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MLK en français

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MLK en francais

My to-do list today included tracking down eighteenth-century primary sources in French for some of my ambitious Francophone students. So, obviously, I decided to see what if anything French press had on Martin Luther King (fair warning: all links in this piece go to French language sites).

Mostly, there were stories about Trump’s expertly timed attacks on John Lewis (Le Monde, Figaro, Libération, Radio France Internationale…).

But what really grabbed me was this short video on a kids’ news site, explaining who MLK was.

Two things jump out. First, in contrast to the current propensity to refer to the “alt-right” and other obscuring euphemisms, the narration readily calls out racism: MLK was born into a “racist and violent US” and was ultimately assassinated by a “white racist” (this last taken up with fury by the first young commenter).

Second, there’s some uncertainty about how exactly to handle MLK’s faith. The intro text highlights his role as a “Christian religious leader.” In the video, we hear that

Like his father, he became a pastor, but there was no question of devoting himself only to prayer. What he wanted was to act peacefully to abolish his country’s racist laws. And he would succeed.

That’s an interesting dance between emphasizing King’s religiosity (and implying some connection between it and his nonviolence) and contrasting a religious life with one of action.

Of course, it makes some sense that religion would be harder for this French educational site to handle than race. And, lo and behold, they’ve also got a “What is secularism?” video up (posted most recently this past December 9—which, it turns out, is national secularism day in France). It’s a pretty standard narrative of the signing of the 1905 law, with some specific mention of how this affects children and schools—mostly to bring peace, respect and tolerance to all.

Here, it’s the comments section that’s intriguing (not just for being blissfully innocent and polite). One young man asks,

but if no one can be excluded because of their religion, why is my friend who continues to want to wear a veil excluded?

Though this goes unaddressed by the moderators, another question about how religion works in the classroom gets a lengthy response from one of the site’s writers:

in a public school in France, there can be students from different religions. But no religion can influence the school’s subjects or daily life. When you live in a family who practices a religion, that makes a real difference!  At home, the parents can remind us of the rules of our religion; at school, it’s different. For example, it is forbidden for Muslims to make an image of the Prophet. In public school, it would be different: there are no Muslim rules or Christian ones or Buddhist ones. On the other hand, the rule at school is not to make fun of others on purpose to cause them pain, because of their religion or anything else.

Of course the example given relates to Islam, and it’s also unsurprising that it’s about the prohibition on images of Mohammad (central to the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015). There’s an attempt to come up with a secular rationale not to offend others—but the emphasis on not doing this “on purpose” walks this back—unintentional offenses apparently don’t count.

The MLK video had a striking moment discussing segregation:

Even though slavery had been abolished, blacks lived separately from whites. They had their own neighborhoods, their own churches, their own schools.

Muslims in France today often find themselves in their own neighborhoods, certainly in their own mosques, and even in their own schools (especially as a response to the banning of religious symbols, which prevents Muslim girls from attending in their veils). While this social segregation is still a far cry from Jim Crow, it’s hard not to perceive some mauvaise foi on the part of those decrying the racism Martin Luther King faced down, while ignoring their own prejudices. Probably not on purpose.

Plenty more to come on French secularism…

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  • Warren Terra

    But what really grabbed me was this short video on a kids’ news site, explaining who MLK was.

    Two things jump out. First, in contrast to the current propensity to refer to the “alt-right” and other obscuring euphemisms, the narration readily calls out racism: MLK was born into a “racist and violent US” and was ultimately assassinated by a “white racist” (this last taken up with fury by the first young commenter).

    In my (admittedly very limited) experience, young French (white) people are very well informed and very opinionated on America’s failings, which is obviously fine, but rather less so about France’s.

    • Abbey Bartlet

      That’s been my (also very limited) experience with white French people as well.

    • McAllen

      Always easier to see the plank in your brother’s eye than pull the plank out of your own.

      (Bible verse changed because American racism is not a speck)

      • Abbey Bartlet

        I dunno, everyone here is pretty well informed and opinionated on America’s failings.

        • AdamPShort

          Not sure this commentariat is particularly representative of America as a whole. American intellectual culture has some serious blind spots, some of which (labor issues, e.g.) are an explicit focus of this blog.

          • Origami Isopod

            Not sure this commentariat is particularly representative of America as a whole.

            It’s not.

            American intellectual culture…

            … isn’t representative of the U.S. as a whole, either.

      • CP

        I am a dual citizen and this phrase amply describes my own experiences. People are usually better informed about other societies’ flaws than their own, full stop. Or maybe a better way to put it is that people will feel free to blame (often correctly) other societies for the same problems that they minimize, rationalize, or deny when they find them in their own.

        • aturner339

          I agree though I’d add that this is often a matter of cultural institutions.

          As a Alabama native I occasionally joke at our region’s age old and every ready “Pat Defenses Against Yankee Scorn”
          #1 is “Blame the Black People” and it goes on from there. Cultures develop defense mechanisms against cognitive dissonance. A native of a particular area is more likely to assimilate the local mechanisms than those of foreigners.

          • CP

            A native of a particular area is more likely to assimilate the local mechanisms than those of foreigners.

            I agree, which is why I value the outsider’s POV. It’s just really easy for that outsider’s view to turn into smug superiority based on your (accurate) view of the other culture versus your (unexamined) view of your own. Given the biases we’re all raised with, that last one takes effort.

    • Most of the world – or, at least, the developed parts of it, where people have access to the internet and a wide array of news sources – is pretty well-informed on America’s politics and history. It’s the other way around that’s fairly uncommon.

