No Kippas In the Classroom

“An overwhelming majority of France’s National Assembly has voted to ban religious emblems in state schools, a measure Paris wants to keep tensions between Muslim and Jewish minorities out of public classrooms.

“Deputies voted 494 to 36 on Tuesday to ban Muslim headscarves, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses from state schools and threaten pupils who insisted on wearing them with expulsion.” (c/o Byce, the ultracrepidarian commentator)

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8 Responses to “No Kippas In the Classroom”

  1. I haven’t found a clear explaination of what the intent of this new legislation is. At one point I read that part of the motivation was in response to the perseption that young women were donning hijab as a political statement. In seeing whatever this statement is as being particularly radical the governement is moving to suppress it. In this I see more poltical than religious repression. To call this as a move to defend secularism seems an obfiscation.
    As a move to denounce and suppress anti-Semitism the virtue of its intent can’t be denied. But it seems to cut too wide a swath to manifest its stated objectives. The “maintainence of secularism” idea is wierd, also, in that it is an interference of the state in religious matters rather than the separation it claims to persue.
    The objections of Muslims have loud and clear. It would be interesting to hear how Jews feel about an obligation to publicly conceal their faith.


    T · February 11th, 2004 at 11:22 am
  2. It would be nice to see this unite, in some small way, Muslims and Jews against this repression by the French government.

    (One can deam, no?)


    fix · February 11th, 2004 at 11:33 am
  3. Off the top of my head:

    As a move to denounce and suppress anti-Semitism the virtue of its intent can’t be denied. Maybe or maybe not. I don’t think suppressing racism works — it has to be unlearned.

    That said, lip service aside I can’t see that this has anything to do with antisemitism — just a move to assert state laïcité (secularism?). Is it a sound strategy for doing so? Does it even make sense? In many people’s opinions — mine, for instance — no. But it is consistent with French republicanism, the state ideology that wanted to give the Jews everything as individuals, and nothing as a people (I’m paraphrasing) and, when assimilation didn’t work, moved quickly to incorporation — setting up a state-sponsored central Jewish institution (Consistoire central des juifs de France) of the type that, much more recently was created for France’s Muslims (Conseil français du culte musulman). Marek Halter has an interesting article discussing the fear of and disdain for “communautarisme”, communitarianism, which in the French nationalist ideology of laïcité is seen as ghettoization and antirepublican and so forth.

    I haven’t found a clear explaination of what the intent of this new legislation is. And objections of Muslims have loud and clear. Noisy, anyway — but I don’t know if clear, because it’s difficult to understand whether representative or not. The TV news from France (which might, of course, be wrong or spinning) shows 40%-50% of Muslim women in favour of this legislation. That, in turn, goes to the question of intent. Each time I’ve seen interviews with those who support this legislation, their explanation has been specifically that many Muslim schoolgirls have no choice but to wear the hijab, and that this is therefore an intervention into something that is imposed rather than a choice.

    Now, to be clear, I think this law is quite a bad idea. More, I think that whether or not it is the right thing to do (it’s not) is a matter of ethics, not of public opinion and pollsters and advertising campaigns and spin. But in order to criticize it, I think it is a good idea to dig into where it’s coming from and what the people behind it — presumably, neither morons nor addled, but rather working from a different set of ideas — were thinking.


    8opus · February 11th, 2004 at 11:55 am
  4. On the surface, looks like a move towards Socialistic Atheism. But look deeper and see that Christians can wear crosses that aren’t too big (judged by a predominantly Christian school system).
    But then again, who am I to say, I’m still hiding my tzitzit in Tucson, Arizona.


    Ultrac\"r\"epidarian · February 11th, 2004 at 1:19 pm
  5. 8: You’re always forcing me to sharpen my pencil.
    “As a move…” within a democratic (collectivist) model the denunciation is trying to suppress anti-Semitism by expressing its condemnation of overt displays of anti-Semitism (I hope). I do see public denunciation as a step in that unlearning process.
    “…lip service aside…” I have come across commentary connecting the rise of Muslim anti-Semitism to the development of this law. The lack of clarity makes it hard to figure out how their means connect to their ends or if this is an unrelated oppurtunism trying to cash in on the popularity of anti-anti-semitism. (This may be my poor reseach or a lack of familiarity with the archetypes of French political discourse.)
    “…objections…” have been clear. The Muslims who support the idea seem to be under-repressented in North American media. (But then, I don’t have a TV.)
    Anyway, sorry, in the future I’ll try to be more careful.


    T · February 11th, 2004 at 1:33 pm
  6. I really don’t like religion… and I’d like to see everyone become secular. But by choice – not force.

    This French law violates people’s basic human rights.

    How does preventing a little girl from wearing a scarf on her head provide a benefit for society that outweighs her basic human rights ?


    Babylonian · February 11th, 2004 at 7:26 pm
  7. These are all really nitpicky points, but re I have come across commentary connecting the rise of Muslim anti-Semitism to the development of this law, the more concrete things (eg synagogue firebombings and cemetery desecrations) and less concrete things (eg petty bickering and so on) that some have connected to antisemitism well predate the proposal and introduction of the current law by the current administration. The only specific thing I’ve heard it tied to has been the rise of Arabic-language satellite TV and 24-hour coverage of bloodied martyrs — not, it goes without saying, as some magic stimulus, but rather as part of the creation of an environment in which the evil that is Israel is both always a top-of-mind issue, and a collective target whose condemnation is one way in which to assert an Arab or Muslim identity.

    The Muslims who support the idea seem to be under-repressented in North American media. And, to a lesser extent, in all media. Which is part of the point: the idea that those who support the idea do not feel comfortable speaking up. (On the other hand, see

    But, again, I stress that that’s really not my point. This is not a matter of polling. It is a matter of ethics. It is not wrong because it is unpopular or popular, it is wrong because it is a bad idea.

    And the kind of bad idea it is has to do with context. Here, the context is French republicanism. My thinking is that it isn’t possible to understand the reasoning behind the law unless one understands French republicanism, its ideology of laïcité, and the threat that it thinks is posed to laïcité by the prominent identification with Islam and, separately, Islamism, as particular (not universal) identities.

    To the extent that Muslim antisemitism is seen as a problem, the problem it is seen as is not simply antisemitism-is-bad, but rather as evidence — the thin edge of the wedge — of growing Islamism and, therefore, anti-laïcité. What is particularly interesting about this is the close parallel with how Jews were enrolled in the Republic immediately after the Revolution: not in terms of specific means, although there has been that too, but in terms of reasons (why this is a threat) and ends (what needs to happen for the threat to be managed).

    That’s where I see the hijab issue fitting in. It doesn’t seem to me possible to understand where it’s coming from except through the framework of French republicanism and its ideology of laïcité. To connect this as an intended strike against antisemitism, for example, seems a bit far-fetched.


    8opus · February 11th, 2004 at 9:05 pm
  8. why? because they are french. Rachmana litzlan


    mhz · February 12th, 2004 at 7:37 am

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik