Moral Low Ground

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Attack on Religious Freedom: French Police Detain Women Wearing Islamic Veils as Burqa Ban Begins

Police in Paris have detained two women wearing veils at a protest as the country’s highly controversial ban on Islamic face coverings goes into effect, the Guardian reports.

About a dozen people gathered for the protest today in front of the iconic Notre Dame cathedral in central Paris. Two men and two women were herded into a police van; an officer claimed the group was arrested because the protest was unauthorized and the demonstrators refused to disperse.

A nationwide ban on burqas and niqabs in public places went into effect today, with violators facing fines of €150 ($217) or lessons in French citizenship. The center-right government of Nicolas Sarkozy supports the measure, which comes amid growing unease among many French people over the influx of Muslim immigrants.

There are an estimated 5 million Muslims in France, out of a total population of just under 63 million.

Today’s detentions come two days after 61 people were arrested at an unauthorized protest against the veil ban.

The timing of the ban couldn’t be worse. The Guardian reports that France’s ruling UMP party has called a debate on the role of Islam in French society, similar in its discriminatory tone to the recent hearings on radical Islam in the United States chaired by Rep. Peter King (R-NY). President Sarkozy has publicly declared that multiculturalism “is a failure” and that France’s Muslims can only practice their religion if it is a “French Islam.”

Muslims the world over are incensed at the French veil ban, the first of its kind anywhere in the world. “The street is the universal home of freedom and nobody should challenge that so long as these women are not impinging on anyone else’s freedom,” Rachid Nekkaz, a wealthy Muslim real estate dealer told the Guardian. “I am calling on all free women who so wish to wear the veil in the street and engage in civil disobedience,” he added.

Moral Low Ground supports neither Islamic veils nor laws banning them, but firmly believes that all people should be free to practice their religion as long as they do so in a manner that does not harm others. Proponents of the ban say that a strict separation of church (or, in this case, mosque) and state is a necessary prerequisite for a harmonious civil society. But are there not Christmas trees in public squares in France? Are there not Christmas decorations in the most prominent public areas? Do French Christians not wear jewelry adorned with Christian symbols? In Alsace and Moselle, two French departments still under treaty with the Vatican, Christian and Jewish leaders are actually paid by the French government and religious classes are taught in public schools. Separation of church and state indeed!

If France was serious about true separation of religion and state, it wouldn’t single out Muslim women for persecution. It would ban all religious symbols from the public arena and stop paying the salaries of religious leaders. But the country’s discriminatory ban on Islamic veils proves that France doesn’t have a problem with all religions; just one. And that’s why we have a problem with the ban.

 

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7 Comments

  1. Rachael C. Black via FacebookApril 11, 2011 at 12:31 pmReply

    waiting for this shit to start here now…freedom of religion and all. hmmm seem to remember France helping us lead the way with this idea 200 years ago and having their own Revolution. sickening but not surprising. starting the wagers and pot now: Which Red state will institute a bill first?

    • Brett WilkinsApril 11, 2011 at 1:33 pmReplyAuthor

      13 states have already passed legislation outlawing Sharia law. I bet you can guess some of them– and almost all of them have negligible Muslim populations too!

  2. Carol HansenApril 11, 2011 at 10:19 pmReply

    If it makes France safer, then more countrys should ban face covers.
    5th Granddaughter of Francis Isaac (LeBas) Leabo born Noirville, Normandy, France

  3. Romain BApril 12, 2011 at 3:10 amReply

    Reacting to the end of the article : “If France was serious about true separation of religion and state, it wouldn’t single out Muslim women for persecution. It would ban all religious symbols from the public arena and stop paying the salaries of religious leaders.”

    France indeed DOES ban ALL religious symbols from the public services (schools, health services, justice, etc etc), and it DOES NOT pay for any religious salaries. It accepts veils that do not cover the face (as hats, and so on), but it forbids people masking their face (someone walking with a closed moto helmet could encounter the same problems, or anyone masking his/her face without any good reason).

    In 1905 France voted a law stating that religion and politic were to be from then on separated, and since then it has been so -not without riots from Catholics, at the time. Now, to be honest, there’s a small part of France where priests are paid by the State, because this part belonged to Germany when the law was voted (1905). In France people considered that religion is a private matter, that has not to be put outfront.

    • Brett WilkinsApril 12, 2011 at 8:53 amReplyAuthor

      So there are no Christmas trees in public squares or Christmas decorations on public streets in France? Does France ban Jews from wearing the Star of David on a necklace in public? How about Christian clergy? Are they banned from wearing their frocks and habits in public?

  4. Romain BApril 13, 2011 at 12:48 amReply

    First thing is I just wanted to point out something incorrect in the end of the article.

    Now, two different things are mixed up here, Brett: the public arena, and the public services. You are NOT allowed to wear any religious sign if you work in public services (that includes the jewish star, as well as any hindi star, or a christian cross, singh turban and so on). But you ARE allowed to wear whatever you like in the streets, as long as it does not cover your face. Many muslim women only cover their hair, and that’s not a problem. They’ve done so for years. And actually, back to the Nineteenth century, most Catholic women in France would do so as well. The problem appears when you cover your face, because you’re not recognizable, and because since its origins, French republic is “lived with the face outfront” (rough translation meaning you should be proud of living in a republic -old stuff from the Revolution).

    One more thing. As I am sure you know, the niqab or the burqa are not islamic requirements. They are habits, old traditions from the Middle East (Persia, for that matter), and they existed waaaay before Islam existed ; this habit has been integrated when the Persian converted to Islam themselves. This to point out that one shouldn’t take burqa for a sign of muslim devotion. It’s only an old custom that has not much to do with what’s actually written in the Quran.

  5. im ilyasApril 30, 2011 at 9:10 amReply

    organisation to support international hijab movement Srilanka staged the protest againstFrances hijab ban on 23 april 2011 at puttalam Srilanka

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