  • Xenos

    Secularist and moderate Europeans have been successful at promoting social solidarity as they understand it – meaning bridging class differences within nation states. They are often at a loss for how to do this with racial and significant religious differences, even if they mean well. And the process of developing social solidarity across national borders has a long way to go. Working class Germans get a great deal of respect, while working class Greek and Spaniards are demonised for the actions of Greek and Spanish elites.

    • I live in Spain, i dont see anybody being demonized like that. I see nasty comments by leftists from say Podemos about members of other parties, and viceversa, but that’s a political battle, and not necessarily a class battle as far as I can tell.

      From what I see, Europeans are fairly racist but they are also polite about it. I see an increasing backlash against Inmigrants, but I don’t think people are too religious, they don’t go to church. The Muslims tend to isolate themselves and can be hostile. For example a couple of years ago my wife and I went into a “real Arab” restaurant, sat down, ordered, and had to endure hostile looks from everybody in there, from other diners to the waiter and the cashier. It was really weird.

      • aturner339

        It’s interesting. We get the same explanation about African Americans. This reminds me a tad of Bill O’Reilly’s visit to a soul food restaurant and his shock that the waiters didn’t shout obsecentities at the guests. “Self segregation” is of course an old saw for what all immigrant communities tend to do.

      • Origami Isopod

        The Muslims tend to isolate themselves and can be hostile.

        Gosh, I wonder why.

        For example a couple of years ago my wife and I went into a “real Arab” restaurant, sat down, ordered, and had to endure hostile looks from everybody in there, from other diners to the waiter and the cashier.

        Pobrecito.

      • Mellano

        From what I see, Europeans are fairly racist but they are also polite about it.

        My experience in Europe is fairly limited but there’s nothing polite about the racism in Paris, say, not even in the Dixieland sense of politeness.

    • Ronan

      I really don’t understand what this means. The idea that the only solidarity “europeans” have managed to build is “class solidarity” or that this is always and everywhere the most important form of solidarity is ridiculous. Plenty of countries have had to deal with and accommodate national, ethnic, religious etc differences both historically and contemporaneously.(Spain being a good example)
      Why is it unusual that the German people would have more sympathy for German workers than Spanish or Greek? Do American liberals prioritise the intersts of workers outside their borders to the same extent as those inside ? Building cross national alliances is difficult. So what ?

  • Gareth

    For example, it is forbidden for Muslims to make an image of the Prophet. In public school, it would be different: there are no Muslim rules or Christian ones or Buddhist ones.

    I strongly suspect that French public schools do avoid displaying images of the Prophet, despite what they say here. I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of this, but let’s just call it a hunch.

  • azumbrunn

    Laïcité and secularism are not quite the same thing: Laïcité–as the word says–has a strong anti-clerical flavor (historically especially against the catholic hierarchy, catholicism being far and away the dominant religion in France).
    Secularism on the other hand is anti-religious: Originally the separation of state and church was supposed to protect the church from the state. But secularists turn this around and want to protect the state (or the polity) from the church.
    I think it would be best to leave “laïcité” untranslated (and explain it in a footnote or in brackets).

    • Murc

      Secularism on the other hand is anti-religious:

      No, it is not. The opposite of secularism is sectarianism.

      Originally the separation of state and church was supposed to protect the church from the state.

      No, it wasn’t. It was supposed to stop religiously-inspired bloodshed and conflict from occurring by making it impossible for any one sect to use the power of the state against other sects. There is no “one church.” There are a lot of them, and historically they usually want to use power to crush the other ones, co-opting state power to do so. Secularism is a tool for allowing a polity to continue to exist without grotesque oppression and reprisal.

      • Warren Terra

        Yeah, French history isn’t my strong suit, but it’s my understanding that in France the point of separation of church and state – whatever word you want to use for it – was to protect the state from the Church.

        • humanoid.panda

          The best way to put it is that in America, religion is separate from the state, but in France it is separate from the public sphere.

          • antoni_jaume

            If by public you mean politics, yes. While religion is expected to be a mostly private endeavour, it can also have public manifestations.

    • Origami Isopod

      Originally the separation of state and church was supposed to protect the church from the state. But secularists turn this around and want to protect the state (or the polity) from the church.

      Please to be getting your history from someone other than David Barton, kthx.

  • Merkwürdigliebe

    There’s an attempt to come up with a secular rationale not to offend others—but the emphasis on not doing this “on purpose” walks this back — unintentional offenses apparently don’t count.

    Should they? Almost any action I take during my daily life is sure to offend someone’s religious feelings.

    • Robespierre

      True. And religious reasons to take offence tend to expand considerably if given encouragement.

      The only reason to take religious offence seriously is that religious faith is one of few things some people take seriously enough to kill for.

      • Snuff curry

        religious faith is one of few things some people take seriously enough to kill for.

        WAT

        • xq

          An interesting comment coming from Robespierre.

          • CP

            I mean, the Cult of the Supreme Being is a kind of religion.

    • Origami Isopod

      Well, while I don’t put much stock in protecting the apparently very delicate feelings of believers in general, it gets complicated when the believer is of a minority religion and/or an oppressed demographic. Dawkins, Maher, and their like seem not to comprehend that there are major differentials in power among believers, and that mocking the majority religion can be a form of speaking truth to power, but mocking a minority one often translates to punching down.

      That doesn’t mean Islam, Judaism, paganism, et al. should be immune to criticism. Just that there are nuances to it, and your own standing in society is going to affect how you come off when you make the criticisms — including the whole “beam in your eye” thing.

      • Merkwürdigliebe

        Yeah – but if you’re doing it unintentionally?

