Tracing threads of head-scarf controversy in France
Regarding your Sept. 2 editorial "Liberté, Egalité, Head Scarves": As a French woman of Algerian origin who has lived in France for 28 years, I would like to point out that the number of girls wearing head scarves is quite small in France. I didn't see this phenomenon when I was growing up. It started with some recent immigrants from Turkey and Morocco and became a bit more widespread at the end of the '90s with third- or fourth-generation North African immigrants. In their case, it is more a reaction to widespread discrimination and racism. They probably think, "When we act like them, they say we are not integrated, we are torn between two cultures. Now, we'll be different and that's it."
Secularism in France is deeply rooted in the political history of our county as a protection against all sorts of tyranny, including religious tyranny. People fought - and many of them were arrested and died - for that. And this has become part of our culture, which we are proud of. Today we are very sensitive about the idea of secularism "and" tolerance, but we feel that the only way to respect every kind of faith is to protect secularism within our institutions.
I would like to add some comments to your editorial about Muslims in France. As you say, the new law allows discreet symbols and bans only "conspicuous" displays of all religious symbols. But a head scarf is not only a piece of clothing. It is the symbol of the alienation of women.
Regarding the Aug. 30 article "Najaf: A Victory for Politics:" The question at hand is not whether Iraq will be "a theocracy ... or a representative democratic government," but whether the Iraqi population or the American government will decide Iraq's future. A foreign occupation cannot be the basis of a truly democratic society. Even in America, settled by the British, independence was achieved only through violent struggle against the colonial motherland. In Iraq, democracy can only stem from a rejection of American occupation. How are the Iraqis to assert their democratic aspirations in the face of 130,000 troops from a country with definite geopolitical interests in Iraq?
Regarding your Aug. 31 editorial "Athens wins a laurel": Being Italian, I never doubted that Greece would be prepared in time for the Olympics. Nor did people from other Mediterranean countries, such as Spain. Newspapers from Mediterranean countries did not make the point, repeated and repeated here in the US, that Greece finished just on the eve of the Olympics. I mean, it was just normal to work at that pace.
Regarding the Aug 31 article "Does the state have a right to monitor?": One point never mentioned was that schooling is compulsory in every state in the US until a certain minimum age. While there are undoubtedly areas of disagreement between what states require of public-school graduates in this era of increased accountability and what home-schooling parents feel is necessary or desirable, there are surely minimum standards that could be agreed without violating deeply held religious beliefs. The state has a responsibility under the law to see that all children are educated. Parents will not be harming their children to provide evidence to state authorities that they are doing it.
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