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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another


It comes to this

France has quietly begun expelling Muslim girls for wearing head scarves to public schools in defiance of a new law banning conspicuous religious symbols, treading carefully for fear of endangering two French hostages in Iraq.

The expulsions of at least five girls since Tuesday were the first since the law went into effect at the start of the academic year on Sept. 2. They were kept low-key because the French journalists' captors had demanded the measure be abolished.

After disciplinary hearings, officials on Wednesday expelled two 17-year-olds from schools in the eastern city of Mulhouse and another girl from a school in Flers in Normandy in western France.
Now it is more than a little ironic that there are more expulsions expected after "a vacation period marking the Roman Catholic All Saints Day holiday ends Nov. 3."

What is pathetic about this is that a) the law was enacted, to a large degree, to protect these girls from being forced to wear head scarves by their parents or communities, b)that it is designed to preserve the essentially - except for the Catholic holidays - secular constitution of France, c)two French hostages are quite possibly going to have their heads cut off as a result of this law's enforcement. What France and the rest of Europe is confronting is the fact that the more fundamentalist Muslims in their midst are not willing or are unable to adapt to the cultures in which they find themselves. In Canada or the United States or England, the religious arguments have been settled by way of the historic compromise of seperating Church and State. It is not a perfect seperation in any of those nations; but it is one which avoids these sorts of issues.

In much of Europe the possibility of that type of compromise was lost in the 19th century as the forces of anti-clericalism drafted the constitutions of new nation states. France is at the most extreme end of this with the state actively opposing the Catholic Church since the Revolution.

This left the French with very little choice when it came to its public schools.

The pity of it is that these girls are going to suffer as a result of the collision of cultures.