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Banning Religious Symbols and Clothes

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I see that on another forum you have mentioned that "private schools aren't monitored"...

Well quite false... French private schools which gets funds from the government have to show they follow the same curriculum as public schools for the part that is funded. So that in orthodox Jewish schools (and contrarily to what you imply, orthodox Jews have no problem whatsoever with the theory of evolution... You must have read too much propaganda somewhere) do teach Darwin theory of evolution if it is part of the curriculum...

In France all that pertains to education is closely monitored by the state.

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It doesn't qualify as truth (after all, I have read in New York newspapers that France would ban the hijab everywhere, in the street also)... Journalists very often hear what they want to, and ignore the rest...

If Darwin is on the curriculum, Darwin is taught... Moreover, if you had bothered to talk to orthodox rabbis, you would have known that they have no problem whatsoever with Darwin... Moreover evolution is still and will remain a theory. So if it is taught as a theory, it is taught as it should be...

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I live in New Bruswick in Canada. People here consider themselves to be Canadian, but the French speakers also consider themselves to be Acadian, or even French.

As an English woman I consider myself to be neither Canadian nor Acadian but am doing my best to learn the French language partly for survival but mainly in a desire to be included.

Were I to fly the Union Jack outside the house it would be seen as an overtly anti-french symbol, however the Acadian flag is seen throughout the province and it does not in any way offend me, in fact I see it as an important symbol of the Acadians cultural identity. The historical background of the oppression of the French by the English does however play a huge part here, though I do sometimes feel the need to point out that this all took place in 1755!

The majority of the Acadians have never been to France. The french they speak is not the French spoken in France and their families arrived over here hundreads of years ago, but they persist in speaking French even though they all also speak English. They are also mainly entirely Catholic as a result of their French 'backgrounds'.

One might argue in that case that if they want to really be Canadian they should stop being Acadian. I for one, however would think that a terrible loss. Canada is full of foreigners. The only people truely from here are the First Nations and the rest of us at some point arrived from outside. Each of these new arrivals have done their best to retain their cultural identity and I believe this makes for a more interesting society.

A few weeks ago I was having dinner with a Swiss/Canadian friend who insisted that hijabs should not be worn in French schools and that the Muslims should try to intergrate more. This came from a man wearing Swiss clothes eating swiss food and listening to Swiss music!

I listen to British music as well as Canadian and after 4 years in Rwanda, African too. I try to embrace as much as possible of each of the cultures that I have lived in but at the core I am British and will remain so until the day I die irrespective of where I live. I was born in England to British parents so how could I be anything else. My husband listens to Acadian music, speaks French at work and to his friends and each year we attends the 15 Aout - the ' celebration' of the deportation of the French by the British in 1755.

We are each of us a product of where we came from and where we are now and that is something that should be embraced both in and outside of school. What we need is genuine cultural understanding, from all sides, and not only aqcceptance but joy that we live in such a diverse world.

New Brunswick is a more interesting place as a result of its French and English roots. France is a more interesting place as a result of immigration of other french speaking people. Do not forget that most of the people arriving in France speak French because of living in past French territories. I do not suppose that the French, British, Belgians and Portuguese made any effort to assimilate themselves with the Rwandans, Angolans, Ugandans and North Africans. If anything they forced their religions, languages, systems of government and morality onto the people of the countries they inhabited.

For as long as I lived in Britain I did not feel very british, but after 4 years in Rwanda I had unions jacks in the living room and a picture of the Queen above the mantleplace. In a foreign place you feel more of a sense of identity with your 'own people' even when working and socialising with your African colleagues. When I saw a white face and heard a british accent it filled me with joy that here was a person that I would be able to have a converstaion with that would be relaxed and easy because culturallly we would be very similar, I imagine a large number of immigrants to Europe feel the same way.

Immigrants contribute a great deal to the communities they live and work in whilst having to cope with living in a culture very different to their own. On my return from Africa I smiled at strangers, talked to people on the train and touched people much more. It must be awful arriving in Europe and finding people so very cold and unaccepting and being so far away from everything you know. Obviously you cling to your own identity. Had I been told that in Rwanda I could not be British any more I would have curled up and died.

Having been witness to the atrocities commited by Catholics, Protestants and Muslims alike in Rwanda, and heard stories of the wrongs done by Catholic priests in New BRuswick all within the last 50 years, I am not inclined to play the good religion bad religion game. Neither do I think the world would be better off without religion. And that comes from an Atheist!


