17 December 2003

Liberté, égalité, fraternité pour tous, sauf. . .

It is difficult to imagine a more convoluted defence of the sort of blatantly ideological policy announced today by Chirac banning all overtly religious symbols in public buildings and even allowing employers to regulate them in the workplace. This amounts to abrogating freedom in the interest of defending it. Here is some of Chirac's reasoning, as recounted in a report in the Guardian:

Islamic head scarves, Jewish yarmulkes or outsized Christian crosses "have no place" in public schools, Chirac said, and called on parliament, where his conservative government has a majority, to pass a law banning them ahead of the school year that starts in September 2004. . . .

Chirac paid homage to the immigrants who helped "forge our country, make it stronger and more prosperous." But he also said he will not tolerate any religious challenge to France's core values - encapsulated in the phrase carved above the front doors of schools and town halls across the country: "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity." Chirac said secularism, France's cherished separation of religion and state, remains a cornerstone of French values, providing neutral ground for different religions to coexist in harmony.

He rejected the Anglo-Saxon model of integration - admired by some French Muslims - where ethnic communities guard their customs and separateness. "I refuse to let France take that path. It would sacrifice its heritage. It would compromise its future. It would lose its soul," Chirac said.

In reading this one is reminded of Vàclav Havel's description of the modern ideology, in which slavery passes for liberty and arbitrary power for legal authority. One is also reminded why Groen and Kuyper so opposed the spirit of the French Revolution.

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