Is this secularism?
The French agency responsible for promoting secularism in the public sphere has recommended extending the country’s ban on donning Muslim head scarves to institutions of higher education, Le Monde reported on Monday.
I’m a secularist because I think the state should be neutral (more or less) in matters of belief, and not impose religious views or practices on its citizens. It’s easy to sympathise with the heroine of Persepolis, forced to wear a veil after the revolution in Iran. But I also don’t think people should be required to take off their headscarves (or stay away) in the name of an ideology, and this seems to be what is being proposed in France.
The watchdog’s preliminary report, cited by Le Monde, proposed legislating a ban on donning the hijab “and other signs openly expressing religious affiliation,” in classrooms and all spaces intended for teaching and research in public institutions for higher education.
I believe the only non-religious philosophical or political position which is banned from expression in the public sphere in France is Nazism. The French approach could be seen as discrimination against religion, rather than neutrality.
Apparently this move against the hijab in universities is being proposed in response to particular problems, such as male and female students refusing to work together and ‘acts of proselytism’. If the problem is male and female students not working together, then target that, not the headscarf. I suppose an ‘act of proselytism’ could be trying, but I’m not convinced students should be prevented from expressing an opinion and trying to persuade others to share it – and I’m sure plenty of people manage to wear hijab and not proselytise.
It’s quite possible this recommendation won’t be taken further – but here’s a report about examples of Muslims in France who have already been affected by something which seems more like atheocracy than secularism.