October 05 2008, Contributed by: Nicole, to ModernTraditional.com News
Please read this whole thoughtful article, linking hijab bans to culture, tradition, modesty, secularism and racism, at the title linked above. This is the introduction:
Some years ago, I announced with shock and horror, that some French government officials had begun aggressively attempting to ban "religious expressions" in schools, including but not limited to Islamic, Jewish, and Sikh head coverings. The racist and hypocritical laws somehow passed, despite the protests from religious and secular people who believed that the bans should not include clothing worn specifically for the purpose of modesty and/or self defense. A person who wishes to cover themselves for spiritual/psychological reasons is doing so for the same reasons that someone undergoing chemotherapy may cover their head due to hair loss. Wearing modest clothing is not an exclusively religious act, and is in fact, separate from one's religion. Taking off someone's clothes doesn't change their belief system. To force someone to expose their body who may have smooth skin is as much a violation of privacy and right to self defense as to force someone photosensitive or with another skin disease, to expose themselves.
Not to mention, it is impossible, sans actual religious symbols, to definitively say what a person's religion is by how they are dressed. On a hot day, even an atheist may don a scarf. So how in the world will someone decide who can wear what? If a Rastafarian wears a flowing head scarf, is it then okay because she is not Muslim? If a woman is wearing a bonnet, will someone check her to see if she is a Quaker or Amish? If she is, will they decide that she may not wear a bonnet, and her Muslim friend can, since the bonnet isn't viewed as stereotypically Islamic? Since when does racism, and ethnic sterotyping become part and parcel with being secular? Aren't we, as people in western nations, supposed to be getting away from that irrational mentality?
Please read this entire article.
Headcovering bans in France are not geared toward any one group of people, we are reminded. Everyone is included. Read the whole article, "Sarkozy welcomes Sikhs sans turbans", by Tejinder Singh at the EU-India Summit in Marseille, France; 30 September 2008, in NEurope.eu. A portion follows:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, at the concluding press conference of the European Union/India Summit in Marseille, France, stood next to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a Sikh wearing a light blue turban, as he answered this reporter's (Tejinder Singh) question about the wearing of turbans by Sikhs in France. Regarding the required Sikh head covering, an integral part of their religious identity, Sarkozy, replied curtly, "Sir, we respect Sikhs. We respect their customs, their traditions. They are most welcome to France."
Visibly irritated, Sarkozy continued, "But sir, we have rules, rules concerning the neutrality of civil servants, rules concerning secularism, and these rules don't apply only to Sikhs, they apply to Muslims or others. They apply to all on the territory of the French Republic."
The practice by Sikhs of allowing one's hair to grow naturally is a symbol of respect, the most important of the five outward symbols required of all Sikhs, and the turban is worn to cover the uncut hair. Sarkozy explained that the banning of turbans is not discrimination, that, "These rules apply to everybody, to everybody with no exception. There is no discrimination whatsoever."
Making it clear to the Sikh community in France that they have no option other than to conform to the rules, Sarkozy made the paradoxical statement, "We respect their traditions and their customs and we are convinced that they too respect the laws, traditions and customs of the French Republic."
See also these short letters to the editor, regarding French Muslim Students in Catholic Schools, in the NYTimes.com.