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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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French headware ban advances secular ideals

Starting next September, children attending public schools in France will most likely not be allowed to wear certain religious garments. This is due to a ban passed on Feb. 10 by France’s lower house of parliament which is expected to easily clear the French Senate.
The ban is designed to reduce Islamic fundamentalism by targeting women’s head coverings, called “hijabs.” However, it will ultimately anger many Muslims and incite radical and dangerous behavior. Furthermore, the wording of this ban discriminates against Jewish and Christian children and is nothing more than a way to advance France’s secular ideals.
Many Muslims believe Allah commanded women to keep their heads covered, and it is extremely important to them that this rule be followed.
For others, the issue at hand is modesty. The regulations on clothing in many Muslim communities exist so that women will not be seen as merely sexual objects. Many devout, traditional Muslim women believe women in America and Europe have sold their bodies for the sexual pleasure of men. The Muslim girls in French schools should not be forced to expose themselves in public. This would be somewhat like forcing American girls to go to school wearing only their undergarments.
Richard Stadelmann, A&M professor of philosophy and religion, said that although he does not consider himself an expert on this issue, he believes the ban is reasonable. Stadelmann said he believes the head coverings might make running the schools more difficult because it would not be easy to identify many of the female students, especially if the girl is wearing a veil that shows only her eyes.
While it is reasonable to forbid the girls from wearing masks, many head coverings do not cover the entire face. To ban all types of head covering is discriminatory and takes away the girls’ right to peacefully practice their religion. Furthermore, just as it is erroneous to assume that the typical Christian poses a safety threat to homosexuals, it is wrong to assume that the typical Muslim poses a national security threat, even if a sizable number of such people exist in a given area.
The vague wording of the ban can apply to more than just the hijab.
According to The Associated Press, the text of the bill says, “in schools, junior high schools and high schools, signs and dress that conspicuously show the religious affiliation of students are forbidden.” Theoretically, this includes Jewish skull caps and Christian crosses too. Ultimately, this ban is nothing more than an act designed to discourage and limit religious practices in France.
The culture and government of France have become increasingly secular in the country’s recent history. While there is nothing wrong with that in itself, the problem is that from this secularism comes widespread anti-religious sentiments, and this leads to discrimination. Students have the right to visibly express their religion; the French government should not try to destroy that right.
Our own constitution guarantees us the right to practice any religion we choose. The framers of the U.S. Constitution believed the rights in the Bill of Rights apply to all people; in fact, many men at the time believed it was unnecessary for these principles to be recorded because they were so basic. U.S. leaders should help protect the rights of French citizens and encourage the French Senate members not to pass this ban.
The ban, which has already upset many in the Islamic community, will ultimately increase hatred toward western nations and cause a rise in fundamentalism; this is the complete opposite of its goal. It is quite possible that this will both directly and indirectly cause violence to increase.
Historically, Islam is not a religion of peace. However, neither is Christianity or Judaism. In the past, people have had to use violence to secure their rights and freedoms, religious or otherwise. Hopefully that will not have to happen here.
If French leaders truly care about the safety and rights of their citizens, the French Senate should not pass this ban.

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