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  • 2 weeks later...

German state sets headscarf ban


"On Wednesday, Berlin's regional government agreed to outlaw all religious symbols for civil servants, although the bill still needs to be approved by the regional legislature.

Baden-Wuerttemberg's parliament - dominated by a coalition of the opposition Christian Democratic Union and liberal Free Democrats - backed the deal almost unanimously.

State culture minister Annette Schavan was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying that headscarves had no place in schools as they were "open to interpretation", including a possible espousal of "Islamic political views". "

What is the world coming to?


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In the first place the motivation of the French government is perfectly clear. They are not defending the secular nature of education by banning pupils from wearing headscarves (but not "small" crosses!) They are seeking outflank the Front National by proving that they can crack down on something the far right pretends to find offensive.

An attack on muslim beliefs in Saudi Arabia might be quite heroic. In France it is an attack on a minority community. It is fuelled by racism. Every concession which the government makes to the Front National will of course increase the appetite of the rabid right for more power. (Like the National Front in the UK they publicly deny the existence of the holocaust....the British NF privately celebrate the holocaust as well)

I am facinated by the idea of integration in the United States. Which concessions did the European whites in America make? Did they decide they had to voluntarily renounce their culture? When did this happen? Or was it a bit of one way street?

Have a nice day

Derek McMillan

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The important philosopher Susan Okin died lat week. She was the author of the great book, ‘Women in Western Political Thought’ (1979). In 1999 she published a controversial essay: ‘Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?’ The contents of this essay seem very relevant to this debate. Her main point in the article was that there is a fundamental conflict between our commitment to gender equality and the desire to respect the customs of minority cultures and religions.

For example, should we in a democracy allow schools to be established where girls are taught that they are inferior to boys. What should our attitude be towards arranged (forced) marriages? I agree with Okin that we are reaching the stage where we might have to make decisions that involve a choice between equality and religious freedom. This is a problem the people in France are grappling with. I believe all western governments will have to deal with this issue over the next few years.

As a socialist I value equality over religious freedom. In fact, the implementation of socialism always involves restrictions on individual freedom. It is the far right that values freedom over concepts such as equal opportunities. It is a system that they have benefited by and it is one they wish to maintain.

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there is a fundamental conflict between our commitment to gender equality and the desire to respect the customs of minority cultures and religions.

I think this is the core of the problem.

One argument of the Baden Wuerttemberg government yesterday was that the hijab is not only a religious symbol but also a political one which expresses separation and the attitude of not wanting to inegrate into our society. Aother argument is that many Muslim girls and women are forced to wear traditional dress. I personally think that this argument is not very convincing because I believe that this only is true for a minority and you can find many examples of discrimintion against girls and women and forbidding them to wear e.g. short skirts in fundamentalist Christian sects in Germany as well.

The first argument contains the problem: how much difference can we tolerate without losing the coherence of our societies; what do we expect from the ethnic minorities who have come to live in our countries, if we allow the headscarf on the one hand can we interfere later when we notice that girls are not allowed e.g. to take part in P.E. lessons, go on class trips, are forced into marriages at an early age on the other hand.

Berlin wants to ban all religious smbols from the civil service whereas Baden Wuerttemberg "only" forbids teachers to wear a hijab; students can still wear it and crosses can still be displayed in schools. I personally think that the Baden Wuerttemberg way is wrong because it only targets Mullims and it discrimnates against Muslim teachers.

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In North America the native americans struggle to maintain their ways of life. They have limitations placed on thier lifestyle by environmental rules that some would argue have only had to be brought in as a result of 'immigrant' activities. However in this case the immigrants are the dominant power and frankly I see no concessions being made to the indigenous peoples ways of life.

But I guess thats different because these immigrants are white and Christian!


Edited by rownb
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I am not an expert on Islam but Muslim friends have led me to understand that the faith of Islam in no way disciminates against women. In fact some of the basic 'rules' of islam which in a modern society could well be considered discriminatory were in fact put into place either to protect women, to provided them with a more equal standing or as a response to health issues.

Please correct me if you feel that I am wrong but I see the hijab as something that has the potential to emancipate women not subjugate them. The hijab takes away issues of beauty. Beautiful people are often considered to be more intellegent interesting people and they command more attention in the classroom and the workplace. Women spend an inordinate ammount of time making themselve appear more beautiful in order to gain that attention - I should know!

