11 December 2003

French Report Backs Ban on Veil, Kippa, Cross
Thu December 11, 2003 08:19 AM ET
By Tom Heneghan
PARIS (Reuters) - France should ban Muslim veils, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses from its public schools, but also create new holidays to respect holy days of its minority religions, an official report said on Thursday.
The long-awaited report on church-state relations, the center-piece of a national debate over integrating Muslims into French society, advised Paris to stand firm against militant Islamists trying to undermine official secularism.
At the same time, it urged traditionally Catholic France to respect "all spiritual options" in a society becoming ever more diverse through immigration.
President Jacques Chirac said he would announce next Wednesday whether he would seek a law banning the veil, now a major issue in France amid concern of failed Muslim integration and growing Islamist influence. He has hinted he backs a ban.
"Secularism essentially means respect for differences," commission chairman Bernard Stasi told a news conference.
But he added: "We must be lucid -- there are in France some behaviors which cannot be tolerated. There are without any doubt forces in France which are seeking to destabilize the republic and it is time for the republic to react."
Do ya think France gets it?
Christian, Muslim and some Jewish religious leaders have urged Chirac not to seek an outright ban on religious symbols in public schools. Muslims have been outspoken in defending the veil as a religious obligation they have a right to wear.
The commission proposed barring "conspicuous signs of political or religious affiliation," but said discreet medals -- such as a small cross or Star of David -- were acceptable.
It also suggested adding Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, and the Eid al-Kebir festival at the end of Islam's Ramadan fasting month to a list of school holidays.
Companies were advised to consider ways of allowing employees to take off the religious holiday of their choice.
France, once so Catholic it was called "the eldest daughter of the Church," is now eight percent Muslim. Islam is its second-largest religion.
Its five-million-strong Muslim community and its 600,000 Jews are both the largest minorities of their kind in Europe.
Apart from the veil, the commission also investigated issues such as Muslim women refusing treatment by male doctors, pupils challenging teachers about the Holocaust and a "new anti-Semitism" among disaffected Muslim youths.
Ok to me, women refusing treatment by male doctors out of modesty is a whole different animal than Holocaust revisionism in schools. Does this report point out the difference? I haven't seen it yet, and I don't trust my French comprehension, so this is merely a question for now.
"This anti-Semitism is real in our country," commission secretary Remy Schwartz said. "We found children have to leave public schools in some areas because they are not physically secure... This has profoundly shocked the commission."
Yes it must be a shock after Chirac told you there is no anti-semitism in France. Boy I hope somebody threw that up in his face. "Next time keep your cakehole shut, Jacques."
The commission was also shocked by cases of discrimination against women and said sexual equality was one of the guiding principles it used for reaching its conclusions.
They're going to have a hard time championing equality for women while allowing the kind of diversity that demands women be second-class. Can Derrida think us out of this one?
Schwartz said Muslim girls said they were pressured into wearing veils by family and "outside groups" -- a reference to activists officials say are promoting strict religious practices among French Muslims, who are of mostly North African origin.
It's those "activists" that can turn into terrorists at the blink of an eye. If France is truly going to be lucid, they should look that reality in the eye.
"Many asked for protection from the state, that the state forbids the wearing of religious symbols in school to guarantee their protection and their individual freedom," he said.
Kamal Kabtane, head of the Grand Mosque of Lyon, said Muslims would respect an anti-veil law but added: "This decision will resolve nothing at all. It will only add to the confusion."