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Ban the scarf!

French state schools, unlike the British or American varieties, were founded explicitly to oppose clerical power. They are the most visible and enduring bastions of secularism in France. Originally, the prohibition of religious symbols in schools was aimed against Catholics. Many of the supporters of secularism in the 19th century in France were non-conformist or atheist: often Protestant or Jewish. The antisemistism of such groups as Action Française from the 1890s onwards is in turn a reaction against the French radical assault on Catholic society. In the early 20th century a deal was worked out that allowed religious schools to operate alongside the secular system.

The Islamist campaign against secularism is what the headscarf law is about. In some schools, violence has been threatened against girls who refused to wear scarves. Apologists for fundamentalists (ususally socialists hoping to play the race card) condoned the violence and have allowed a climate of terror in French schools.

As a libertarian, I oppose state schools. But also as a libertarian, I also support the prohibition of Islamic fundamentalist intimidation. If Islamic schools really allowed freedom to exit, I could back Moslem campaigns for lifting any restrictions the French government might have against their own schools.

When I visit a mosque, I take off my shoes, I do not interfere with the religious devotions of the worshippers, and I do not demonstrate my own devotions to eating pork and drinking beer. The person who chooses a turban ahead of an education has got “I’m a loser!” stamped all over him. But the people who organise the headscarf campaigns do not want freedom of choice: they want a licence to coerce.

This is not a campaign for religious freedom: Moslems are free to set up their own schools. It is a campaign to separate the public and the private sphere: in the school each pupil’s religious affiliation is a private and not a public matter.

Far be it from me to condone the criminal régime of Chirac. But, this is the same fight as the Turkish Army’s fight to defend a secular state against the fundmentalist tyranny. It is a small corner of the War on Terror, and compared with the some of the antics of the Department of “Homeland Defense” a.k.a. Minipax, one worth fighting.

It is also a campaign against obscurantism. French people often mock those parts of the USA where it is illegal to teach Darwin, or where Creationist theories have to be accorded equal credibilty in the classroom.

61 comments to Ban the scarf!

  • llamas

    ‘It is also a campaign against obscurantism. French people often mock those parts of the USA where it is illegal to teach Darwin, or where Creationist theories have to be accorded equal credibilty in the classroom.’

    Please illustrate, with examples, exactly where these places are in the US.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Julian Morrison

    Blah. The post six previous covers this story, and in there nor the comments there wasn’t a single reply supporting the ban that boiled down to more than “harrumph, moslems scare me, stomp them”. Nor this.

    To hell with the “public sphere” ie: state school, state whatever. Abolish it, immediately, totally. Then you needn’t fear it being taken over by religious wackos. And leave innocent kids and their clothing preferences (religious or otherwise) alone.

  • HitNRun

    It’s a shame that France has been penetrated so deeply that libertarians are made to support banning religious symbols. In the US or UK, the bullies could simply be expelled or arrested.

    But since that’s obviously not stopping the shariahists (actually, I don’t know if it is or not. I’m just assuming that France wouldn’t be bothering with this if previous measures had worked.) then this is the next step short of abolishing the public schools or just surrendering them to the Koran.

  • Tony H

    Llamas, M. La Joie might have difficulty pointing out exactly where Creationism is taught compulsorily, but it’s certainly true that for much of the world, one of the scariest things about the USA is the large proportion of its citizens who seem to adhere to Creationism or slightly less extreme/wacko forms of fundamentalist Christianity.

  • Tony, how scary exactly? Slamming planes into buildings scary? Banning alcohol, nudity and repressing free speech scary? If so, please cite examples.

    What do you base your assertion that a large proportion of our citizens are Christian fundamentalists? What is the difference between a Christian fundamentalist and pious Christian?

    What are some of the other “scariest things” about us? We need to be enlightened by such as yourself.

  • Will (Davis, CA)

    There are a few (very rural) Midwestern counties that have that teaching policy, I’m fairly sure; I don’t believe that it’s a statewide policy anywhere, though.

    That being said, there are obviously a lot more people who believe in Creationism than just the people who come out of those schools; last Friday UC Davis was supposed to have a talk by one of the “intelligent design” biologists…

  • Bryan C

    The problem isn’t violent, coercive headscarves — it’s violent coercive people doing things that are already illegal. I’m sorry, I don’t see how prohibiting private citizens from wearing religious symbols in any way furthers the cause of freedom. Whether we’re talking about Islamic fundementalism or secularism/atheism the result is the same: Where the official state belief system chooses to go, all other personal religious beliefs must be repressed. Your freedom is fundementally limited by the whims of the state, for your own good, of course.

    Tony H: An expressed belief in some form of Divine creation is hardly a indicator of adherence to “fundementalist” Christian beliefs. No more than than celebrating Christmas (or Hannukuh, for that matter.) I’m not sure why any of that should scare you.

  • llamas

    ‘There are a few (very rural) Midwestern counties that have that teaching policy, I’m fairly sure; I don’t believe that it’s a statewide policy anywhere, though.’

    You’re fairly sure – but you’re wrong.

    Both claims – that evolution may not be taught, and/or that Creationism is mandated to be taught on an equal footing with evolution – are specifically *outlawed* by US Supreme Court decision. Epperson v Arkansas, 1968, Freiler vs Tangipahoa Board of Education, 1997, and Epperson v Arkansas, 1987.

