Ten Years On: The Ban on the Muslim Veil in France Raises Continuing Questions

March 23, 2014

 

The report published by the newspaper le Monde on the 10th anniversary of France’s ban on the Muslim veil in public educational institutions in France deserves to be read and meditated to draw the main conclusion on the French model of secularism in facilitating discrimination against Muslims.

 

The editors of the report confirm that there has been wide compliance with the French law banning the wearing of the hijab by Muslim girls in public schools.  However, that result does not mean that the law has addressed or resolved the problems it was intended to address, and in fact it may have created more problems.  Indeed, the choices for girls are limited: girls either choose to adhere to their faith and permanently abandon their studies as has happened in some rare cases, or they move to private institutions with all of the related financial burdens, or they study by correspondence, or, finally, they comply with the law by removing the veil, and put it on again at the end of the academic term.

 

The effects of this law have not been limited to public educational institutions, but have expanded into the whole public space.  This broadening of the ban occurred in 2010 with new laws adopted in secular Europe, banning the Muslim veil in public places. It didn’t stop there, however.  As a result of actions of both the right and the left in 2013, the request was made to ban the veil in public halls and theaters, and also in private companies. And then things got even more extensive, reaching mothers accompanying their children to school:  should or shouldn’t they be allowed to wear their veils?

 

In 2003, the sociologist Jean Baubérot (the only one to have abstained from voting on the ban on veils in the Stasi Commission that is charged with implementing the secularism system in France) had a long-term vision because he believed that over time, the veil ban would lead to the demonization of this religious symbol and the despising submission of Muslim women… and if the veil were banned in public educational institutions, later inevitably the ban would be adopted elsewhere with further laws enacted. And this is what actually happened. Things began with banning the veil/headscarf in schools, then in public spaces, and now the regulation is becoming widespread everywhere.  And who knows, perhaps tomorrow there will be new justifications for imposing the French secular model into the private sphere!

But the truth is that this narrow view of the interpretation of the secularism notion in France, in opposition to the wider and more informed conception “in vogue” in several European nations, has found its starting point in the idea of protecting secularism. But such an approach will inevitably lead to a pernicious form of racism against Muslims, and it will extend to their private space, in violation of the principle of freedom of belief. More serious again, the veil will give rise to a dangerous phobia of Muslims in France, for no other reason than the active presence of people who prefer the safe approach to the application of secularism, without worrying about finding intermediate solutions and/or gateways between respect for individual freedom and the neutrality of the State towards religions.

So what would France have lost if it had bypassed the problem by considering the veil as a sign of cultural belonging and not a religious symbol, such as in the United Kingdom, where the government adopted a more intelligent attitude which harmonized the two great secular principles (public neutrality towards religions and protection of individual freedoms), but did not infringe upon the freedoms of Muslim women?

Great Britain and other European countries have succeeded in using this approach to avoid dangerous endeavors that inevitably lead to the demonization of the Muslim veil and then to the demonization of Muslims in general and, even more generally, the demonization of Islam as a religion. The failure of the French policy is that it arrives at exactly the opposite of secularism, namely racism and incitement to hatred.

Therefore, we believe that 10 years after the implementation of the law on the veil, and the events that have followed after that in France, it is necessary that French secularism not only revises its founding principles, but also its security approaches that have redefined somehow these same principles. The goal now in France should be to pursue a course that takes greater account of the more moderate and open European secular models.

 

Source: http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2014/03/126164/ten-years-on-the-ban-on-the-muslim-veil-in-france-raises-continuing-questions/

Racist bullying: Far-right agenda on immigration ‘being taken into classrooms’

January 8, 2014

 

The number of children seeking help for racist bullying increased sharply last year, as campaigners warn that the heated public debate about immigration is souring race relations in the classroom. More than 1,400 children and young people contacted ChildLine for counselling about racist bullying in 2013, up 69 per cent on the previous 12 months. Islamophobia is a particular issue in schools, according to the charity, with young Muslims reporting that they are being called “terrorists” and “bombers” by classmates.

The rise in children needing help for xenophobic bullying coincides with rising political hostility to immigration – especially in the lead-up to this month’s lifting of restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians entering the UK.

