Blog Challenge # 7

Welcome to Incredible Blogger Marathon Challenge #07

You are going to pick up a news paper article. Either online or take a snapshot from the hard copy paper. Use appropriate reference for the article you have used. You need to debate and discuss your view points on the selected article. How best can you do? You can pick up any category like general, politics, entertainment, etc. Even guest columns are very much appreciated.

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7

 

Corsica parents ‘block women in headscarves’

Women hold signs reading "Is it not a provocation, just my freedom of conscience" during a "headscarf march" in AvignonImage copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption The headscarf is banned in state schools along with other religious symbols, although some French Muslim women such as these protesters in Avignon say wearing it should be a matter of “freedom of conscience”

Five women wearing the Islamic headscarf have been prevented from entering a nursery school in Corsica by other parents, local media report.

Police intervened to calm the incident in Bonifacio, local media reported.

Staff and pupils at French schools are banned from wearing religious symbols – but parents are not.

For full story see:  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37278464

 Commentary

A recent article in BBC News highlights a pervasive issue that has been going on in Europe for a while now. Reportedly, five women wearing headscarves were blocked from entering a nursery school in Bonifacio, Corsica by other parents who said they were upset because if their children wore Christian crosses then they were called out by staff for it.

This argument has been brought up before.  But the issue has been underscored particularly lately after such terrorist attacks as the massacre of 86 people on the seafront of Nice on July 14th by a jihadist truck driver.

Since 2004 France has banned overt religious symbols in various public and state-run places.  In particular, staff and students are prohibited from wearing religious symbols in school, but this does not apply to parents, according to the BBC article.

Recently, up to 30 towns and villages in France banned women wearing full-body swimsuits called “burkinis”, although the top French court has since said the action is unconstitutional, imposing on people’s freedoms.

The French government has had a Declaration of Human Rights since 1789. Its “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen” guarantees certain rights such as liberty, property, and freedom from oppression to all citizens.  Since that time, the rights have been extended to women and foreigners rather than just French male property owners as the rights were originally given to, similar as they were in the United States originally.

But what exactly is this liberty granted? In Article IV of the Declaration, it states: “Liberty consists of doing anything which does not harm others: thus, the exercise of the natural rights of each man has only those borders which assure other members of the society the enjoyment of these same rights.  These borders can be determined only by the law.”

Well, according to the article, a law has been enacted in France to ban religious symbols in schools.  But, it does not apply to parents.  Therefore, if the parents in the Corsican primary school were just coming to pick up their kids, it does not seem fair to deny them the right to wear these religious symbols in that case.  Also, to my knowledge, young children do not wear head scarves, so this would not be a problem for students at this school.  But the issue could arise for staff members.

We need to think about the laws that are made banning religious symbols in public places.  Is this a good idea?

In Article V of the Declaration of Human Rights it says, “The law has the right to forbid only actions harmful to society. Anything which is not forbidden by the law cannot be impeded, and no one can be constrained to do what it does not order.”

So, although the law has the right to forbid, it should only forbid those actions that are harmful to society.  Is wearing a religious symbol in public harmful to society?  If so, we seem to be saying that religion itself is harmful to society.  Do we really need to obliterate all references to religion in public, as some have tried to do, for example, by protesting the appearance of the Ten Commandments in certain public spaces?.

The United States Bill of Rights, which is similar to the French Declaration, has a second amendment which states that the American legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’ (Wikipedia “Separation of Church and State”)

In this case, why are governments in Europe and America pushing to make such laws prohibit the free exercise of people’s religion?  Some people’s religion, like the Islamic religion, requires its members in some circumstances to cover themselves with the use of headscarves or veils.  While I understand that face-covering veils can create a safety issue due to an uncertainty as to the wearer’s identity, wearing headscarves, which in fact is not only worn by Muslims, should not be something that is prohibited.  There is nothing dangerous or offensive about a headscarf.  Although it may be a religious symbol for Muslim women, why are governments actively trying to prohibit religious symbols?

The purpose of separating Church and State in Europe and the United States has been to avoid governmental oppression of people based on religion and has been created to allow people freedom to follow their consciences’ and follow their preferred belief system, as long as they are not impinging on other people’s same rights.  Therefore, something like an implementation of Sharia law would certainly not be acceptable in a state such as France or the USA, but is wearing a head scarf really impinging on others’ rights?  Any article of clothing could be considered a religious symbol.  Do we really need to get so nitpicky over what people are wearing as long as it is not overtly offensive according to our natural sense of goodness?

Is religion something Western societies are trying to efface from their public spaces?  I would hope not, since religion has been shown to be a positive force in people’s lives, leading to increased life spans and happiness. And despite the fear of religious extremism, for most people, religion helps them to be more law abiding and have more self control.

 

 

 

One thought on “Blog Challenge # 7

  1. It is always complex when constraints are mandated on religious beliefs. With time we can only learn and unlearn the required. Security becomes the primary concern of the government and they sure can improvise the decisions. Glad you picked this up. It sure is an awareness. 🙂

    Like

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