        • Origami Isopod

          It’s complicated. I mean, there are things that aren’t their business, like you saying “There’s no such thing as god” among your atheist friends (or with believing friends or relatives during a debate) and them overhearing, or women wearing “immodest” clothing in public. Those are the things that believers of any stripe have to just suck up and deal with.

          OTOH, if you say something that marginalizes a religious minority, and someone objects to it, you just apologize, same as with any other faux pas. Most believers aren’t going to pull out a ticking bomb on the spot if you offend them. Most of them won’t say anything at all. But if you inadvertently offend someone and no one tells you, you can’t do anything about it after the fact. I guess you could read up on the basics of stereotypes against whatever minority you’re talking about, although I myself don’t have any helpful recommendations unfortunately.

        • sigaba

          If you’re doing it unintentionally then you’re part of the institutional/systematic problem.

          Intentions are important if you’re discussing someone’s ethics. If Bill Maher is trying to denigrate someone, by mocking their religion, then Bill Maher is an asshole. Fine. I suppose his counts double if he does it to a minority group who’s members are routinely the target of represssion and violence.

          But if someone doesn’t intend it, maybe they’re no asshole, but it’s still oppression. Oppression is orthogonal to wether or not the oppressor is a nice person, it’s a social disorder like poverty, or racism, or illiteracy. Racism doesn’t exist because of some quantity of assholes, it exists because of them, and the huge quantity of nice people that quietly go along with it, or make excuses for it, or fail to appreciate it.

          And that’s no ding on you, you’re still a good person if you’re part of the institutional problem. Maybe you even disagree the institutional problem exists! But we can talk about that.

          • Origami Isopod

            Racism doesn’t exist because of some quantity of assholes, it exists because of them

            ?

            • sigaba

              …COMMA “AND”… Did you need the italics on the “and”?

              • sigaba

                Geez I’m in a bad mood this morning, sorry.

                • Origami Isopod

                  Nah, it’s okay, I had a brain fart there. Sorry.

          • antoni_jaume

            If the school has to explain sexuality, it does not intend to offend those that view sex as a preternatural force that is best never mentioned. If the school has swimming classes, it does not try to offend some parents or onlookers by having their little boys exposed to scantily clad little girls.

  • AMK

    which, as it turns out, is national secularism day in France…

    Vive la France. Telling everyone to keep their voodoo at home is pretty straightforward concept–if some Muslims or Orthodox Jews have a problem with that, the problem’s on them.

    More broadly, the reflexive need on the part of some liberals to defend complaints from every minority group in every context just because they’re a minority group is endlessly frustrating and politically untenable. “Religious fundamentalism is a civil right when it’s 49% of the population and brown, but a threat when it’s 51% of the population and white” is RWNJ-level stupid.

    • Warren Terra

      Yeah, if some kid wants to go to school she can damn well eat pork, whether she’s Jewish, Muslim, or Vegetarian. And she doesn’t get to dress funny, either, even though her dress isn’t hurting anyone and we’re comfortable imposing our standards in her.

      Do you rely not understand the value of pluralism? Would you bash Gay or Trans kids as easily as you’d bash Muslim or Hindu kids?

      • Merkwürdigliebe

        I don’t think anybody is being forced to eat pork if they object to it, for whatever reason.

        The dress-code issue is more complicated. There are certain minimum standards imposed upon everyone and certain reasonable limits (not covering one’s face in public as a matter of course) which I would consider unassailable in Western societies.

        Beyond that, it ventures into the area of compulsory assimilation – where I assume our opinions differ.

        It should also be noted that religious attire for women is usually an element actively contributing to their social subjugation and isolation.

        • Warren Terra

          I don’t think anybody is being forced to eat pork if they object to it, for whatever reason.

          You’re free not to think whatever you don’t want to. But you’re wrong.

          The dress-code issue is more complicated. There are certain minimum standards imposed upon everyone and certain reasonable limits (not covering one’s face in public as a matter of course) which I would consider unassailable in Western societies.

          “Unassailable” is pretty flipping strong stuff. Some people actually want to cover their faces; in addition to some types of Islam it can also be a feature of mourning dress and has at times been part of nuns’ habits. ID checks at secured facilities aside, I don’t see why a veil should bother anyone more more than a face mask in flu season, or big sunglasses, or spiked hair.

          Beyond that, it ventures into the area of compulsory assimilation – where I assume our opinions differ.

          If you’re implying that I’m against “compulsory assimilation”, you’re right. As a Jew and an Atheist, I view “compulsory assimilation” as “cultural genocide”, which it often has been, whether practiced by the Inquisition or the Red Guard.

          It should also be noted that religious attire for women is usually an element actively contributing to their social subjugation and isolation.

          Yes: forcing people to subjugate themselves to society’s standards of appearance is wrong. This is true when it’s done by the victim’s conservative Muslim neighbors, and when it’s done by an Islamophobic state.

          • Merkwürdigliebe

            Forcing people to subjugate themselves to society’s standards of appearance is wrong.

            No, that’s simply called “society.” We are all forced to subjugate ourselves to general standards of behavior as a necessary precondition of non-violent coexistence in large groups. The matter is what those standards are and what impact they have.

            I view “compulsory assimilation” as “cultural genocide”

            That is a question of degree. Total pressure to assimilate is cultural genocide. No pressure to assimilate is cultural suicide.

            The pork thing, however, is just way, way overboard.

            • Lurks

              We are all forced to subjugate ourselves to general standards of behavior

              If “being told what to wear/not wear” is an acceptable level of subjugation to general standards of behavior for society in general (exceptions for organizational dress codes, etc.), then we’re going to be disagreeing a lot.

