Here are Iain Benson's reflections on an issue that has been causing controversy both within France and without: "Secularism and the Deeper Questions of Religion and Society." This piece was republished in The National Post. Writes Benson:
If the Stasi Commission recommendations are followed, Jewish yarmulkes, Muslim veils, Christian religious symbols (visible crosses or medallions) would all be banned as would “political” symbols of whatever sort. Not banned, however, would be the crasser and ubiquitous symbols of mass marketing. There is a blindness and conceptual confusion to this kind of distinction.
Nike, you will recall, was a Greek goddess of victory before she became known as a kind of winning running shoe. Let us think about the French recommendations for a minute.
Let us assume that one were to refound a cult worshipping the goddess Nike and as part of the reverence for her began wearing clothing emblazzoned with her name. This would, on the reasoning of the recent Commission be forbidden. However, if in the next seat was a person wearing the same sweatshirt of item of clothing, sporting the same logo out of mere fashion sense - - this would be allowed. Pride in fashion is more important, it would seem, than pride (or humility) in religion. Nike, as a matter of fact, is all around us as is her brother god Reebok, but nobody seems to understand the significance.
Or, to consider another example, say that in that spirit of youthful humour all the non-Muslim girls began wearing Muslim headscarves, it could not be argued that they were wearing them for religious reasons but merely for fashion ones. Perhaps it could be said that their wearing of them was “political” and so they could be banned for that reason. But if it could be proven that the girls wearing them were too dull or disengaged in contemporary issues to be either political or religious, then, well, then they could be worn.
The French rules show a few things. First, that the French, like many Canadians in fact, do not understand the role of beliefs very well and have chosen, as the examples above show, to restrict religious beliefs along rather arbitrary lines but leave in place beliefs dedicated to perhaps even more base motivations than humility. If ones’ beliefs are restricted to merely fashion and being “cool” then, fine. But if it is more than that, then lookout, you have offended “laicism.”