    Every time somebody tries one of these ‘creation-science’ stunts, it gets lots of media time, and, no doubt, self-satisfied tut-tutting from the more-enlightened French. Noone ever reports what happens the next day, when the lawyers call, and the proposed policy is ditched because it is so self-evidently against the law. This is a popular election-time stunt in some parts of the country, where a candidate seeks to curry favour with a tiny minority of fundamentalist Christians. For example, Kansas Board of Education, about 2 years ago. Everyone reported what the Board said it was going to do. Noone reported the injunctions that prevented them from doing it. And it never happened.

    The reason that some people find the religion of many people in the US ‘scary’ is precisely seen here – wild claims are made, which are untrue, but which feed into the bias of those who hear them, and pretty soon, everyone just ‘knows’ that the US is full of wild-eyed Bible-thumping fundamentalist Christians. De Tocqueville explored the unique American dichotomy of religion 150 years ago, and found matters not that different to what they are today. But apparently, that’s too hard a concept for the French to grasp, and anyway, it’s easier and more convenient to simply view the Americans as uneducated, uncultured, medieval hicks.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Tony H. – yes, to the best of my knowledge, a very large percentage of the U.S. population claim to reject evolutionary theory in various degrees. Yes, in my opinion, they believe silly things about the origin of humans. Some of them also have a habit of making pests of themselves trying to introduce creationist beliefs into the biology curriculum of public schools, efforts which are invariably held by the courts to be in violation of the First Amendment. However, if you believe that upwards of 60% of Americans can reasonably be described as “scary wackos” on this basis, may I gently suggest that perhaps you are a bit, er, misinformed about these people, and your views a tad overwrought?

    My kind and hospitable next door neighbors, are, I believe, Baptists, and therefore, I assume, not keen Darwinians. It is conceivable that I might one day be arguing with them about the proper teaching of biology down at the local school board meeting. But I doubt very seriously that they are more prone to pursuing illiberal restrictions on their neighbors’ freedoms, let alone to going wacko on me, than the people from “much of the world” who find them so terrifying.

  • S. Weasel

    It isn’t at all surprising that Tony should think the USA is overrun with scary, slavering Christian fundies; British media goes to a lot of trouble to make it look that way. It’s one of the things that makes me slaver and mutter bad words when I’m in the UK.

    They muddle the fact that Americans, broadly, are a much more church-going people with the existence of some isolated, seriously wacked religious types to make the case that the US has a high proportion of fundamentalist nutcases.

    More than our share, maybe, but not as many as they’re peddling.

  • Making points in a global forum based on “I’m fairly sure” and “to the best of my knowledge” is a great backdrop to the kind of specific well thought out comment llamas just made. It’s a shame reason rarely overpowers bigotry.

  • Will (Davis, CA)

    “Everyone reported what the Board said it was going to do. Noone reported the injunctions that prevented them from doing it. And it never happened.”

    The Kansas Board a couple of years ago was what I had in mind. Like llamas said, the media never reported what happened later, so I had only heard the first part of the story; hence, the “I’m fairly sure”, which means “I don’t know for sure and I’d like to see if someone here does.”

    Pasha: This isn’t bigotry; anything else you’re basing that on is assuming things that I didn’t say. I was saying “I’m not 100% sure”, not “I know about Bible-thumping freaks” or “this is the all-Holy Truth”. It’s called trying to get clarification on an issue; don’t assume so much the next time you feel like jumping all over someone who basically agrees with what you’re saying.

  • Tony H

    Well, I had a few bites… But prompted I suspect more by reflexive indignation at even the faintest implied criticism of America, than by anything more interesting. Weasel, I believe I’m sufficiently well informed about the USA to be aware of the distinction between the high frequency of church attendance there, and the high proportion (you tell Moira the percentage – but you know it’s high) of Americans who actually believe the world was put together by God in his garage 10,000 years ago. And yes Moira, I think those who hold such beliefs are indeed wackos – though the term “scary wackos” is yours not mine. I distrust anyone with extreme, irrational, superstitious beliefs, and for me as for many others, it is worrying that so many of the USA’s citizens cling to Creationism.
    As for Pasha, please lay off the dumb heavy-handed attempt to drag 9/11 into it…
    Christianity is 600 years older than Islam and most of its adherents have grown sensibly blase about its teachings, which is why they don’t go on crusades or torture each other to death over trivial schisms in divine interpretation anymore – much, anyway. I still find Creationism creepy though.

  • D Anghelone

    If Islamic schools really allowed freedom to exit…

    Excellent typo. But don’t they?

  • The 9-11 analogy for scary American religious fundamentalists was meant to throw a little relief on your fears. Having witnessed it firsthand, I can tell you what real scary fundamentalist religious nuts are.

    However, let me say that I enjoy England immensly – being one of 5 U.S. passport holders – I was in London for the rugby World Cup. I have no fear of Brits. Maybe someday you will learn to look on us as beings somewhat similar to yourself.

  • “French people often mock those parts of the USA where it is illegal to teach Darwin…”

    Where is it illegal to teach Darwin? I know of no such place.

  • S. Weasel

    Tony, I find obsessive birdwatchers rather creepy. The South of England is stiff with them. I see far more twitchers along the coast than I’ve ever seen religious nuts in the US.

    And yet you’d be rightly to be aggrieved if, week after week, year after year, American media relentlessly printed articles titled “the solitary life of the British birder” and “lone on the shore – a twitcher’s tale” and went on endlessly about the high proportion of bird-obsessed individuals in the UK and the enormous assets of the RSPB and the way they’ve been able to affect the law.

    Lump the birdwatchers together with the train enthusiasts and the guys building perpetual motion machines in the shed at the bottom of the garden, and I bet there’s a significantly higher proportion of stereotypical British geek hobbyists in Britain than there are stereotypical American raving religious nuts in America. Neither does that much to color the mainstream of their parent cultures.

