don't represent all the headscarves on the planet," Ms ben Abdallah said after her July 3rd hearing. "I'm a work inspector. I like my profession and I am a Muslim. I don't want to have to choose between the two." Other highly publicised cases have strengthened the perception that Muslims are attempting to impose their lifestyle on the secular republic. The mayor of Evry tried to shut down a grocery store because its owners, Mohamed and Abdel Djazari, refused to sell pork or wine. Franprix supermarkets withdrew the brothers' franchise, though a kosher Franprix in Paris has been in business for over a decade. A right-wing deputy of Arab origin has called on inhabitants of towns where swimming pools provide women-only hours at the request of Muslim associations to sue their mayors. No one has complained about similar arrangements for Jewish groups in Strasbourg and Sarcelles.

On July 3rd President Chirac established a commission on secularism. Prominent politicians, including the Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, have called for a law banning the wearing of headscarves at school, and the presidential commission is to make a recommendation by the end of this year. Bernard Stasi, the president of Mr Chirac's commission, was asked by Le Monde whether the resurgence of the debate on headscarves risked stigmatising Islam. His response conveyed the ambiguity of the government position.

"We mustn't start a war against a religion, nor give them the feeling they've been ostracised," Mr Stasi replied. "That said, everything depends on the image that Islam gives of itself. If a religion has an aggressive behaviour, one mustn't be surprised if it inspires reactions." The "give 'em an inch and they'll take a mile" argument is used most often against the headscarf. It was summarised by Alain Juppe, a former prime minister and the head of Mr Chirac's UMP party, in an interview with Valeurs Actuelles magazine.

Mr Juppe said legislation would be necessary "to defend secularism". He mentioned mayors segregating swimming pools. "Why wouldn't the next step be separate train compartments for men and women, beaches reserved for one sex and forbidden to the other? This system has a name: apartheid." A few, isolated voices have noted that a law against the wearing of headscarves would further impede the integration of France's Muslim children by forcing them into Koranic schools. And it would probably violate Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which the French helped draft...

Why should a scarf be so offensive on the head of a Muslim schoolgirl, but perfectly acceptable if it's Hermes silk worn by the British queen or a lady from the 16th arrondissement? And why does it pose no problem in the US, which has often showed anti-Muslim bias?...

Why should France, the self-proclaimed country of human rights, feel compelled to save Muslim women from a piece of cloth? Yes, protect the secular basis of the French republic. Resist attempts by religious groups to impose their beliefs on others. But stop poisoning inter-faith relations with your headscarf obsession.

Gotta love the cheap-shot at the end, God-damn Irish.
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