              Especially on the day after the (paraphrased) “judged not by superficial and easily stereotyped outward characteristics, but by the content of their character”-day holiday.

            • Origami Isopod

              No, that’s simply called “society.”

              Do you approve of women being forced to take off most of their clothes at gunpoint on a beach, because of “society”?

              • Merkwürdigliebe

                And you blame me of making up impossible dream scenarios?

                • wjts

                  Yes.

                • Merkwürdigliebe

                  Well, shame on me. That’s, again, quite ridiculous. It did happen right in the aftermath of the Nice attack which is some explanation for the overreaction, but I do not condone that in any way.

                • Little Chak

                  Ah, no, you don’t condone that…but you are ready and willing to spread the “What if Islam [is incompatible with pluralist democracies]?” just-asking-the-question fear-mongering that leads directly to Donald Trump, Muslim bans, and burkini bans.

                  Also, yes, it’s “some explanation”, but it’s an extraordinarily unflattering one.

                • Merkwürdigliebe

                  I’m “willing to spread it” because I believe it to be true. (Though I don’t exactly shout it from the rooftops, precisely because I don’t wish to encourage the people you speak of. I take it this forum is unlikely to spawn many neo-nazis.)

                  I acknowledge the second step many people take after that is “and therefore we should persecute Muslims” which is unfortunate, to put it very mildly.

                  But there is not going to be a workable solution if the ordinarily reasonable side a priori refuses to even consider the uncomfortable possibility that the two systems may not be compatible.

                • Little Chak

                  And yet again, you are using “a priori” as if you have already made your case, and made it well, and we are just reflexively rejecting it out of hand without giving it a thought.

                  You keep taking sincere and justified objections to your idea that Islam is incompatible with pluralistic democracy as evidence that we “ordinarily reasonable” types are being unreasonable. This is poor form on your part.

                • Merkwürdigliebe

                  Alright – you might be unfairly on the receiving end of my frustrated reactions to attitudes which could be summed up as “Believing there might be something dangerous about Islam means you are a racist because no decent person would even think along those lines” (see somewhere in the thread below).

                  Allow me to state my case clearly:
                  Islam is, apart from its personal spiritual dimensions, also a political ideology providing clear instructions on how a society should be run. This is, to a large degree, function of who Mohamed was. Unlike Buddha, who abandoned the role of a ruler to pursue spiritual matters, and unlike Jesus, who was a proletarian dissident tortured to death by state power, Mohamed ultimately became the head of his religious state. Islam hence has a lot more to say on the matter and doesn’t preach political equanimity or rendering Caesar’s unto Caesar.

                  Additionally, Islam has never undergone any sort of a successful reformation. The doctrine and its interpretation has never been challenged, substantively altered or theologically cast into doubt the way the protestant splintering of the Christian church permanently relativized the idea of a single dogma. (The Sunni/Shia split is at its core about matters of secular succession, not doctrinaire disagreement.) I would further argue that it practically cannot undergo any reformation, by design, as one of the central tenets of the religion states that the Quran is the literal, unalterable word of God; an uncreated dictate of instructions, passed on to Mohamed by God himself through an archangel, that has always existed and will always exist precisely in that form and cannot be superseded by any human ideas. This stands in contrast to e.g. the Bible which is a gradual compilation of human records from various eras which have been generally considered merely divinely inspired and in which Jesus explicitly waives certain previous rules, implicitly understood as an invalidation of most of the original covenant.

                  These circumstances form the doctrinaire side of the problem, as I see it. Islam has a number of rules on how a society should be run, those rules are mostly incompatible with how we in the West currently run things and the rules cannot be altered within the framework. Sure, most Muslims manage to ignore the inconvenient rules in practice, as people always do, but the fundamentalists have the scripture on their side and can easily and convincingly point out that the pragmatists are erring and defying God’s word.

                  The second aspect of the problem is the practical application of the doctrine. Islam has, from its inception, been spread by war. It has waged a nearly continuous war with its neighbors for some 1300 years (heartily reciprocated by Christians on many occasions) as it naturally believes itself to be the chosen faith and its scripture quite explicitly condones conquest and subjugation of non-believers. The recent period of peace (1880-2001?) is a relatively short blip on the historical timescale, occasioned by the relative technological decline of the Ottoman Caliphate and the (unfortunately temporary, as it seems) flip of it’s heart to a secular nationalist state. But nothing about the core attitude or teachings has changed.

                  Most Muslims don’t give a shit about any of this and go on with their ordinary lives, happy to not be at war with anyone. But a highly motivated minority does take its religion seriously, views the literal holy war as their duty to God (for which they fully expect to be rewarded in the afterlife) and, when push comes to shove, since they have the Quran on their side (and no central religious authority to oppose them), they are able to mobilize a substantive portion of their ordinarily indifferent co-believers. This can be currently seen in Turkey where Erdogan’s push for abandonment of the secular state probably does have a majority support of the population, despite all of Mustapha Kemal’s efforts to institutionally prevent this backslide.

                  In Europe this dynamic is further exacerbated by general racist attitudes of the natives and recent Western meddling in the Middle east, further isolating and alienating (the fairly large) Muslim communities (which do not have a high propensity for seamless integration to begin with).

                  Top that off with the general rise in crime associated with any mass migration, the opposing attitudes towards e.g. freedom of speech and role of women in society, the levels of proclaimed support for Daesh and the wave of terrorist attacks and you get a European population viewing Muslims as a dangerous Trojan horse or a disloyal fifth column – not entirely unreasonably, however might it ultimately be a self-fulfilling result of preemptive hostility.

