Saturday, April 03, 2004

A French Conundrum

Rick Freedman who writes Worlds on Fire has a post up on the controversial banning of the hijab in French public schools. He has provided for us a balanced discussion of the subject and invites our comments. Read his posting first and take your time to follow some of his links.

I admit to a prejudice against the islamic religion as I see it practiced around the world. Its imans call for death to Jews and homosexuals. Women are treated as chattel, subjected to the will of their fathers, their brothers, their husbands. Does the fact that many cooperate in their denigration as second class matter to me? No. Is slavery wrong if the slaves don't object to it? Yes, I think so. The French think so as well. To their horror, they realized there are ghettos in Paris and Marseilles where muslim women are terrorized by muslim fundamentalists. Being unable to constructively deal with this clash of cultural values, the French decided to declare a symbolic war against this fundamentalist terror, and for their first battle, they banned from public schools the hijab, a scarf popular with many western muslim women. Next to the burqa required in some muslim countries, the hijab seems quite modest. Just to seem fair, they banned yamulkas and religious symbols as jewelry, such as stars of david, even crosses if they're too big, but it was the hijab that they were going for.

The abuse of women in unassimilated muslim cultures does not belong to France alone. There are stories about the mistreatment of muslim women by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and even strangers coming to us from Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain, even Australia. Indeed, every country which has opened its doors to immigrant workers has had to deal with the abuse of women in islamic culture. Islamic fundamentalilsm in Europe is like the camel sticking his nose into the tent. Slowly but persistently, it has sought to substitute itself for the laws and values of its host countries.

Should France do anything? You may not like the way your neighbor treats his wife, but unless he starts to beat her, you probably ought to stay out of their business. Even as uncomfortable as it makes you feel.

I empathize with the French for wanting to do something positive for young muslim girls. This law, while well intended, is doomed to fail. For this law to operate successfully, it requires a policeman at the door of each school, and that seems pretty oppressive. This law can only be successful if those at whom it is aimed cooperate. I don't see that happening.

It's a test of will between two determined opponents. France has chosen an unfortunate mechanism for reinforcing the secular nature of its schools.. It will fail and the problem will remain unresolved. The French will continue to struggle with it. Just as we do here.