    But I bet you’d be puzzled and annoyed if you kept hearing, “Sure, I like Brits well enough, but that bird-watching thing – brrrr!”

  • “…where Creationist theories have to be accorded equal credibilty in the classroom”

    I believe this is unconstitutional as a result of Epperson v. Arkansas and Edwards v. Aguillard.

  • WAIT! I should have said unconstitutional in PUBLIC schools sorry.

  • Theodopoulos Pherecydes

    I’m not too concerned about “sweating the small s*#t.”

    I believe they should toss all Muslims out of the public schools unless they disavow the teaching of their holy book that Shari’a Law should replace all other law. That is incitement to violent overthrow of all existing governments other than Islamic theocracies.

    Apostates would be welcome in my schools veiled from head to toe. The rest whould be deported back to the garden spots from whence they came.

  • Shawn

    “But prompted I suspect more by reflexive indignation at even the faintest implied criticism of America, than by anything more interesting.”

    Quite frankly I’m sick and tired of hearing Europeans criticise the U.S. Sick and fucking tired. Look to your own backyard. Look to your failed economies, decaying culture, gutlessness in the face of tyranny, slavery to unelected EU beaurocrats, and once again rising Judeophobia. Until you can produce anything remotely like America’s military, economic and cultural success, its level of tolerance, and its embrace of cultural diversity, then your criticisms are nothing more than the whinings of an old and decaying has-been power.

    “Weasel, I believe I’m sufficiently well informed about the USA”

    Given your comments, obviously not.

  • Gustave La Joie

    I regret that I was unable to follow this discussion until now. With hindsight, I can see that my comment about Creationism took my intended points down a side-alley. Having said that, I think the debate was probably worth it.

    Going back to the point about the freedom to exit, parents have the freedom to decide which school their children will be subjected to.

    For parents who send a girl to an Islamist school, her choice is not going to count for much (what age children can be considered to have rights is not my point here). Effectively a girl in an Islamist school does not have freedom of exit.

    The secular education system in France is explicitly about bringing people out of the dark ages. Whilst I oppose many aspects of collective education establishments, there is no doubt that a secular state school that does not indoctrinate children to engage in any form of religious bigotry is preferable to nice private schools that preach racialist or religious bigotry.

    At that level I support the headscarf ban, just as I would support the Red Army demolishing Auschitz death camp, even if it were “private property”.
    Private property solves most problems (it is the best mechanism for doing so in fact), but it is not in itself the solution to all problems.

    If only one private school banned headscarves and all the others enforced the veil, the Islamists would not care: all must obey their obscurantist creed.
    Finally, I confess I do not have to hand any specific locations where Creationism is given equal credence or supremacy over Darwinism. I am prepared to believe that the attempts to do so fail.

    As far as I am aware, the means used to turn the clock back by fundamentalist Christians in the USA and Moslems in Europe are not so different. Am I mistaken in believing that many of the violent attacks on abortion clinics and their staff are carried out by Christian fundamentalists? If so, I apologise for my poisoned impression.

  • Fine, Tony, if you wish to hold that anyone disagreeing with your claim – that a very high proportion of Americans are worryingly “wacko” in consequence of a certain irrational belief – is mere “reflexive indignation at even the faintest implied criticism of America”, you are welcome to continue finding us as “worrying” as you please. Though perhaps one day you’ll be able to articulate exactly why and how these wackos are “worrying”, beyond the vague circularity that superstitious people are worrying and lots of people in the U.S. hold a particular superstitious belief. For myself, there are any number of irrational human beliefs, both religious and secular, that occupy my worry queue ahead of deficiencies in biology education and quaint notions about the creation of the universe. But no doubt you are far more well-informed about the social and political proclivities of the wackos in question than I am.

    I apologize for my sloppy misuse of quotes around “scary wackos”, a phrase you did not use. This was a misrepresention of your statement that “one of the scariest things about the USA is the large proportion of its citizens who seem to adhere to Creationism or slightly less extreme/wacko forms of fundamentalist Christianity”.

  • Kelli

    I hate to admit it, but I’m with Gustave on this one. Here again, libertarians have a difficult time squaring the circle when it comes to distinguishing between INDIVIDUAL rights and the rights of minors who are at least partly under the sway of parents/guardians vis-a-vis the state.

    Those French Muslim schoolgirls we saw marching on Paris last week may have looked for all the world like fully formed autonomous actors. They were not. When a 14 year old girl says she chooses the headscarf freely, are we to take that at face value?

    There are two options faced with such a girl “demanding the right” to wear the scarf: assume she is telling the truth OR assume she is being pressured. by male family members. How can this be determined? Only, dear friends, with invasive measures. Oh dear. Better to insist she leave the scarf at home, don’t you think?

    As for the imbroglio over fundamentalism in the USA. Gustave, you have half a point. There are a lot of bible thumpers over here. They can be a bit scary, too. But the state, for the most part, doesn’t antagonize them. And they, for the most part, are good citizens who work hard, raise families, pay taxes and prosper. Nothing “scary” about that is there? And not a heck of a lot in common, for that matter, with their “obscurantist” counterparts (Christian, Muslim, or “anti-globalist securlarists”) in France.

  • Eric the .5b

    Well, alright. Assuming that Muslim children wearing religious paraphenalia in public schools represents the oppression of young girls or an encroaching plague of Islamicism (as opposed to, say, the European practice of keeping Muslims segregated and on welfare in housing projects and thus doing their best to create an antagonist population)…

    Why does this also apply to the yarmulke?