                  So that is how I feel about the current state of affairs. I’m not really assigning blame to anyone; I see it mainly as another stage of an ongoing clash of massive, higher-order forces – the rub is we now have industrial warfare and nuclear weapons, so the stakes might be a touch higher this time.

          • I expect minors receiving a free education to follow a set of standards common to society in general. This means they need to follow a dress code, bathe and brush their teeth, avoid foul language, respect those around them, follow school rules, let people see their faces, and maintain passing grades. If they don’t abide by minimum standards they should be punished, and if they continue such behavior they can be sent to a reform school. Once they are no longer obliged to attend school they are free to drop out and do whatever they wish with their lives, as long as they don’t break the law.

            Just to make sure you understand where I come from, when I was a sophomore in a USA high school I decided not to recite the pledge of allegiance. They took me to see the principal and I explained that I wasn’t a USA citizen and I was atheist, so reciting the pledge would be dishonest. I also pointed out I would accept becoming a citizen if they would kindly let me become one (I wasn’t too keen on Cuban citizenship after escaping from the Castro dictatorship), and that I would however not say the under God words because that would still be problematic.

            The principal was Jewish, and Jews are very good at legal logic, so he agreed all I had to do was remain standing up during the pledge, and he would recommend me for USA citizenship as soon as I was eligible. That seemed like a fair deal.

            • pillsy

              Students have a legal (indeed, Constitutional) right to refrain from reciting the pledge. That being said, its not a law that is universally respected by school administrators, so good on your principal for doing the right thing there.

            • jdkbrown

              I expect minors receiving a free education to follow a set of standards common to society in general. This means they need to follow a dress code…, let people see their faces….

              But these two standards are not common to society in general–unless, of course, you think that certain segments of the muslim population aren’t part of society. And that, of course, is the rub.

              • CP

                I would add that it’s kind of disingenuous to change society’s standards out of the blue in a way that blatantly targets Muslim cultural headwear, and then claim that the problem is that they’re just so damn unreasonable with their failure to assimilate. It’s goalpost-shifting whose purpose was very clearly not to enforce some kind of social standard that had never previously existed, but as a simple way of saying “fuck you” to a new and unpopular immigrant community.

                • Origami Isopod

                  Absolutely.

                • Merkwürdigliebe

                  This is the core of the problem and where the whole thing gets really uncomfortable.

                  What if Muslims are not just the latest unpopular minority a la the Irish or Italians? What if Islam* is fundamentally a hostile incompatible ideology which actively resists assimilation into a secular culture and which will ultimately tend to revert states where it gains majoritarian power into a theocracies?

                  I’m not saying this is necessarily the case (I hope it’s not) but there are quite strong and vocal currents within Islam operating exactly along these lines.

                  *I.e. an approach to understanding the world based on the belief the Mohamed was the true and ultimate prophet of God and that Quran is the literal unalterable set of binding divine instructions.

                • aturner339

                  Centuries of experience tell us that this is not the case. Our societies have decided over and over and over that the Jews, Irish, Italians, Slavs, Poles, Blacks, Chinese, Japanese, Lithuanians, etc etc etc are “unassimilable”.

                  They never are because its really not a problem that arises from the Diasporas. It’s xenophobia. It’s human but at some point we have to learn this lesson and try not to panic.

                • CP

                  Really? “What if Islam,” specifically? There’s something specific about that religion that the myriad other religions that’ve spawned antidemocratic, antisecularist, antiegalitarian assholes over the centuries didn’t have and justifies special treatement for it now?

                • Origami Isopod

                  What if Islam* is fundamentally a hostile incompatible ideology which actively resists assimilation into a secular culture and which will ultimately tend to revert states where it gains majoritarian power into a theocracies?

                  It’s not. At least, no more so than any other religion, as far as I can tell from history and current events.

                  Also, it’s impossible to talk about radical Islam coherently without noting how much Western colonialism has contributed to it. Note that I am not saying that Osama bin Laden, Ayatollah Khomeini, et al. had no choice but to act as they did, because white Western people. I’m talking about long-term patterns of international relations that pre-date the U.S. as a nation and that tend to lead to violent and reactionary responses.

                • Merkwürdigliebe

                  I was writing a lengthy answer on the difference between nationality and ideology, but the point is simply this – what if it is true? Just entertain it as a mental experiment. What then?

                • aturner339

                  Then wait about twenty years. I guarantee you we’ll find something else to panic about.

                • CP

                  Also and once again: it is fucking ridiculous to bitch about Islam’s “compatibility” when you keep changing the compatibility settings with no apparent standards of your own other than “Islam must not be compatible.” The headscarf laws being one of the more blatant cases in point.

                • CP

                  but the point is simply this – what if it is true?

                  Oh for fuck‘s sake, are we really going to do this with every goddamn new group of immigrants? All the while ignoring that the common denominator rejecting tolerance, equal treatment, and liberal values all this time has never been the immigrants, but the people asking those questions? I understand that right wingers do it and probably always will, but I see no reason to humor the bullshit.

                • GeoX

                  but the point is simply this – what if it is true? Just entertain it as a mental experiment. What then?

                  Ooh–I know how this game works! After we do yours, can we imagine there’s a terrorist who’s planted a time bomb and the only way to figure out where it is is to torture the shit out of him? What fun we’re having!

                • Origami Isopod

                  what if it is true? Just entertain it as a mental experiment. What then?

                  … really?

                  What if I have a unicorn in my basement? What then?

                • Merkwürdigliebe

                  I am not denying that Western colonialism and meddling have played a major part in mutual antipathy. But I also don’t have much to say to people who are surprised that Islam gets called out specifically.

