Part of being human is, unfortunately, being pretentious and dishonest, as well as posturing and self righteousness. There are no exception to that rule whether you are talking about Afghanistan, Egypt, The United States or, in this case, France.
The arrogance of French culture pops up every now and then giving the impression that the French have 'invented' freedom, equality and brotherhood of Man. That does not mean that a lot of minority have not found home and homeland in France over the years. But the 'convulsions' that erupt occasionally from the dominant ethnic group under the pretense of preserving the purity of the 'French value of secularism' still reveals they are just like everybody else in the planet: flawed humans.
I totally supported their effort to ban Niqab (face-hiding head-cover worn by some very conservative Muslim women, and is a social tradition regardless of religiosity in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan).
I supported the ban simply because Niqab is a dysfunctional social habit. That is not the case for the usual headscarf worn my a large number of Muslim women. And regardless of whether it is worn out of religious belief or simply as a social habit (which is a very common situation even in many non-Muslim rural societies), it is not a dysfunctional tradition unless it is enforced by coercion on women.
Some French, at least a vocal faction, have a different attitude towards a woman wearing a headscarf, especially if the style suggests she is a Muslim: they consider it backward, threatening, and above all anti-secular, whatever on earth that means.
I do not judge a woman as morally superior just because she wears a headscarf or a man because they wear a beard. But I do not hold it against them either.
That is the whole point of freedom of choice. And that is the point of judging the deed not the appearance.
A recent report on the British Gaurdian Online (see link at the end of the post) talked about how a leftist radical anti-capitalist politician, Olivier Besancenot, has caused an uproar in France and has drawn vocal opposition even from leftist/liberal groups for his 'fielding of a headscarf wearing 21 year old Muslim woman' as an election campaign running partner. The report mentioned few things about that young woman, Ilham Moussaid (see photo). And from what they list, she should not be any threat to French society and its value. After all, she is independent, politically active, supports abortion, supports leftist causes, and actually at a young age of 21 years, is the NPA anti-capitalist party treasurer.
But for the 'puritanistic' secularists, the limited scarf she wears is a threat to secularism that is too grave to ignore. And just because Marx and Trotsky did not see positive value in religion, people with strong sense of social justice and who care for the poor and weak out of their religious convictions, are not accepted as comrade worriers for social justice causes.
Those who want to defend feminist and social justice causes need to shed their religion - all aspects of it. Social justice as a result of a religious sense is 'no good'.
A "leading feminist group announced it would file an official complaint against the NPA's list of candidates in the Vaucluse département to protest against what it called an "anti-secular, anti-feminist and anti-republican" stunt".
This is similar to rejecting the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' as a moral argument just because it had religious root.
I am sure if the scarf was worn as a a part of an African attire - not an uncommon combination- it would have been seen as a manifestation of the great motto of France "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" in the land that thinks it invented freedom for all.
But, worn by a Muslim woman? Oh, no. That is a threat Western civilization.
It is not uncommon to see xenophobia, racism and pure hatred manifest itself under glorious slogans. It was American, Samuel Johnson, who said in 1779 that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel".
And for decades, patriotism and other moral values including religion have commonly been refuge not only of scoundrels, but also of those moral cowards who would rather use a respectable facade for their hatred, racism, xenophobia, greed for power and domination, (and more recently hate for Islam and Muslims). That occurs not only in the US, but in the West, the East and everywhere.
That is no less despicable that a cowardly soldiers holding human shields in front of them while shooting at or searching for the enemy.
I am sure many French would not feels the same way that the 'militant secularists' feels- at least I hope most would not. But it is usually the unhappy loud militant bunch that make the headlines in France like everywhere else. Another reminder how human societies are just that: human.
And that applies to the French too.
The guardian full article can be found here:
And this is an article from France with more nuanced insight of the politics behind the choice.