    Why does this apply to a Sikh turban?

    Why does this apply to an “excessively large” Christian cross – ie, the sort of cross virtually no Christian will ever happen to wear – but not to every Christian cross?

    People who champion the policies of a socialist state lurching towards totalitarianism should stop calling themselves freedom-lovers.

  • Nemo

    What many people don’t seem to understand is that wearing a headscarf is obligatory according to most interpretations of Islamic law. To make this illegal is to use the law to prevent a Muslim woman from practising her religion. This is the primary issue.

    By wearing a headscarf, a Muslim woman can be seen to be practising (at least this part) of her religion; this is a secondary issue, i.e. this is not her primary reason for wearing it.

    The issue of whether or not a Muslim parent has the right to ‘impose’ her religion on her children is a more general question. Responsible parents usually want their children to share their beliefs, so the argument is really about the acceptability of Islam as a belief system and the right that a secular state has to impose its own values on its citizens. This is where Muslims begin to sense the liberal hypocrisy of ‘you have the right to believe what you choose as long as we approve’.

  • Kelli,

    ” Here again, libertarians have a difficult time squaring the circle when it comes to distinguishing between INDIVIDUAL rights and the rights of minors who are at least partly under the sway of parents/guardians vis-a-vis the state. “

    There is no circle to be squared. The only justification for the state getting involved in how parents choose to bring up their children is if there is actual physical harm being done.

    It is rather presumptious of you to assert that a girl who wears a veil must necessarily be “pressured” into it by male family members but even if that were the case, the type of authoritarian state which would intercede to defend this girl’s imagined interests ought to be abhorrent to any libertarian. Should the state also intervene to prevent children from being indoctrinated into socialism by their parents?

    Gustave,

    “The secular education system in France is explicitly about bringing people out of the dark ages. “

    This is what disqualifies your argument from libertarianism. What you celebrate is nothing other than social engineering.

    Let us say it is ok for the French state to “bring people out of the dark ages” into a bright secular future. What makes you think the bureaucrats who designed this don’t imagine that this secular future also consists of “civic responsibilities”, “social justice”, hell you mentioned it yourself: “the public sphere”?

    State education is bad enough from a libertarian point of view but a state education system whose explicit purpose is to churn out identikit “secular” statist social democratic French citizens is far worse.

  • A_t

    ” Until you can produce anything remotely like America’s […] level of tolerance, and its embrace of cultural diversity,”

    Try London mate… Check stats for interracial marriage in the UK. Seems much less segregated than most US cities I’ve ever been in.

  • Don Eyres

    Nemo,

    Good post.

    All of you libertarians who are criticizing “putting a turban ahead of education”, let’s all think back a couple of decades to when the Evil Empire, excuse me the Soviet Union, still existed. The Communist party made it very clear- you can have a good education and career, or you can be religious. Pick one.

    France’s problem in not schoolgirls wearing scarves. France’s problem is alienated Muslims, whom French society has kept from being integrated into the French public. (Admittedly, there seem to be a good number of Muslims who like it that way.)

    So, the French government is dealing with a problem that is largely of its own making by dealing with a symptom, not a cause, in a way that is guaranteed only to inflame those affected. And doing so in a way reminescent of the Soviet state.

    Kind of makes you long for the good old days when the French came down hard (only) on Greenpeace boats.

    Some posters have written about the US and its scary Fundamentalists. Well, here’s another side of the US:

    One of the largest department store chains around here is Target, known for the red jackets its employees wear. In my city (Minneapolis), there is also a significant Muslim Somali population, many of whom are employeed as Target clerks. Target provides red headscarves for the women who want them. I haven’t seen any reports at all about Muslim employees trying to intimidate other employees (or customers) who are not in scarves.

    The women are happy. Target is happy. And judging by the number of people who shop there and the company’s latest financial reports, the public is happy.

    So there you have it- one American retailer looks to be smarter than the entire French government.

  • eric

    I keep seeing things that say the hijab is really an outgrowth of 20th century Radical Islamists and that the head scarf isn’t obligatory.

    Apparently the only obligatory reference in the Koran is that women should cover their breasts–(Arabia before Muhammad must have been an interesting place).

    Anyway, Mr. Eyers is on the right track: The French Government largely created its own problem with immigrant Muslims, and is now reaping the whirlwind. Pretty typically French, in a way. Jean Revel’s book, “Anti-Americanism” has a discussion on how this occured in France.

    It will be interesting to see how (badly) this turns out.

    And for those whining about parochial schools in the US, I attended a Catholic grade school and high school, in the Midwest US (Iowa, and it don’t get more Midwest than THAT) and got taught evolution. Go figure. (Must have been the influence of Vatican II).

  • Kelli

    I’m not surprised that Target has adapted to the demographics of its local workforce. They’re a smart company, and this sort of thing is good business.

    The difference is, these women are adults, while the schoolgirls in France are children.

    Frank takes me to task for implying that there is a degree of coercion involved in the wearing of headscarves. I suggest he reads some of the articles about French Muslim girls being gang raped as punishment for not wearing “modest” garb in the banlieus. Is that coercion, Frank? None too subtle, either.

    When headscarves or other overtly religious paraphanalia are banned in certain places, girls are given the opportunity to go bareheaded in public at least part of the time. They will not be harrassed (or , if they are, they may ask for protection), and when they reach majority they will be able to decide which they prefer–headscarf or no headscarf.

    One hopes they will also be free to choose in other respects: university or work, marriage or not, children or no.