In 2011, just 802 children approached the charity seeking help for racist bullying.

Sue Minto, head of ChildLine, said: “There’s so much more of a focus in the news at the moment about immigrants… it’s a real discussion topic and children aren’t immune to the conversations that happen around them. Some children are being told, even if they’re UK born, to pack your bags and go back where you belong. It is very worrying, it’s a big increase. This past year, it really seems to be something children and young people are suffering with.”

The charity’s report found that the majority of the racist bullying affecting children was happening at school and many of those calling ChildLine for counselling say teachers ignore the situation or make it worse with clumsy interventions.

James Kingett, of the charity Show Racism The Red Card (SRTRC) which seeks to combat racism, said: “We work with around 50,000 young people every year and issues around Islamophobia have been very prevalent over the past 12 to 18 months. That idea that all Muslims are terrorists or bombers is a particular problem. We’re getting that from kids with no Muslim classmates through to those in diverse schools with many Muslims.”

Some actions taken by the school made things worse, some children said. For example, racist bullying being discussed in assembly simply advertised it and led to increased abusive behaviour. While girls are ordinarily more likely to approach ChildLine about bullying, more boys get in touch about racist abuse. Of the calls and online counselling sessions, 52 per cent involved boys, 32 per cent girls and 16 per cent were gender unknown.

Mr Kingett said that although the rise in racist bullying complaints was worrying, it at least indicated that children were prepared to seek help about their problems.

 

The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/racist-bullying-farright-agenda-on-immigration-being-taken-into-classrooms-9045148.html

BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-25639839

‘Fox And Friends’ Warns Of YMCA Swim Class For Muslim Girls (VIDEO)

December 2, 2013

 

Fox News is warning viewers about a YMCA swim class for Muslim girls, suggesting that it’s a bad sign of the “minority becoming the majority.”

A YMCA in St. Paul, Minnesota recently teamed up with the St. Paul Police Department to offer a swim class for Somali-American girls. The class respects the girls’ religious beliefs, and Minneapolis Star Tribune recently reported on the need for the program and its success.

Fox News saw it differently. “The minority becoming the majority at one community pool,” newsreader Heather Nauert said on Monday’s “Fox and Friends.” “Sharia law is now changing everything.”

“This means during the one hour class, the pool is being shut down,” she said. “The men’s locker room is being locked and female life guards are being brought in. Similar classes are now starting at towns across the Midwest. We’ll keep watching this story for you.”

 

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/02/fox-news-ymca-muslim-girls-sharia-law_n_4373268.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

Female genital mutilation ‘rising in soft-touch Scotland’

November 15, 2013

 

A BBC investigation has revealed concerns that young girls are being brought to Scotland to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) because the country is seen as a “soft touch”. Agencies claim that families from England and Europe have travelled to Scotland to have their daughters cut. They also said girls living in Glasgow and Edinburgh have undergone FGM in Scotland and the problem is increasing.

UK legislation to criminalise FGM was introduced in 1985 but since then there has not been a single prosecution. Scottish legislation in 2005 made it illegal to take girls abroad to conduct the practice. New Scottish government figures, seen by the BBC, revealed that between 1997 and 2011, 2,403 girls were born in Scotland to a mother from an FGM-practicing country.

The BBC sent Freedom of Information requests about FGM to each of Scotland’s 32 local councils and 14 health boards. The majority of health boards were unable to say how many cases they had encountered. Less than a third of the 32 councils had specific local guidelines on FGM and less than 10 cases had been referred to social work.

Anela Anwar, of Scottish charity Roshni, said: “Because Scotland has been lacking somewhat in a prosecutions, families are coming up from England and Wales into Scotland to have the practice carried out and that is certainly concerning if Scotland is now being viewed as a place that doesn’t take the issue of female genital mutilation seriously.”

Fatou Baldeh, of the Dignity Alert and Research Forum (DARF) in Edinburgh said: “The UK is behind and among the UK, Scotland is very poor in tackling FGM and supporting victims.”

She added: “Because it’s getting expensive to take a daughter back home and circumcise or mutilate them, women are putting together money and bringing over someone who can cut the girls and it’s cheaper.”

