French President Sarkozy expressed his strong distaste for the head-to-toe Islamic veil, calling it not a sign of religion but a sign of subservience. “It will not be welcome on French soil,” he said.” We cannot accept, in our country, women imprisoned behind a mesh, cut off from society, deprived of all identity. That is not the French republic’s idea of women’s dignity.” President Sarkozy’s comments have not come out of the blue. They are in response to a call last week by a group of 65 cross-party MPs, led by the Communist Andre Gerin, who wants a parliamentary commission set up to investigate the spread of the burka in France. They want to see whether such a spread is indicative of a radicalisation of Islam, whether women are being forced to cover themselves or are doing so voluntarily, and whether wearing the burka undermines French secularism. The separation of church and state is jealously guarded by everyone from school teachers to government ministers – and the constitution states the republic “does not recognise, subsidise or renumerate any religious body”.It underpinned the French Revolution, and has been a basic tenet of the country’s progressive thought since the 18th century when French Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire, Diderot and Montesquieu regarded religion as divisive, benighted and intolerant. It was this same concept that was invoked five years ago to ban conspicuous signs of religion – including Islamic headscarves … >>>
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