    You all assume that French Muslims are not integrated because of French racism. But what if the interreligious discord there owed more to a replication of old patterns of abuse (of women, of despised subgroups, etc.) within a modern, democratic, secular environment? What then? What should the French state do? Roll over and accede to the demands of its fastest growing, most vocal minority? Aren’t there any chess players out there? Who among you is looking beyond the next move to the rest of the match?

  • Tony H

    Weasel, I’m delighted to see you’re so well informed about the RSPB, and I’d be very happy if its vast and too-often misapplied funds received some exposure in the US press: but I suggest there’s not much mileage in comparing Brit bird-watchers with US religious zealots, really. Colourful & imaginative – and fun! – but it’s no go.
    Moira, what it comes down to is that (a) the USA is by far the greatest world power, with huge military potential, and no matter that this power is exercised in ways that for the most part I endorse it’s still disturbing that (b) there is an undeniably large constituency in America that clings to religious beliefs of near-Medieval simplicity in the face of modern rationalism. Put the two together and, hey presto, you have a range of possibilities that many people, whether you like it or not, find disturbing. I hope this is clear enough.
    As for Shawn, I’ve often enjoyed your contributions and largely agreed with them, but your rant against me tends to prove my point – right? Do you really believe the US is not open to criticism? If so, then your political position is ethically & rationally on a par with the religious wackos. Pity. And while I’d love to continue this knockabout Alice In Wonderland stuff – hey, we could debate how many angels can stand on a pinhead! – I’m away for three days earning a crust. Ciao.

  • Kelli,

    “Frank takes me to task for implying that there is a degree of coercion involved in the wearing of headscarve”

    Actually I “took you to task” for insisting that there is invariably coercion involved. In any case, my point stood whether or not there is “pressure” from a given girl’s family: however much you might lament “pressure to conform” from a family or a group of peers at least there is the option to leave the family. When you have “pressure to conform” from the State there is nowhere to go. This is a pretty basic libertarian point.

    “One hopes they will also be free to choose in other respects: university or work, marriage or not, children or no. “

    Don’t you really mean: “one hopes they will make the same choices I would make in their position”. What you are proposing is to actually take away their freedom to choose to wear a headscarf. If there is physical coercion involved forcing women or girls to wear scarves, then the proper action is against that physical coercion, not on the assumed outcome of that coercion.

  • S. Weasel

    Oh, I do indeed deny that there is a “large constituency in America that clings to religious beliefs of near-Medieval simplicity in the face of modern rationalism”. There is a small contituency of such boneheads that your media adores with a throbbing passion and consistently exaggerates in size, power and influence.

    You were demonstrably misinformed about the teaching of creationism in American schools. How can you be so confident of the rest of your information?

  • Julian Morrison

    About americans being fundamentalist christian nutters: think “standard distibution curve”. Given a much larger population than the UK, the weird end of the bell curve goes down a lot further wierdwards. Or for comparable wierdness, there’s a great deal more of ‘em – there a great deal more of everybody, and the normal majority don’t make waves and get noticed.

    If you see what I mean.

  • llamas

    To cure the data-free mudslinging going on – I have this data in print, but I’m sure some smart person can find a link.

    Gallup has been polling US beliefs about creation vs evolution for about 20 years. The last time they published data was for 1997. The questions have always been the same.

    Between 40 and 45% of Americans polled agree with the position that the Earth was created by God in a single, Genesis-like event at some time within the last 10,000 years.

    Between 40 and 45% of Americans agree (to some degree, no doubt) with the position that the world as we see it today is the result of a process of evolution or change-over-time, but that this process was guided or chosen by God.

    The remainder of Americans agree with the position that the world as we see it today is the result of a process of evolution or change-over-time, with which God had nothing to do.

    The historical data indicates that the public’s opinion is slowly shifting away from the first response and towards the last.

    Agreement with the first position strongly correlates to income, education and race, and vice-versa. Believers in literal Creation by God tend strongly to be of lower income, lower education level, and African-American. This belief is also much more prevalent in the Southern states.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Emo

    The Vardy Foundation, which insists creationism is taught alongside evolution, runs schools in the NE of England.

    The article also says “A recent survey by Scientific American revealed that… 45% of Americans… believe God created life some time in the past 10,000 years, despite research that has established the universe as 13bn years old and that [humans] are descended from ape-like ancestors.”

    Outcry at creationism in UK schools

  • Excessive religion, in any form = bad.

    Admittedly I’m a raging atheist, so I’m biased.


    But I think that any influence on the body politic caused by religion is a bad thing. So long as people do it in their own time and don’t preach to anybody else, or use it as an excuse to nailbomb anybody else, then it has no impact on the nation it’s being practiced in, so it doesn’t bother me.
    Any religious influence does bother me. Even if it’s benign, really. I don’t like people being brainwashed by ridiculous tripe, even if it’s not particularly malevolent tripe.

    Ahem. So, yes, ban the headscarves.
    But then, I’m not a libertarian, so it slips off my tongue that much easier. ;)

  • Damn, the above missed my rant tags.

    But I’m sure you can guess which part of the above gets the rant tags around it.