                  I will just limit myself to this:
                  Secular democracies have only successfully flourished in culturally Christian countries (and India and South Korea, give or take; Not a big fan of Christianity personally, just to be clear). No state with a Muslim majority has been able to maintain a long-term secular democratic regime. Not even Turkey, specifically constitutionally designed around secular nationalism.

                  This may even have some obscure, socially-technical core reason (some otherwise inconspicuous tenets block the effective formation of institutions crucial to functioning democracy of the Western model) but I am quite certain that under present conditions and with the prevailing attitudes (not helped by standard background racism) France will not be able to maintain its political regime and institutions if the continuously rising share of Muslim population begins approaching 40 %. Is it surprising that the country is taking steps it considers (wisely or not) necessary to defuse the situation?

                  (Particularly considering the high likelihood that nazis will take over the state apparatus to commit another genocide long before that?)

                • aturner339

                  The current Muslim population of France is about 7.5% and no secular Jewish state has existed either. You are making all the old arguments new again.

                • Hogan

                  No state with a Muslim majority has been able to maintain a long-term secular democratic regime.

                  How long have independent states with Muslim majorities existed? England and France have had hundreds of years for their runs at secular democracy, and spilled a lot of blood along the way; how long should Turkey or Pakistan get before you declare them failures?

                • Merkwürdigliebe

                  I’d consider Turkey as within reason fulfilling the criteria before Erdoğan dismantled the deep state (which was, technically undemocratically, safeguarding secularism).

                  Tunisia offers some hope, but it’s too early to make any judgments. The Arab spring was otherwise a complete failure, just like any attempts to impose democracy from the outside. Iran may have been a different story had the Americans and Brits not deposed Mossadegh – but during the anti-shah revolution, it was the Islamists who came on top.

                  I do not see any hope for secular democracy in Pakistan within any realistic time frame.

                  The fact that the West basically killed all secularists and modernizers in those countries as commie leftist during the Cold war certainly didn’t help things. But we stand where we stand and it’s not looking rosy right now.

                • GeoX

                  But in all seriousness, Merkwürdigliebe, as someone living and working in a more-or-less democratic Muslim country, surrounded by Muslims, who has had and continues to have Muslim coworkers and friends and lovers, can I just politely request that you go fuck yourself? Muslims can be enlightened progressives and asshole theocrats and everything in between, and your know-nothing bullshit isn’t helping anything.

                • CP

                  Everything you said about the failure of democracy in the Muslim world was, for most of U.S. history, equally applicable to the Catholic world. A fact that the bigots of the time repeatedly drummed home in order to excuse their persecution of the Irish, Italian, Polish et al immigrants who came here.

                  Were the bigots who threw rocks at my ancestors, burned crosses on their lawns, and formed entire political parties based on the sole platform of “fuck the Catholics” just very reasonable people deeply concerned for the survival of their democratic institutions? Or were they just, you know, bigots? (Rhetorical). Were they, in fact, dangerous aliens incompatible with democracy who should’ve been treated differently? Or was it, you know, the bigots who were dangerous to democracy and liberal values? (Rhetorical).

                  (not helped by standard background racism) […] (Particularly considering the high likelihood that nazis will take over the state apparatus to commit another genocide long before that?)

                  So the problem with Islam is that as the Islamic population grows, French cultural racist backlash will make democratic governance impossible? And the likely outcome we’re looking at here is a fascist regime, not a jihadist one? You posit that as a likely outcome and yet your conclusion is that it’s Muslim immigrant culture and not French “native” one that’s the problem?

                  You are a seriously fucked up asshole, Merk. Please permit me to associate myself with GeoX’s advice.

                • pillsy

                  You know this “democracy has never flourished” argument was equally applicable when it was directed at Catholic or Eastern European immigrants about a century ago, right? Hell, that argument was being raised during my parents’ lifetime as a reason to reject JFK.

                  The fact that you’re even saying “culturally Christian” instead of “culturally Protestant” is, in and of itself, a pretty strong indication that your argument is bunk.

                • Merkwürdigliebe

                  Your know-everything bullshit isn’t helping anything either. I do not deny Muslims can form successful, humane societies. There are some historical examples of that (though they wouldn’t exactly stand up to 21st century standards).

                  That is however not what will happen in Europe if the current trends continue. For starters – I do not wish to live in an Islamic society. I would much rather preserve the system in place now. Which immediately brings me into conflict with the small fraction (!) of Muslims who consider armed Jihad their religious duty.

                  These radicals will keep on carrying out terrorist attacks against civilians, driving a wedge between the Muslim communities and the majority populations and benefiting from the resulting with us/against us dynamic of absolutes (helped in this endeavor by the non-insignificant percentage of hitherto passive sympathizers on the one hand and violently reprising racists on the other). When this reaches a boiling point, the scared majority will elect neo-nazis to power and they will carry out a second holocaust.

                  In light of these prospects, I am quite open to any attempts to prevent this outcome while there is still some room for maneuvering, radical and callous though they may be.

                • CP

                  For starters – I do not wish to live in an Islamic society.

                  That’s wonderful. And you’re not being asked to, so also irrelevant.

                  These radicals will keep on carrying out terrorist attacks against civilians, driving a wedge between the Muslim communities and the majority populations

                  No. Terrorist attacks are not driving a wedge between Muslim communities and majority populations. OAS terrorist attacks in the late fifties and early sixties did not “drive a wedge” between French conservatives and the rest of French society, Action Directe terrorist attacks in the seventies and eighties did not “drive a wedge” between French leftists and the rest of French society, FLNC terrorist attacks have not “driven a wedge” between Corsicans and the rest of French society, because in every case above, mainstream society understood that the terrorists made up only a “small fraction” of those demographics, and acted accordingly. Namely, by pursuing the terrorists and leaving it at that.

