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Sarko saute le requin


 

It’s  embarrassing for me to remember that there was a time when I had great hopes for Nicholas Sarkozy. But with today’s announcement of a forthcoming bill that will ban Islamic veils in all public spaces (i.e., not just in locations where public services are being provided), his presidency has officiellement sauté le requin.

It is hard to stomach the utter dishonesty of it all. As Jacob Levy argued last year when this was first mooted, the government’s gambit has been to frame this as a matter of women’s liberty, pure and simple, while any suggestion that it is a matter of religious freedom is dismissed out of hand. While clearly false, it enables the officials to portray what is clearly a reactionary policy aimed at preserving some atavistic notion of “French identity” as somehow serving the fundamental values of the republic. It also avoids the unpleasantness of having to concede that there might be competing principles at work, which might have to be balanced or — as one might say — reasonably accommodated.

Even if the stability and identity of the republic were at issue, how big a problem is it? Last year, Le Monde reported that under 400 women in France wear the full veil; I’ve heard other figures that put it as high as 2000. And about half of those are converts, many of whom are probably kids who thirty years ago would have put safety pins in their noses if they were living in Camden Town,  but have today found a better way of sticking a thumb in the eye of the establishment in France.

And all of this doesn’t even begin to deal with the utter impracticality of the proposal. This is my favourite comment so far: “Je ne sais pas comment on va faire avec les Saoudiennes qui viennent acheter sur les Champs-Elysées, par exemple”.



 
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Sarko saute le requin

  1. Chalk up another non-accomplishment for Sarky.

  2. I agree with you on the majority of what you have written here.

    The funny thing is that those Saoudiennes et Iraniennes (the wealthy ones of course) who shop on the Champs-Élysées, Place Vendôme etc. tend to jump out of their veils, hijabs, niqabs, chador and/or burkhas as soon as they leave Saudi or Iranian airspace (which I have heard is as soon as the wheels leave the tarmac).

  3. The country of Marianne is not going down without a fight, apparently, but she has lost her way.

    The State has no right to make people's clothes its business. Give people real liberty and attract them to French way of life, these draconian bans on cloth will only alienate people even more than they are.

  4. This is even more upsetting because france does not have the strong constitutional protection for religious freedom Canada has. In Canada, a government so inclined could posture for votes, being reasonably sure the egregious parts would be struck down. That "luxury" doesn't exist in France.

    • Yes, another consequence of their militant secularism.

    • Meanwhile, in Switzerland, the electorate ganged up and provided an anti-freedom referendum result.

  5. This is merely the logical consequence of militant secularism. France espoused it in 1789. In this worldview individual rights are granted by the state for the benefit of the state, and can therefore be taken away when the state deems it worthwhile to do so since there is no higher authority to whom the state has to look for approval.

    • The distinction isn't particularly illuminating, as there are excellent reasons for making broad allowances for freedom of religion no matter where you think the belief comes from. In fact, the more likely culprit is xenophobia trying to find a palatable way of presenting its irrational position.

      • I've been falsely accused of xenophobia enough times to be wary of casting that aspersion here. Perhaps, or perhaps they have some other reason. Either way it doesn't matter.

        As to freedom of religion, you are right that there are other reasons for upholding it. However none of those reasons yield a basis for unalienable rights, i.e. rights that cannot be taken away by the state. And who is to say what reasons are "legitimate"? If basic rights are reduced to a subjective calculation like that then no rights are safe.

        • "i.e. rights that cannot be taken away by the state"

          There is no such thing. Rights are taken away from the state (and other agents) all the time, usually at the precise moment they're required the most.

          • This is apparently the most unacceptable of my own opinions, based on the reactions I receive when I voice it — that we as human beings have no inherent rights, not one, but have only the privileges granted to us by our society and those we manage to take for ourselves. There are no unbreakable contracts in this world.

          • Well, it's both repulsive and false, but at least it's consistent. It's also the worldview that has been used to justify every genocide in history.

          • As a squishy liberal, it's one of the few topics on which I am firmly in the Realist camp. My usual challenge to you would be to "name a right", but I suspect you and I are probably dealing with a difference in definitions more than anything else.

        • However none of those reasons yield a basis for unalienable rights, i.e. rights that cannot be taken away by the state.

          Oh my, yes, states can AND DO "take away" inalienable rights. The only question is whether the people are willing to tolerate surrendering any inalienable rights. And, it seems, le peuple is only too willing.

          • @ MYL and MR above,

            There is a distinction between "taking away" a right and "trampling on" a right. For example, I have the right to vote. However that right is granted by the state, and can therefore be taken away from me. If the state decides tomorrow that the age of majority is above mine, for example, then I lose the right to vote and there is no illegitimacy to that decision.

            However, compare this to my right not to be killed. The state can certainly decide to kill me, but in that case they have overreached if one believes the right to live is not granted by government. If most of society acknowledges that such rights are beyond the authority of the state to take away, then even if the state errs and begins to trample on this right it will eventually be reigned in by the public. On the other hand, if the right to live is granted solely by government then when the government decides that certain individuals no longer deserve to live, there is nothing illegitimate about that decision. The state giveth, and the state taketh away, as it were, and no one has any grounds for complaint beyond "we don't like that decision" (which, needless to say, doesn't get one very far).

