Friday, December 25

France to ban head scarves in all public places

The story:
France's ruling party says it plans to present a bill to parliament next month, which would ban the wearing of full Islamic veils in all public places. The party says the move should be seen as "a law of liberation."
A redditor comments:
As a French/American dual citizen, I have a possibly different perspective on this.

If this were the United States, I would be very much against this law, for entirely libertarian reasons. The United States is a nation of immigrants, and while there are always various groups trying to claim that their particular immigrant culture is somehow more "American" than someone else's (witness anti-Hispanic sentiment, for example, or the number of people that think that English ought to be legislated as the national language, or whatever) for the most part the concensus that thankfully eventually emerges is that unless you're Native American, you can stuff it -- your particular culture has no particular monopoly on what it means to be American, and no amount of whining will change that.

France, on the other hand, is not America. Unlike the United States, it is not a country of immigrants. There is such a thing, fair or not, as "French culture", and without making any sort of value judgment here, full-veil mandating sects of Islam do not qualify.

France has been relatively willing, despite not being founded on the principles the US was founded on, to welcome immigrants from other countries. Much of this perhaps was not altruistic, but rather fallout from France's ill-advised forays into colonialism in the 19th and 20th centuries. Certainly much of France's muslim population are in France now because they fought for France in the Franco-Algerian war in the 1960s and were forced to abandon their homes essentially because they chose the wrong side in that war -- something that France has been terrible about recognizing, frankly.

But I guess what I'm saying is that ultimately, the sort of "cultural chauvinism" that we have great disdain for here in the United States -- which this law would be an example of, in my opinion -- is a bit different in France (and in the rest of Europe, too). European nations have histories dating back millenia, they didn't develop their cultural heritage by melting together the traditions of myriad peoples over the last 250 years. That mixed character is precisely what makes the United States great, but the whole world is not the US.

Ultimately, if France decides that it wants to draw the line somewhere, if they decide that they want to be a secular society and that they don't like the symbolism they feel the veil represents, why shouldn't they ban it?

It's their country, after all -- and "they", unlike Americans, are a well-defined group.
I tentatively agree.

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