                  If the same exact scenario when carried out by Muslims isn’t reacted to the same way, it’s not because there’s anything exceptional about Muslims, and it certainly isn’t because some of them are carrying out terrorist attacks or trying to create a caliphate. It’s because French society remains racist as hell and refuses to extend the same courtesy to Muslim immigrants that it previously has to right-of-center, left-of-center, and Corsican citizens when some of their number misbehaved.

                  When this reaches a boiling point, the scared majority will elect neo-nazis to power and they will carry out a second holocaust.

                  A hypothetical second holocaust for which, let us note once more, you are now blaming its hypothetical victims.

                • GeoX

                  Your know-everything bullshit isn’t helping anything either.

                  “Know-everything?” Actually, I only know one thing in the context of this thread, which is this: you sound like someone who rarely if ever has any meaningful interactions with Muslims. Because if you did, you’d be embarrassed to write this “golly, there’s just something about those sinister Sons of Mahomet that means they can never have democratic societies” nonsense. I mean JEEZ.

                • Merkwürdigliebe

                  The thing is, CP, you view this as a moral issue – who is in the right to demand and do what. And you are most likely correct in your approach when applied to individual humans.

                  But I view this more as a conflict of competing ideas, on the level of societies. I see Islam as geopolitically aggressive and expansive (Just as the European colonial powers had been – Not really assigning blame here, especially not to any individuals who just live their lives within the systems.) and currently in conflict (inter alia) with the Euro-American concept of a secular state (which had interfered multiple times with the Islamic realm historically, just as the Caliphate had been trying to conquer Europe through the Balkans for several centuries).

                  The Muslim communities in Europe have not assimilated themselves, for a number of reasons (nativist racism, ideological commitment, prohibitions against intermarrying) and now contain a significant minority hostile to the idea of a secular society as we see it.

                  If this sentiment and/or proportion of people holding it continues to grow, it will result in a brownshirt backlash on the part of the “native” Europeans that might very well end with a Fourth Reich (I mean… US has already got Trump).

                  Is it fair to blame individual Muslims – particularly those wanting no part in this Jihad nonsense – for the hostile reaction of the European population? No. Does that in any way prevent the undesirable outcome? No.

                  So I am looking for a solution that will decrease the tensions or at least stabilize the situation. This starts by acknowledging the existence of the problem and thus not ceding it to right-wing demagogues.

                • Little Chak

                  So your “pragmatic” approach to the problem is to declare that Islam itself is the problem, being that it is unchangeably expansionist and dominionist, thus not “ceding” that “problem” to the “right-wing demagogues”?

                  Um, er, what?

                  “I’m not a right-wing demagogue! I swear, I swear!”

                • Merkwürdigliebe

                  No. Terrorist attacks are not driving a wedge between Muslim communities and majority populations.

                  Trump got elected at least in part on the back of that and Le Pen now stands with about a 25 % support in the first round, so simply as a matter of empirical fact, they are.

                  We are also probably not going to agree on Islam being (in part) an ideology with ambitions of world domination and very low tolerance for disagreement (unlike, say, Corsica). Racism is surely a part of the mix. But it’s far from the whole story.

                • CP

                  Yes, I’m aware of the smug, condescending, self-congratulatory tendency of racist assholes to pat themselves on the back with “to me this is just practicality and common sense.” Thank you for checking off another mark.

                  I see Islam as geopolitically aggressive and expansive

                  And yet when asked to back up that claim, even you can’t come up with more than “a significant minority hostile to the idea of a secular society as we see it.” In other words, you’re worried about a minority within a minority. Most Muslims are fine with living in secular states, and that’s by your own admission. Given the numbers, the chances of a caliphate being constructed in France are utterly laughable.

                  So I am looking for a solution that will decrease the tensions or at least stabilize the situation. This starts by acknowledging the existence of the problem

                  Quite right. And “the problem” is the rising racism in French society. The idea that you can defuse it by speaking their language WRT Muslim immigrants is utterly wrong: as the headscarf law demonstrates, the goalposts will continue to move. There is nothing Muslims can do that will satisfy the racists, any more than there was for Jews several generations ago. You want to prevent a Fourth Reich, you can start by directing your concern at those who are trying to bring one about, and not the people that they intend to persecute.

                • CP

                  Trump got elected at least in part on the back of that and Le Pen now stands with about a 25 % support in the first round, so simply as a matter of empirical fact, they are.

                  No. The fact that a wedge is being driven between Muslim immigrant and “French” “native” cultures is an empirical fact. That terrorist attacks and not native racism are the cause of it is your conjecture, amply contradicted by all other historically recent experiences of terrorism in France.

                • Merkwürdigliebe

                  So your “pragmatic” approach to the problem is to declare that Islam itself is the problem, being that it is unchangeably expansionist and dominionist, thus not “ceding” that “problem” to the “right-wing demagogues”?

                  Well, your apparent approach would be to deny it even if it were true, so I could probably pepper you with a few choice epithets too.

                  As I see it, the problem is the irreconcilable incompatibility of the two systems, as they are now. Maybe, if the situation cools down, cultural shifts will eventually work their magic and the tensions will dissipate. But that is quite unlikely with Saudi Arabia actively financing and exporting wahhabists around the world, Iran fighting proxy wars for regional hegemony, Israel expanding settlements on illegally stolen land and everyone waving their tall stacks of bloody shirts.