  • Nemo

    I am feeling rather cross with contributors who make unsubstantiated allegations, in this and other threads, of the use of rape to coerce Muslim women and girls into wearing the headscarf. Firstly, this drags the whole discussion into the realms of emotional outrage which I do not think is constructive. Secondly, such a potentially important claim would need to be referenced if I was going to even think about believing it. Thirdly, I am not doubting that rapes occur, but if someone is claiming that this is an Islamically acceptable practice, or even that it is an inevitable consequence of Islamic beliefs, then I would have to differ; it’s a ludicrous idea. Moreover, ALL societies use overt and covert forms of coercion to enforce social norms, from mild expressions of disapproval to prison sentences; the more important the norm, the more serious the sanctions. This issue, again, is about the right of the Muslim community to have strong beliefs about appropriate dress for women that are DIFFERENT FROM OTHER PEOPLE’S! A Muslim might take the symmetrically opposite position to many western critics of Islam and claim that it was oppressive of western non-Muslim parents to force their daughters to wear sexually revealing clothing until such a time as they were ‘mature’ enough to choose otherwise

    As for Eric’s point, some orientalists and modernist Muslims will use the limited references to basic modesty in the Qur’an to argue that the scarf is not obligatory. This argument would not be accepted by the vast majority of Muslims, at least those who have any basic knowledge of the basis of Islamic law. The shari’ah is derived from TWO sources: the Qur’an and the teachings of the prophet Muhammad. The Qur’an states explicitly that obedience to the prophet is obedience to God. The prophet is known to have told his niece that a woman should only reveal her face and hands, hence the obligation of covering the hair. (Covering the face is not obligatory though some schools of thought hold that it is highly recommended.)

  • “This issue, again, is about the right of the Muslim community to have strong beliefs about appropriate dress for women that are DIFFERENT FROM OTHER PEOPLE’S”

    I hate to be nitpicking, Nemo, because I’m mostly in agreement but the “Muslim community” have no rights whatsoever, whether it’s to “strong beliefs” or to “halal food”. It’s Muslim individuals who should have the presumed right to wear whichever clothing they like and not be “coerced” into revealing head or body.

    Maybe it’s an unintentional slip but it is important to differentiate between group rights, i.e. non-voluntarily devolved rights, and individual rights. The former is antithetical to individual freedom.

  • “This issue, again, is about the right of the Muslim community to have strong beliefs about appropriate dress for women that are DIFFERENT FROM OTHER PEOPLE’S”

    I hate to be nitpicking, Nemo, because I’m mostly in agreement but the “Muslim community” have no rights whatsoever, whether it’s to “strong beliefs” or to halal food. It’s Muslim individuals who should have the presumed right to wear whichever clothing they like and not be “coerced” into revealing head or body.

    Maybe it’s an unintentional slip but it is important to differentiate between group rights, i.e. non-voluntarily devolved rights, and individual rights. The former is antithetical to individual freedom.

  • Nemo

    Absolutely correct Frank, I should have said ‘members of the Muslim community’s rights’. I personally do not believe in ‘rights’ as anything other than theoretical entities conceived of in order to explain certain apparent intuitions people have about ‘justice’ and ‘fairness’. As an explanation, I believe there are problems with the concept of ‘rights’ and the philosophical framework which generates them (see Alastair McIntyre’s ‘After Virtue’). However, it is difficult to find an alternative

    I also think that it is inauthentic for anyone to believe that their beliefs are imposed on them by external authorities; and interestingly, as regards religion, the Qur’an takes the same position: ‘there is no compulsion in the matter of religious belief’. A woman who chooses to wear the scarf, does so entirely of her own free will – whether to please God, her family, to conform to social norms, avoid unwelcome attention, or whatever.

  • Kelli

    Nemo says “I personally do not believe in ‘rights’ as anything other than theoretical entities”. Yes, that’s quite clear. I’m glad to live at a time and place where most people disagree. It’s depressing that there are people like Nemo, who cling to their abstract theories in the face of real-world oppression.

    And I am not arguing that the wearing of headscarves is per se a form of oppression. My argument is actually a bit more nuanced (go figure). It is this: the status quo has held for more than a century–no overt manifestation of religious affiliation in French state-run schools. There have been Muslim girls in French schools for decades. They have not worn headscarves. This was not a major problem. NOW it is. The question must be asked, why? Why now?

    If the answer is (as I suspect) because now Muslims are strong enough to flex their collective muscle, and because now they dare to assert collective rights within Europe to police THEIR women (behavior, dress-code, the full nine yards), then I must ask why “right-thinking” libertarians should consider it an affront to the rights (real or “imaginary”) of individuals to be told that the status quo will stand.

    It seems to me, the onus is on those who would change the rules to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that harm is being done and that no harm would come about as the result of their proposed change. For the reasons I have outlined above, I do not believe they have made this case. Haven’t really attempted it, even.

    To Frank, who has been a reasonable debating partner, I say–look upon your ally closely. This is the sort of obscurantism Gustave warns against in his original post. Run, while there’s still time.

  • Kelli,

    “It seems to me, the onus is on those who would change the rules to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that harm is being done and that no harm would come about as the result of their proposed change. For the reasons I have outlined above, I do not believe they have made this case.”

    Yet it is the French government which is “changing the rules”. The apparent fact that not many French muslim schools wore veils up until recently is neither here nor there. There was no specific ban on this, now one is proposed.

    Your argument supporting the ban is a strictly utilitarian one: an imagined benefit for society justifies what you consider as a minor infringement of individual liberty. There is no getting away from the fact that this is antithetical to libertarianism.

    It may seem like “obscurantism” to you but this is not about purity of libertarianism, but is a major point of principle. If you accept the right of the collective to impose its will on individuals in this manner you cannot very well complain when the government imposes social democratic, welfarist statism on you.

