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French Secularism

Courtesy: Sreenath Sreenivasan.

The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 21, 2004

The French may love Saddam Hussein and other Arab dictators, but there are some enemies to whom even they will not surrender. Chief among these, as we noted last month, are little girls in headscarves. Paris has been hard at work on a plan to banish Muslim headgear from French schools in order 'to reaffirm France's secular foundations.' Of course, banning only headscarves would amount to discrimination against Muslims, so the French have chosen instead to discriminate against everyone. Under the plan, yarmulkes are also verboten, as are 'large' crosses, though 'small' ones are all right.

Today's New York Times reports on further refinements in the list of symbols to be banned. Apparently Sikh boys get a special dispensation; they will be able to go to school in their turbans. But their beards 'might be a no-no.' Says Luc Ferry, the education minister: 'As soon as it becomes a religious sign, it would fall under this law.' Moreover, 'any girl's bandanna that is considered a religious sign (as opposed to a fashion statement, presumably) will now be banned.'