Take the issue of beauty and indeed sexuality away and all women are equal. Take the pressure to be beautiful away and women can focus on 'more important' things such as academic acheivement.

Electronic communication works in the same way. When you read this you are reading my words and listening to my arguement and not staring at my breasts!

Of course you could argue that in that case men should also all dress the same, but the fact of the matter is that ugly men are taken as seriously as beautiful ones...perhaps more so! Men and women are different and society needs to accept that, in order to understand that, as women, we do not need or want to be treated like men, because we are not men. We simply want to be taken seriously as women and communicating via the internet allows that to happen.... the hijab technically should have the same result.

Ultimately I think this arguement boils down to what we consider to be 'normal'. My Grandmother did not wear trousers or jewelery for 50 years because she was married to a methodist. Did anyone notice? Of course not becasue she looked 'normal'. The Plymouth Brethrin stand out with their headscarves and long skirts which are designed to 'cover their modesty' but when long skirts and headscarfs came into fashion a few years ago they temporarily became 'normal'. Were the hijab the fashion statement of the season then maybe we would be making less of a fuss about whether they should be worn or not.

Why does this appear to be an issue about women? Becasue men don't usually wear chothes that expost their chests, legs or middles and so men can stop wearing their cultural atire, dress in western clothes and still remain modest. Turbans are one exception to this rule, surely if all religious symbols in schools are banned then this would ammount to discrimination against men!

Secularism is only important when trying to cope with overbearing powerful religious organisations. It can be a threat to minorities. Were I in their position my reaction might well be to take myself off to a school where I CAN dress how I choose and wear my hijab or my turban.... but surely that will lead to REDUCED integration not enhanced.

Alienating minorities is not a solution to societies problems. They will simply take thier lifestyles, arranged marriages etc etc out of main stream society to where, when women rights are suppressed by etremists, they cannot seek help. Certainly at a time like this when Muslims the world over are feeling very vulnerable we are not helping them to feel welcome in our society.


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Secularism is only important when trying to cope with overbearing powerful religious organisations.

Agreed, but in my view then secularism is therefore always important especially in education.

The pursuit of knowledge must be allowed to progress uninhibited by any type of supernatural movement no matter how much of a soothing sigh for the oppressed such a movement represents. Furthermore, like John I value equality and equality of opportunity highly. For women this surely must mean an equal access to education and opportunities, and an equal status in society to that of men. This will grate with certain interprertations of some religions. Womens' entitlement to equality, fairness and rights however, is far more important than any risk of offence to religious belief such an entitlement may bring.

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Moreover evolution is still and will remain a theory.  So if it is taught as a theory, it is taught as it should be...

Most things in science are called a "theory" because they are incomplete. Most of the scientists I know consider the process of evolution to be a fact, with many of the components still "theories".

The "quantum theory" is another incomplete theory, but nobody demands that the workings of microchips be questioned. The "gravitational theory" is incomplete but nobody demands that we question whether objects will always fall when we drop them. The "sub-atomic particle theories" are incomplete, but nobody demands that we question whether the chairs that we are sitting on at our computer desks are really there.


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Were I in their position my reaction might well be to take myself off to a school where I CAN dress how I choose and wear my hijab or my turban.... but surely that will lead to REDUCED integration not enhanced.

This is what many fear is about to happen in France with the establishment of more private religious school; there are already some private schools for orthodox Jews and one private Muslim school was founded in Lille only recently. By the way, the French law also would not allow Sikhs to wear their turbans or Jews to wear their skullcaps.

In Germany the situation is more complicated. The motion in Berlin and in Baden Wuerttemberg does only forbid teachers and all civil servants (in Berlin) to don the hijab (in Baden Wuerttemberg) or any other religious symbols (Berlin).

Mr. Rau, the President of the Federal Republic, would agree with Rowena's point and he argued for more tolerance to include the ethnic minorities in our society. He also expected some efforts on the immigrants'side: learning our language; accepting our Constitution which among other things of course codifies the equality of men and women; accepting and abiding our laws and legal system and accepting in general the rule of law.

I am sure that after the decision of the Parliament in Baden Wuerttemberg (only the Greens voted against the motion or abstained) the new law will be taken to the Supreme Court which will eventually decide.

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