French Education Minister Luc Ferry is now suggesting that beards could be banned in France along with headscarves if they’re found to be religious symbols. I doubt he’ll make any serious headway on this one, but France has surprised me before. In any case, this just shows the flaws in their entire approach: instead of going after the root of the problem, they’re targeting minutiae. They can’t or won’t get Muslims to renounce the Sharia and accept Western principles of tolerance and equality: instead, European Muslim groups are loudly denouncing assimilation. So the French instead go against the outward manifestations of the Islamic rejection of those things. But does Luc Ferry or Nicolas Sarkozy really think that beardless, bareheaded Muslims will not try to institute an Islamic state in France?
The report is from Reuters:
France’s plan to bar religious symbols from state schools slid into confusion Tuesday after the education minister said a proposed ban on Muslim veils could also outlaw beards if they were judged to be a sign of faith.
Opposition politicians derided the government plan as misguided and some of President Jacques Chirac’s conservative allies said they would abstain or vote against the law meant to stem growing Islamist influence among some of France’s five million Muslims.
In another sign of the political tangle the veil debate has caused, a senior French official issued a rare public rebuke to Pope John Paul II for saying some politicians’ efforts to ban faith from the public sphere endangered religious freedom in Europe.
Education Minister Luc Ferry made the surprising statement about disciplining bearded students in a National Assembly legal committee hearing about the draft law on the ban due to be debated next month.
Discussing the plan to remove Islamic headscarves from state schools, he told a communist deputy who asked about a pupil with a beard: “As soon as it becomes a religious sign and the code is apparent, it would fall under this law.”
Pious Muslim men wear beards in obedience to the Prophet Mohammad, who is said to have instructed them to do so.
Sikhs — of whom there are over 5,000 in the Paris area — also wear beards because they do not cut their hair. Ferry said they might still be able to wear discreet turbans to school but did not mention their facial hair.
Claude Goasguen, deputy leader for Chirac’s UMP party in parliament, said he was considering abstaining from the vote. Centrist Francois Bayrou denounced the planned ban as “a whiff of oxygen for fundamentalists” who would exploit it to whip up protests.
Socialist deputy Julien Dray declared: “This is putting a comic face on a very serious issue.” Socialist parliamentary leader Jean-Marc Ayrault said the government’s position “is not clear at all.”
BAN BROADER THAN FIRST THOUGHT
Explaining the draft law to deputies, Ferry said the text would bar “signs and clothes which conspicuously manifest the religious affiliation of the pupils.” Officials have said this means it would outlaw Muslim veils, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses.
But drafters chose to use this broad wording rather than draw up a list of banned symbols so pupils could not bypass the law by wearing other items that clearly have a religious significance but were not expressly forbidden, Ferry said.
France has reaped widespread criticism for the ban, which it says will keep religion out of state schools and thus promote respect for all religions. Many commentators abroad cannot fathom this logic and accuse Paris of violating religious freedom.
France’s Muslim community, the largest in Europe, has said it feels targeted by the ban and launched demonstrations against it. Local Christian and Jewish religious leaders have also criticized it.
Pope John Paul II weighed into the debate last week with a warning about what he considered excessive secularism in some European countries, a clear jibe at France.
Bernard Stasi, who led a commission that first proposed the ban on religious symbols in state schools, wrote in the daily Le Monde that the Polish-born pontiff was misinformed about France and should not give fundamentalists ammunition against Paris.