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) set up a national FGM helpline this year, and over the course of the first three months, there were 102 calls relating to girls at risk of FGM.

 

BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-24915967

 

Dutch Public Servant Fired for Informing on Mosque Schools

October 31, 2013

 

The Rotterdam public servant who told journalists that Mosques run illegal boarding schools has been fired by the city council with immediate effect.

Based on confidential documents and interviews, NRC Handelsblad reported last year that mosque boarding schools exist in Rotterdam among other locations which had no licence to have children stay overnight. Fifty girls were living the attic of one of these mosques. The government carried out no supervision of these schools.

The public servant who tipped off the newspaper received a letter of dismissal on Monday in which he was accused by the city council of “serious dereliction of duty.” The letter also says he created a “feeling of unsafeness” at the municipal organisation, by “recording and distributing an internal meeting.”

 

NIS News- http://www.nisnews.nl/whistle-blower-on-illegal-mosque-schools-sacked.html

Euro-Islam summary for original story: http://www.euro-islam.info/2013/05/22/alleged-mosque-boarding-school-revealed-in-rotterdam/

Report calls for female genital mutilation to be treated as child abuse

November 3, 2013

 

Thousands of girls in danger of genital mutilation are being failed by the health and justice systems, a coalition of health professionals has warned in a report that recommends aggressive steps to eradicate the practice in the UK. Female genital mutilation (FGM) should be treated the same as any other kind of child abuse and evidence of it must be reported to the police, according to the report. Janet Fyle, a policy adviser of the Royal College of Midwives and one of the report’s authors, said that just as it was inconceivable that a health worker would not report evidence of child abuse to the police, it should be equally important to report evidence of FGM.

According to the report more than 66,000 women in England and Wales have undergone FGM and more than 24,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of it. Despite its regular occurrence, FGM has not resulted in a prosecution in Britain, whereas in France there have been about 100.

FGM is carried out in Africa and the Middle East by Muslims and non-Muslims. It predates Islam and is not called for in the Qur’an although it mostly occurs in countries that became Islamic. In countries such as Somalia and Egypt more than 90% of women have undergone some kind of FGM but it is also common in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mali and Sierra Leone. Although FGM has been outlawed in the UK since 1985, migrants from countries where FGM is common have continued the practice here or by taking girls to their home countries for it to be performed. Since 2003, Britons can be prosecuted for acts of FGM abroad.

The report recommends that health workers identify girls at risk and treat them as if they were at risk of child abuse. Girls at risk are defined as girls born to a woman who has undergone FGM or a child who lives closely with someone who has. The report clearly emphasises the importance of an individual’s safety over the respect for religious and racial sensibilities, a point welcomed by Shaista Gohir, the chairwoman of the Muslim Women’s Network.

Sarian Karim, a 36-year-old community worker from Peckham, south London, who suffered FGM as an 11-year-old in Sierra Leone, welcomed the report. “FGM is a normal thing for us. We don’t know it is against the law, but I know that it damages girls and leaves them scarred for life – mentally and physically. “It is very important that everyone knows that FGM is illegal. We suffer from a lot of complications [because of the procedure]. “We want those people who work in schools to have guidelines and be able to inform, prepare and protect children.”

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/nov/04/uk-mutilation-girls-report

Book review: ‘I Am Malala’ by Malala Yousafzai

October 11, 2013

 

Marie Arana is the author of the memoir “American Chica” and the biography “Bolivar: American Liberator.” She was also a scriptwriter for the recently released film about education in the Third World, “Girl Rising.”

Malala tells of that life-shattering moment in a riveting memoir, “I Am Malala,” published this past week even as she was being cited as a possible candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. Co-written with Christina Lamb, a veteran British journalist who has an evident passion for Pakistan and can render its complicated history with pristine clarity, this is a book that should be read not only for its vivid drama but for its urgent message about the untapped power of girls.

The story begins with Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, the son of an imam (a preacher of Islam), who was instilled from boyhood with a deep love of learning, an unwavering sense of justice and a commitment to speak out in defense of both. Like Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, Ziauddin was convinced that aside from the sword and the pen, there is an even greater power — that of women — and so, when his firstborn turned out to be a bright, inquisitive daughter, he raised her with all the attention he lavished on his sons.