  • Kelli

    Frank,
    Which “collective” are we speaking of here? You are all exercized about the illegitimacy of the French state’s attempts to regulate individual actions. What you have lost sight of is that this is actually an attempt to wrest control from the state BY a so-called “community” (here, the Muslim minority) rather than individuals with a grievance. If you do not address this specific criticism I am afraid you are missing the boat entirely. To accede to the demands of the ‘Muslim community’ on this score would be a blow against individual rights in France, whatever claims are made by the young girls marching in the streets last week. The French state is drawing a line in the sand; you may not like it (and it’s been a long time since I had a kind word for Chirac) but they are in the right.

  • Ross

    I’m tempted to see this in terms of two repressive and grasping forces in confrontation: the French state and the Islamofascists (by which I mean anyone who believes Islam has or should have any legal or political application).

    The law will only inconvenience – note, inconvenience – the angriest, most aggressive Islamofascists because, as we have already established, there is no genuine religious justification for the hijab at all.

    In my opinion, secularism is, ironically, essential to preserve religious freedoms and consequently individual freedoms. I don’t think banning religious symbols is a particularly good way of going about it – treason trials for notorious Islamofascists would be better – but as I don’t believe being a libertarian is just about letting anyone do whatever they want, even if it involves aggressive cultural and religious imperialism, doing nothing at all would be much worse.

  • Kelli,

    “What you have lost sight of is that this is actually an attempt to wrest control from the state BY a so-called “community” (here, the Muslim minority) rather than individuals with a grievance.”

    What is “an attempt to wrest control from the state”: schoolgirls wearing headscarves? I have no problem with the state acting against terrorism, crime or violent coercion by anyone. What I do object to is the state imposing a mandatory dress code on individuals, i.e. schoolgirls. You seem to justify this because wearing the scarf is somehow of the same order of threat to French society as actual violence, yet this is to prosecute “speech” or thought over action. It should go without saying that the distinction between both is one we lose at our peril.

    Ross,

    “there is no genuine religious justification for the hijab at all.”

    With the greatest of respect: so what?

    There are plenty of things one might choose to wear that have “no religious justification”. That doesn’t mean the state has the prerogative to implement a countrywide ban on wearing them. As it happens I think the hijab is rather sinister and I am persuaded by Mr Taheri’s explanation (to which you linked) of its very recent origin. But it doesn’t really matter what I think because I don’t propose to wear one.

    To use a different example: I don’t think schoolgirls should wear miniskirts to school, lest they encourage paedophiles, but I would recoil from a government ban on them. It is a matter for parents and individual schools.

  • Here’s a source for Muslim men gang-raping Muslim girls for not wearing the hijab in the French slums.

    And here’s an excerpt:

    The phenomenon of gang rape in France has become banal. It occurs – how often is unknown – in the concrete wastelands built as cheap housing for immigrants on the outskirts of France’s big cities. Here, according to sociologists and prosecutors, teenage boys, many of them loosely organized into gangs, prey on neighborhood girls.

    Many of the boys are raised in closed, traditional families and are hopelessly confused or ignorant about sex; others are simply street toughs. In this world, women enjoy little respect; often girls who appear weak, or who wear tight-fitting clothing or go out unaccompanied by their fathers or brothers are considered fair game.

    To avoid trouble, many girls of the projects have taken to wearing loose-fitting jogging clothes and hidden themselves behind domineering fathers or brothers; others have organized themselves into their own gangs. Many of the Muslim girls have donned head scarves – more for protection than out of religious conviction.

  • A_t

    Hmmm… so “putting on hijab because it might make one look less provocative & keep one from getting raped in the dangerous & nasty slum where one lives” becomes “terrible muslim immigrants rape people for not wearing hijab”.

    Very, very dubious logic; as I suspected. Trumped up, sensationalist rubbish.

  • Kelli

    A_t,

    I may not be a certified logician, but your example of “dubious logic” is actually spot on. Part A concerns strategy adopted by girls to a real and present danger in their lives; part B concerns the source of that danger. A flows from B. Where is the “illogic”?

    The girls cited in Meryl’s linked piece (kudos, Meryl!) are responding to an intolerable situation in the only way available to them: adopting the head scarf and radically altering (restricting “voluntarily”) their God-given freedom of movement. This betrays in itself the LIE of women “choosing” the hijab. Granted, some traditional-minded girls would have chosen the scarf anyway. My point, which is that many would not, given true freedom of action, stands vindicated.

    The boys committing these rapes and the overall campaign of harrassment against “their” women who do not conform to their own strict code of conduct–and here, one might also include the instances of fathers and brothers carrying out “honor killings”, recently much in the news–will only be emboldened by a ruling from the French state that henceforth the hijab is approved. It will be but a short step from approved (by the state) to mandatory (by the arbiters of the Muslim immigrant “community”).

    This will be my last posting on this issue, as I despair of my opponents’ ability to remove their heads once for all from their own anal regions. Sorry, but you are not even attempting to understand the women’s dilemma here, and that is inexcusable.

  • A_t

    I perfectly understand the trouble, & yes I agree that some women are probably choosing to wear the scarf for fear of rape, which is barely a choice really.

    However, your second paragraph attempts to turn this into a deliberate campaign aimed at introducing scarf-wearing, or spread radical Islam. That’s the bit I object to; I’d put this down to ruffian youth, who will rape any woman who looks “slutty” in their eyes. I very much doubt they’re doing so to spread some religious agenda; they’re just doing what scumbag rapist bastards do everywhere; go for the most appealing victim, who fits in with whatever stupid male ideas about posession, servility, punishment etc. of women they have in their heads.

    The article didn’t suggest anywhere that it was “their” (ie. arab/muslim) women who were particularly under threat; I should imagine any woman, particularly if she looked ‘loose’ in the eyes of these idiots would be at risk.