          • I imagine the debate on the grounds of Kent State, and the compound at Waco, as to whether the right to life was, at the given moment, being taken away or being trampled upon by my government. I decide that such hair-splitting is of no particular value as I enjoy my last breath…

            Can we pull out Roget's and meet at "interfere with," then, and call it a day? Because my main point is that a government can do whatever the H it wants if the people let it. And so your (and my, and everybody's) "inalienable rights" exist unmolested solely at the pleasure of the population willing to stick up for them.

            So, Sarko has sauté'd over the requin. What matters is whether the people of France are there with him. I am not hopeful in that regard.

          • Granted, the distinction makes little difference to the person being killed. To everyone else, however, the difference is immense. The discussion that ensues would follow one of two paths depending on how society views these rights.

            Case 1: society views the right to life as unalienable.
            Rightwing Nutjob:>/b> "Hey, you shouldn't have killed that guy."
            Statesman: "Why not? We didn't like him."
            RN: "Because the right to life isn't yours to take away, remember?"
            Statesman: "Tough cookies. He was offensive in some way."
            Public: "You're fired – RN is right, albeit obnoxious and repetitive."

            Case 2: society views the right to life granted by government
            Rightwing Nutjob: "Hey, you shouldn't have killed that guy."
            Statesman: "Why not? We didn't like him."
            RN: "Because I liked him."
            Public: "Who the f*ck cares what you like? We didn't like him either."

            You see the difference? Subjectivity versus objectivity. When it comes to the right not to be killed, tortured, silenced, or enslaved, it's nice to have an objective standard of "rights".

          • The difference is quite minor and really only appears to be whether people seem to think it's justified.

          • No. It is nice essential to have a PUBLIC that understands and defends the rights.

            In Case 1, RN and Public got it right, except there should be harsher consequences than "you're fired."

            In Case 2, both RN and Public are incorrect, but all that really matters is that Public has abandoned its defence of inalienable rights, allowing them to be tak– uh, tramp– uh, interfered with.

          • Fair enough. The point is that in case 2 the public has a rational basis for their defense, thus making it pretty strong. In case 1 they have no rational basis and thus are limited to battling on preferences alone. In short, case 2 amounts to might makes right, while case 1 is based on reason.

          • I like this characterization. It follows mine. It basically explains why there are wars in the world, because too often people are left battling on preferences alone.

    • how is it the "logical consequence of militant secularism"? are all religious garb or symbols banned in public places? no.

      • That is because other religions in France are so weakly adhered to that they pose no threat to the secularist worldview.

        In the past (e.g. the Revolutionary era and the Napoleonic era) Christian symbols and garb have been outlawed in France, and thousands of clergy were executed because of it.

        • correlation does not mean causation. one can identify differences in the two eras that detract from your suggestion that the two distinct periods tell the same story. i would be more apt t buy your explanation for the earlier period than for the current.

  6. Monsieur Potter, you might have just accused the Président of France of blowing up the shark. Although I suppose Sarko fait sauter le requin would be the purest attempt to describe that brutality.

    I believe you would have preferred to state Sarko saute par dessus le [ou au dessus du] requin. Although to our Anglo ears it might not have had the same effect, it would have been more correct. Non?

    What can I say, I miss Jack, and I'm just doing my best…

    • En fait "Sarko saute le requin" marche, faire sauter dans le sens d'une explosion est plus une figure of speech que la façon formelle de "faire exploser le requin". "Par dessus le" et "au dessus du" fonctionne dans les deux cas, très bonne compréhension myl.

      And you are not the only one that misses Jack.

      • À mes oreilles, «Sarko saute le requin» me fait penser au président de la République en train de faire l'amour à ce pauvre prédateur. The hunter becomes the hunted. MDR!

  7. It may be easy to chastise, while we dawn are delicate garb of political correctness, so easy to come by in Canada.

    But we do not walk in their shoes, where entire enclaves of France have lost any semblance of the France that was the genesis of liberty, and instead have become alien like bastiens of insular, backwards, male dominated culture of intolerance imported from a region which cares not for French civilty by people who care not the culture and norms of their host county, intent instead to change the ways of the infidel host.

    So sit back and enjoy your Seinfeld and your Blue Jays games, and throw the occaisional sneer here in Canada, while our freinds across the pond fight for their cultural existance.

  8. I see no difference in comparison to Quebec's language laws.

  9. This move has nothing to do with women's rights; it comes from a combination of xenophobia and aggressive secularism.

    Many people may be unable to understand why a woman would choose to wear a full-body veil, but that doesn't make it in any way wrong, and to people who do feel more comfortable dressing that way, this law is effectively no different than if the law dictated that I wear a miniskirt everywhere (which I would find extremely uncomfortable). I don't agree with it, and I don't agree with Quebec's law either.

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