Malala was born in 1997, as her father was struggling to found his school against a sea of troubles: a deeply corrupt government official to whom he refused to pay bribes; a mufti who lived across the way and objected to the education of girls, a practice he denounced as haram, or offensive to Islam; and the vicissitudes of a fierce jihad, visited upon them from time to time in Taliban raids that evolved from harsh rhetoric to outright killings. By the time Malala was 10 and the top student in her father’s surprisingly flourishing school, radical Talibs had penetrated the valley all the way to the capital of Islamabad and were beheading Pakistani police, holding their severed heads high on the roadsides.

We know how this story ends, with a 15-year-old child taking a bullet for a whole generation. It is difficult to imagine a chronicle of a war more moving, apart from perhaps the diary of Anne Frank. With the essential difference that we lost that girl, and by some miracle, we still have this one. Disfigured beyond recognition by her assailant’s gun, Malala was rushed to Peshawar, then Rawalpindi and finally to Birmingham, England, where doctors reconstructed her damaged skull and knit back the shattered face. But her smile would never be quite the same.

 

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/book-review-i-am-malala-by-malala-yousafzai/2013/10/11/530ba90a-329a-11e3-9c68-1cf643210300_story.html

Malala Yousafzai urges British girls not to take education for granted

Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old shot by the Taliban for promoting female education and who later became an international advocate for children’s rights, has warned British girls not to take their schooling for granted. Malala, now a pupil at Edgbaston School for Girls, urged British students to regard education as precious. “Reading a book, having a pen in our hands, studying, sitting in a classroom is very special for us because once we were deprived [of] it and because [of] what we have seen in Swat.” Adding, “I don’t know why people have divided the whole world into two groups, west and east. Education is neither eastern nor western. Education is education and it’s the right of every human being.”

Teaching union furious as Islamic free school staff are told they must wear hijab even if they are not Muslim

Teaching unions have reacted with anger after staff at an Islamic free school were told they had to wear the hijab even if they were not Muslim. It was also claimed that teachers were dismayed that girls at the Al-Madinah School in Derby are required to sit at the back of the class raising fears over possible discrimination. Staff were reportedly spotted removing their headscarves as they left the premises at lunch time and claim they have been instructed not to wear jewellery or bring non-halal food with them to work.

 

The school, which is currently under investigation by the Department for Education over alleged financial irregularities, caters for 200 students aged between four and 16.

 

There are worries over practices concerning the discrimination between male and female pupils in the school, with the girls being told to sit at the back of the class regardless of whether they can see the board properly.

 

When it was founded last year it was claimed that half of students would be non-Muslim at the fully-subscribed school. Al-Madinah describes itself as having a “strong Muslim ethos” which it said would “give the school its uniqueness integrated with shorter holidays and longer school days to maximise opportunities for pupil achievement and success.”

 

No one at the school responded to requests to comment on the claims.

 

Boris Johnson: forcing children to wear burka to school is against country’s values of liberty

The Mayor of London said the burka, or full Islamic veil which leaves only a mesh for the eyes cannot be described as a school uniform. He was speaking after it emerged a number of secondary schools have forced children as young as 11 to wear the full covering when outside school.

 

The Madani Girls’ School in Tower Hamlets, east London, stipulates that girls must wear a full burkha and a black coat when outside school. Girls at the Jamea Al Kauthar school in Lancaster are required to cover their faces when outside the school and wear a jilbab, or long flowing black gown that covers the head and body but leaves the face exposed, when inside. The Ayesha Siddiqa Girls School in Southall, West London, requires girls to wear the jilbab when travelling to lessons.  All three are independent fee-paying schools. There had been plans to turn Madani girls’ school into a state-funded Muslim school.

 

Parliament said this week it backed the rights of schools to set and enforce their own uniform policies but Mr Johnson said: “I don’t think it can be classed as any kind of uniform. I’m totally against any kind of compulsion in this matter. If a school is forcing children to wear the veil, that in my view is completely wrong, adding: “That is against my principles and it’s against the principles of liberty that London should stand for.”