  • A_t

    Oh, Kelli… on the logic front, saying that the rapists are trying to force women to wear the scarf is as illogical as suggesting (as some do) that the US deliberately kills civilians during it’s military campaigns. Both consequences happen (women end up wearing scarves out of fear, civilians die in Afganistan/Iraq), but that doesn’t mean either was intended.

    As another example, graffiti often increases fear of crime in elderly people, & may make them fearful of leaving the house. Does this mean graffiti artists’ secret agenda is to keep elderly people housebound?

  • Kelli

    A_t,

    Respectfully, you are wrong in surmising that all women are equally at risk from these particular predatory male gangs (other gangs appear less fussed about the ethnic/religious background of their victims–guess they’re natural libertarians). If their behavior bore no resemblence to that of predatory male gangs in the Middle East and, say, Pakistan, I might not be inclined to attribute their criminal propensity to any kind of systematic attempt to keep women in “their place.” However, as it is in fact identical behavior to those of their peer groups in their (or their parents’) homelands, I have to assume that the overall aim is the same as well. That is, keeping women cowering and subservient, ignorant and powerless.

    Now, your point about the hijab playing a relatively minor role in keeping Muslim women (as a rule, not invariably) second-rate players in their own civilization is well taken. Which is precisely why, as an American woman I could not care less whether Muslim women in my neighborhood or in my children’s classroom wear the hijab (don’t get me started on the burhkha, however).

    However, if the aim of the French government is to prevent Muslims from setting up a semi-autonomous community within their country, with it’s own self-appointed leaders, code of dress and conduct, and “policing” system based on threats and intimidation, then I support them.

    Now where the bloody hell did this Gustave go? Typical French, start a fight then leave it to an American to carry on.

  • A_t

    From the article, which I wouldn’t call objective journalism from a neutral source (most of conservative America seems bent on portraying France as the land of stupid people who are about to be overrun by Muslim crazies),

    “The neighborhood butcher, from Algeria, spoke as if the suburb was a world apart. “If a girl goes out, she’s going to get into trouble, especially with Arabs and blacks, because they are not used to seeing girls outside,””

    …along with…

    “the young men, some whose families moved here from the Caribbean,”

    implies this is *not* a specifically muslim thing, but a problem based on kids indoctrinated by rubbish, backwards male-dominated cultures, wherever they may be. It’s similar to the (small, really) problem we have in London with Jamaican gunmen, who grow up with the violent culture/disregard for human life which prevails in much of Jamaica, & bring it with them when they come here.

    The solution is not to ban the womens’ reaction; the solution is to come down *hard* on any ignorant barbarian who disobeys the fundamental rules of civilised society, & try to make women feel sufficiently confident to report attackers or people who are trying to coerce them into behaving in ways they don’t want to.

  • A_t,

    You disagree with my reasoning and question the validity of Meryl’s linked article. Fine. There is a great deal more literature out there (fiddle with google for 5 minutes, or try the link above). Or go on humming like a child with your hands clapped over your ears because you don’t want to hear what you don’t want to hear.

    Here’s French educator, Marwan Bishara, writing in the International Herald Tribune last month (arguing, ironically, against the head scarf ban): “the banlieue is witnessing an increasing number of attacks and rapes by young Muslim men against unveiled teenage girls, who are seen as outside the community and hence permissable targets.” Sounds like he agrees that this is a problem of Muslim males enforcing the social code of the community.

    The response of French officials, like Nicholas Sarkozy, has been (just as you suggest) to beef up police enforcement of the law in these areas. “The result”, according to Bishara, “slightly less crime but much more tension and hostility.” Hardly a rousing success.

    This brings us right back to square one. Your move.

  • Perhaps this link will work.

  • Nemo

    Dressing ‘modestly’ to avoid trouble is an argument for making it illegal? Having doubts about the precise nature of ‘rights’ is an argument in favour of oppression?

    Another weird thing about this discourse – there are no Muslims involved. Are some of us just not even making an effort to understand a Muslim woman’s dilemma?

    As for the neo-Islamic-fascist-Iranian-nouveau hijab issue… that is a red herring. Styles come and go, the principle remains.

  • A_t

    “This brings us right back to square one. Your move.”

    I’m not claiming I have a grand solution to this problem; it’s a thorny one & no mistake, but banning the scarves; introducing (more) petty restrictions on personal behaviour, in a manner which doesn’t even directly punish a single one of the people you accuse of wrongdoing, is just wrong in my book.

  • Haidisa

    Remember, no one gave a damn what we as Muslim women wore on our heads until 9-11, Afghanistan and the war on Iraq. We were generally unnoticed in the population. The ban is fueled by intolerance and fear and a blanket labeling of al Muslims as potential terrorists. It’s not being done to protect us as the hate crimes against Muslims world wide have been relatively stopped. If they ban the hijab and the yarmulke, they should also ban the sale of crosses and stars of David, and make it illegal to keep a bible or any other religious text in plain view. WWJD bracelets should be banned as well as “Jesus is my Co-Pilot” novelty plates. If Secularism is the goal, then take it all the way. If you aren’t going to take it all the way, then don’t take it at all.

    Also, the French want to ban a woman’s right to ask for a female doctor instead of a male one for any reason. (Muslim women routinely do that) But so do rape victims, women who were sexually assaulted in some way and women who re generally uncomfortable with men. What on earth will that solve?

    Nothing, just like the Hijab Ban will solve nothing.

  • MeBeI

    These French guys suck! I hate the French language, and now they start doing such things! Let those people decide themselves wether they wear one or not. I mean, what is their problem?

    Laterzzz