Fools and lard

The shawl-secular issue in France

There are few countries that raise the temperature of a conversation more than the US or France. Either takes an initiative, tries something old or new, and the rest of the world, at least the western world, scrutinises it, argues about it, dissects it, as though it applied to them. One reason is that it usually does. France and the States are laboratories of law, both fundamentally legal systems where debates are put on the table and openly discussed, whatever the view points. France more than any other. It is both an infuriating and worthwhile experience. As an old friend said in his ancientness: how the world would be a terrible place, without France. And another, speaking after the Twin Towers disaster: Can you imagine what the world would be like without America.

-----Original Message-----

From: Dragoneye

Yes, I said institutions cannot sponsor. That is the difference. The French law does not want the students to wear what is demanded by their religion. In US or should I say in NYC or should I say Brooklyn, I see kids of all different religious flavors wearing what religious garb. Little girls here are entitled to wear a hood or whatever. Little Jewish boys wear yarmulke, if so inclined. They are allowed to do so in public (state run) school. That is the difference.

Looks like we have a virus heading around the company. Damnit! Do you use aol instant messenger or any other like program? be careful.

----- Original Message -----

From: RJD

To: dragoneye

Sounds as though the US law and French law are closer than you think in first paragraph. You say towards end that "state sponsored institutions cannot express any religious symbols" : well, that is all this French law does. Also, the law does not "impinge on religious expression", but on wearing provocative or non-discreet garb while at work or going to school in the STATE sector. No where else. France has total freedom of expression in every other way, they even have sex on TV. Paris has mosques, synagogues, churches and schools of every shape and description. But the STATE (which as M. says, has in many respects replaced the church, with the cops like old christian brothers) is also sacrosanct. But not if you have to go along to a town hall and fill out a form, then you can keep your thong on, that's fine. Even if theoretically, you are supposed to take your thong off. Sounds great.

If the US does not have a law that impinges, it is because while the church and state are separate in the US (the first country to do so actually), the role of God (ostensibly, a christian god if you listen to Carter) seems to be supreme. And in god you trust.

As for freedom, why can't anyone wish anyone else over there a happy Christmas? I know the answer, but hey...language is symbols too. So, they ban the word to be fair to every one.

I know the law is oddlooking, but the law's an ass. Fundamentally, the French state is a symbol of freedoms, not just a government bureaucracy.

On the dead marriage, great, sounds Californian, and she may even get a better inheritance this way.


PS There are election issues at stake, you are right, but this huge majority cannot be explained so easily.

-----Original Message-----

From: Dragoneye

I can understand much of the logic expressed by Rory but I have to say that a law that impinges personal freedom and religious expression would not stand up in this country. I say this to offer a different point of view from the law passed in France. The First Amendment of the US Constitution states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . ." That is the corner stone of US freedoms and all laws passed by Congress cannot conflict with it or they get struck down by the Supreme Court. (Is there a Supreme Court in France that has such a role in French law-making?) Obviously, the definition of things differs greatly between France and many other countries. Don't pretend to understand it but there must be something to it since the law past by such a huge margin in the French Parliament. However, votes in parliaments and congresses alike are often founded on some very fickle circumstances that shift with political winds. Isn't there a political gain for a party in coming regional elections with this vote? I would not go by that too much. I think that might be Mel's point with his Le Pennites crack. I think I would have to agree with Mel to a large degree on the definition of what is right or a protected right but then that is from my experience in and of this system and not France's.

However, like I said I don't pretend to understand the fundamental underpinnings of French perceptions of this law. In theory, it sounds like it is trying to be fair. It bans everything to be fair. Everybody is on an equal, homogenous ground in a public-state-run school. This law and its ability to be made is a greater power of the French Parliament than the US Congress possesses. You simply cannot so tightly define a freedom as to ban such an expression. There would be an uproar here, if that happened. I just know it could not fly here legally under the US constitution. The First Amendment too tightly defines the framework to allow it. Freedom to express ones religion would come first. Then again, some crazy things can happen.

You're right a head scarf is not a thong although I would enjoy a religion that uses the symbol of a thong for expressing their religious beliefs. Go to

On the flip side, state sponsored institutions cannot express any religious symbols and I think that is in the boundaries and accepted by most Western democracies. My mother, as you know, is a Library branch/district head. She has to battle every Christmas or around different holidays during the year on what can and cannot be displayed in a Public Library. That is the heart of the separation of church and state issues. The headaches she goes through with that drive her mad but it is something that she takes very seriously and has to be diligent about. I think it is one of the more interesting aspects of her job/role. At least she isn't like that wacko judge down in Alabama that put a 10 Commandments statue is his court house. Now, that is nuts. At least he was made to remove it. Then, he was removed from his office. I think he is suing the state of Alabama now. Religious right in this country is a whole other story. That is all.

And, what about this French law? France is certainly on the cutting edge of legal issues.

----- Original Message -----

From: rjd

To: melvis

I think we end the conversation there.


-----Original Message-----

From: melvis

jobs make you wear ties - not the state.

secular state is about the separation of church and state - done to remove powers of church which impacted negatively on basic freedoms - now the state is doing the same thing (forget why - it still is...)

- why didn't the state do it years ago, before Muslims reared their ugly headscarfs??

- appeasing Le Pennites??

----- Original Message -----

From: RJDory

And you are also entitled to your point of view. In France people wear what they like, in offices, on the street, at private schools, much more than in Ireland. No ties, no need for any corporate rubbish. But when it comes to religion, and expression of faith as a political association (it is nothing to do with a god), then it has to be left at the door. Sorry, but it makes perfect sense to me in a multi-ethnic state. A muslim headscarf that covers a 15-year old girl's face, for instance, is not necessarily what she wants to wear either. Small discreet religious symbols are allowed.

Love to see you try walking into a fundamentalist Muslim mosque wearing what you want. I couldn't even get into St Peters in Rome in a pair of shorts! And the guy that stopped me was wearing a dress.

In exchange, the religious freaks can leave their "habits" behind too when teaching my kid maths, science, and the rest of it, if I send my kid to a State school. There are muslim and catholic schools all around France that cater for the rest. All perfectly fine places.

This was no narrow victory, not like British university fees. 35 voted against. This is the State we are talking about, not France. They are not one and the same.

-----Original Message-----

From: melvis

should have the right to wear what you want - that's the basis of the freedom that a secular state espouses ...

----- Original Message -----

From: rjd

Hey, who is whipping up anti-muslim sentiment, the French or the media?

As the article says, "the bill makes it illegal to wear clothes or signs that "conspicuously" display affiliation to a faith" in public service institutions. That is key. And that means any faith. It is a secular system, has been for nearly a century. And it was already illegal, just not illegal enough.

Most French swear by their secular state, it is their White House, their Queen. And in opinion poll after opinion poll, at least half of the muslim population of France (that's half of 5 million) agree with the new law.

The photo in the article has muslim girls defending their right to wear religious garb in a secular environment. 500 girls turned up to protest. That is not a lot. But a bunch of christians also protested, as they can't wear giant crucifixes either.

Carter introduced Howard Dean to the crowd the other week as a friend and a Christian. That would be unthinkable here. We now have no friends.

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