Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I'd like to visit Paris, too bad it's in France...

... since they are against public displays of religiosity but probably okay with walking around in underpants.

I kid. I still hope to visit France one day, but I'm not feeling the anti-religious laws they've been pushing for a number of years. Yes, we all know you're a "secular" country and all, but what harm is a kid wearing a yamulke really doing? Or a crucifix? From the Examiner:

"In 2004, three Sikh boys, Jasvir Singh, Bikramjit Singh and Ranjit Singh, were expelled from French schools for wearing turbans. These students were the first victims of the ban instituted which prohibits Sikh students from covering their hair at school, a decision that prompted world-wide protest from the Sikh community...

Jasvir Singh was 14 years old when he, along with two other Sikh students, was expelled from Michel High School in Bobigny, France for wearing a keski. The keski is a small, discreet piece of cloth, which acts as an under-turban, covering the unshorn hair that is considered sacred in the Sikh religion. It is frequently worn by young Sikhs as a prelude, or as an alternative, to wearing a larger turban.

In the appeal..., UNITED SIKHS lawyers had argued that the 2004 law interfered with Jasvir’s human rights in a way that was disproportionate to the aim of the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. The lawyers added, that there was no pressing social need which dictated that members of the very small Sikh minority in France should not be able to wear a discreet head-covering.

Moreover, a Sikh’s uncut hair is a much more conspicuous sign of adherence to the Sikh religion than the keski which covers it. Accordingly, requiring a Sikh pupil to remove his keski, revealing his uncut hair tied in a tress knot, makes his religious affiliation more conspicuous rather than less."

And of course, France has gone against Muslim girls, too:

"Approximately 5 million out of France's 58 million people are Muslims, many of them descendants of immigrants from former French colonies in North Africa. Furthermore, an estimated 50,000 French citizens embrace Islam each year . Muslims in France face a number of daily problems. One recurring difficulty them is the ban on the Islamically prescribed headscarf from public institutions. The main reason given for this prejudice is that the headscarf conflicts with France's secularism...

...2 sisters, Lila (16) and Alma Levy (18) were expelled from Henri Wallon lycee in the Parisian northern suburb of Aubervilliers, for refusing to remove their headscarves. Four days later, 12 year old "Hilal” was temporarily prevented from attending classes at Charles-Walch de Thainn in the north of France, for refusing to remove her hijab. On the 10th October, the school irreversibly denied her access to the school. Finally, on the 28th November, the school's disciplinary council decided to expel her. The council stated that "Hilal” refused to respect the school rules by insisting on wearing clothes "of ostentatious religious sign on purpose to harass her colleagues, which runs counter to the secular nature of the school.”

While I'm a Christian, these stories rub me the wrong way. Maybe it's partly because I am a Christian. You see, I get anxious whenever a government or people (or an individual) forces people to not comply with their religious beliefs on the basis of secularhood. I can definitely understand laws to prevent people from being hurt or harmed in some way, but I do not understand how A Sikh boy covering his head or a Muslim girl doing so takes away the rights of those who do not. The 2004 law also prevents other clearly visible religious symbols such as large crosses, crucifixes, and yamulkes. So basically, put your religion in the closet. Literally.

When I was looking for stories about this, most of the comments were in support of such bans... but then those comments were directed almost exclusively towards women wearing a burka, niqab or hijab. Many of those comments were really anti-Islamic. But I wonder how those people feel about the schoolchildren from other religious groups who are also banned. Is that okay?

Another frequent question is "But do the women even want to wear them?" I found a site that answered "yes"... and "no". Directly from the women who do or don't themselves.Some examples:

(FYI, the interesting thing is, some women in Christianity and Judaism also cover their heads, too, lol.)What do you think?

I wear scarves, partially cause of bad hair days, partially because I'm a later day-hippie. But mainly the bad hair. Like today. You'll also note my prayer beads, which would also be a big no-no for public school kids to wear in France.


cricri said...

Is it so wrong to not want religous signs in public LAIC places? so that everybody can be on the same level? Outside of school you can make and wear everything you want, so I do not really see where the problems lays.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Hi CriCri,

How are people on different levels by having a scarf on or a piece of jewelery? I can understand the burka prohibitions, for safety concerns, but not the hijab. Like my picture shows, I wear scarves for fashion, and they don't get in the way of anything (except people seeing my bad hair day).

I'm glad that the kids can (and do) wear what they want on their own time, but as I read up on this, it seems more and more women are choosing to cover, almost to spite the laws. And that seems to be causing further division between the immigrants and the native French. Considering the law is to promote French secular unity, it might wind up doing the exact opposite.

I also fear it won't stop at schools, but keep going to public places. But I hope not, especially from a country that is internationally renowned for being Enlightened.

Alan said...

I can understand wanting to have everyone on the same level,but by prohibiting religious customs, you are thus elevating thise who believe in nothing, over those who believe in something.

Though I dont believe the same as a muslim women does, I find the scarfs and head wraps they wear beautiful, and by no means does it offend me.

I feel that as long as the act of the individuals religion does not outwardly and obviously encite hate for a particular group of people, then whats the harm.

The more you try to constrain a group of people, the more they will fight and there will never be peace. You cant force a certain way of thinking or life on someone, it has to be freely chosen. Otherwise were just going through the motions.

Alisha De Freitas said...

@Alan, AGREED!

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