Friday, September 07, 2012

Blog 2: France "Boycotts" Freedom of Religion?

During a protest in Paris seven people were surrounded, and brought in by police for questioning. The reason these people were brought in for questioning was not the actual protest, but because the balaclava’s they had on were breaking French law against wearing full-face face veils.  The law was passed to combat what the president at the time, Nicolas Sarkozy, considered a rise in Islamic extremism in France. Before the law passed there were critics who worried that the law would cause increased tensions about Muslims, and also accusations of racism. Now, a year and some months later those for and against the law agree that the impact was far less dramatic than expected, because of tolerance from most Muslim’s and police. Simply because the impact is less dramatic than expected does not mean the impact was not felt. To avoid claims of the law being discriminatory, Sarkozy government wrote the bill as a “security measure” to prevent anyone from wearing clothing that hides the face. According to this article, defenders of the law said that it was necessary to preserve the secularism of the public space, and that the Muslim population in France needed to accept French norms. Although there has been cooperation for the majority of the Muslim women in France, it has in essence confined them a norm that is not their own, and in some cases causes them to literally confine themselves to their homes. Those in favor of the law also said that “the law protected Muslim women from religious extremism and gave them freedom of choice, rather than taking it away.” (NY Times) I do not understand the logic behind applying the phrase “freedom of choice” to this law at all. I think it is in direct opposition to basic human rights, and the arrest of the protestors on the basis of apparel only hits the beginning of why that is so. A Muslim women living in Paris, named Hind Ahmas, says “I feel like France has decided to boycott some human rights.” (NY Times) Ahmas plans on appealing an arrest and fine to the highest court of France, and hopes to then bring this law in front of the European Court of Human Rights, to question it’s validity on the basis of religious freedom.

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