I like the French. Their readiness to revolt, their willingness to riot, their valuing of culture, their love of food. Oh, and the fact that it’s a secular state attracts me for some reason. I do like a nice separation of state and religion (something the UK lacks – the Queen being both monarch and defender of the faith).
Some time ago – well the back end of the 19th Century to be exact – Jules Ferry wrested education from the control of the clergy and established for France an education system that was free, obligatory and strictly secular. The (various) republics haven’t looked back. I like all of this. It’s not that I’m anti-religious (I describe myself as agnostic – logically this is all I can be, since I want evidence and whilst you can’t prove to me that there is a God, neither I nor anyone else can prove that there isn’t. It’s all down to faith.), but rather that I think the State and government should be for all – and not favour one religious group over another.
I feel I should make an effort to get to the point. Some time ago, the French banned the wearing of crucifixes in schools. I think I raised an eyebrow then. More recently France’s National Assembly voted by a slight majority (336 to 1) to ban the wearing of the face-covering veils (or niqabs) in public. Now I’m just a bit miffed.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of the veil, an certainly women shouldn’t be forced to wear it. There is a debate to be had about that – but that debate is for women of the Islamic faith to have, not a matter for our legislators.
I believe various arguments have been made in France (and elsewhere) about women’s rights, I suspect that it France the banning of the veil is more to do with a wider argument they’re having about the French national identity. Coming a year or two after a Swiss ban on minarets, I detect just a little Islamophobia sweeping Europe too. That aside, I’m not best pleased to see governments laying down the law on what we may and may not wear. Being banned from wearing the veil is every bit as bad being forced to wear it.
Of course, casting my eye over the Great British public, there’s a few things I’d ban too. Muffin-tops, tee-shirts not long enough to cover that beer belly, short skirts and chunky thighs. And the girls aren’t much better. Luckily I’m not in government.
So then, anyone up for a trip to France? Group outing, group dress – burqas?