                • Little Chak

                  No, I deny that Islam is unchangeably expansionist and dominionist, because it is demonstrably not true. You don’t get to put the cart before the horse and say that I would reject it even if it were true: first, you know nothing about me; and second, you certainly haven’t proven that statement here — not to me, nor to anyone else.

                  People have pointed out to you how this “aggressive”, “expansionist”, “dominionist” language was used to justify fear of and persecution of Catholics. You ignored this point. “Just look at how many more terrorist attacks Islam has been behind!”

                  One poster, GeoX, said that they live and work in a more-or-less democratic Muslim country. You ignored this, rather than ask for more information.

                  You ignore the role that colonialism played in installing or preserving dictatorships in critical Muslim-majority nations, assuming that it is Islam itself that is incompatible with democracy. You ignore the power that “See? They hate you” gives to authoritarians.

                  You casually lob the accusation that Islam is not capable of assimilating, ignoring the difference in how Muslim immigrants are treated in countries in which Muslims have assimilated successfully from the ones in which they haven’t.

                  It is eminently possible to talk to people with respect. It is eminently possible not to write off an entire religion as irredeemable and decide that the only solutions are walls, wars, and bigotry.

                  But you would rather say that the far-right is correct about Islam, because somehow this will disarm them and lead to peace, rather than arm extremists on both sides with precisely the language and cooperation that they need.

                • Merkwürdigliebe

                  I see Islam as geopolitically aggressive and expansive

                  If you consider this statement controversial, there is nothing to talk about.

                • Abbey Bartlet

                  I see Islam as geopolitically aggressive and expansive

                  If you consider this statement controversial, there is nothing to talk about.

                  If you consider this statement acceptable outside of Breitbart comment sections, I’m inclined to agree.

                • CP

                  “Controversial.” Sure. Let’s go with that word.

                • Merkwürdigliebe

                  Just to give you glimpse into my thinking – and I really don’t intend this to be demeaning or insulting; just so that we may better understand where each other is coming from – I view your position on this as inexplicably blind. Like telling me that it’s preposterous to suggest that Nixon had ever been involved with any shady dealings.

                  It’s genuinely surprising to me that we have such a different view of reality.

                • CP

                  I caught all the glimpses into your thinking I needed from the rest of this thread, thank you! In case it wasn’t clear enough, I view yours as entirely bigoted, and sadly not remotely surprising. The phenomenon is as old and universal as mankind. It’s one of the ways we know it’s wrong.

                • JMP

                  “What if Muslims are not just the latest unpopular minority a la the Irish or Italians? What if Islam* is fundamentally a hostile incompatible ideology which actively resists assimilation into a secular culture and which will ultimately tend to revert states where it gains majoritarian power into a theocracies? ”

                  The answer is no. The answer is quite obviously no. If you can read that question and not immediately realize that it completely idiotic to think that could possibly be the case, then you just might be a giant bigot! Actually wait, there’s no “might” about it.

                • JMP

                  “We are also probably not going to agree on Islam being (in part) an ideology with ambitions of world domination”

                  Well, duh, because no one can agree that Islam is “an ideology with ambitions of world domination” unless they’re a total racist shit and no decent people should ever agree with that.

              • Religious minorities would have to adapt to the general norm or else educate their children elsewhere.

                Let’s take this to an extreme…a minority of 1 family which believes in Oolagook, a God which demands prayer every 30 minutes. I think it’s safe to say this oolagookians would breach school discipline if they insist they must pray every thirty minutes.

                So let’s ratchet it a bit, say it’s 1000 oolagookians out of 80 million. I think it’s safe theirs isn’t the “general norm”.

                I would say that a society has to be extremely tolerant with adults who don’t impose a penalty on others because they want to behave “outside the norm”. But minors receiving an education should not. Note that I’m not going by a single country’s laws or customs (I’ve lived in several). I guess you could say I’m mixing libertarian with pragmatic principles (because I have four children and have been a football coach for both boys’ and girls’ teams.

                • aturner339

                  I think the fact that we must “take this to the extreme” to justify imposing arbitrary restrictions on religious practice probably means that doing so is not a wise idea.

            • Origami Isopod

              and Jews are very good at legal logic

              As an American of Jewish descent, I’m going to tell you that this is a creepy thing to say. You may think it’s flattering, but you’re stereotyping, and the statement has overtones for me of Jews being tricky and deceitful.

              Also, FWIW, I’ve got quite a few people in my family who couldn’t logic their way out of a wet paper bag.

              • vic rattlehead

                Yeah…this jumped out at me too. Wtf man?

                I mean, I’m a lawyer and I have recent Jewish ancestry (grandfather) but even so…wtf

                I’ll charitably read it as a comment on how Talmudic hermeneutics sometimes results in entertaining menta gymnastics

              • As an American of Jewish descent, I’m going to tell you that this is a creepy thing to say.

                As you may not have noticed, our new compañro fernando has many appearances of being an up-and-coming troll; or perhaps a Fernando Po.

                • wjts

                  They call it Bioko these days.

                • ΧΤΠΔ

                  It’s worth keeping Pó’s Law in mind.

              • Just_Dropping_By

                I was rather surprised at how long it took for someone to comment on that particular remark….

              • I am stereotyping. I used to live in a Jewish town. I know this will sound strange, but when I arrived in the USA I thought most Americans were Jewish, plus a sprinkle of other religions.

                Anyway, all of my friends were Jewish, some were Orthodox. And of course we sat around and talked about the way people were. Our conclusion was that Jews were really good at legal logic because so much of the religion revolves around Mosaic law and its interpretation. I became fairly familiar with the Talmud, and enjoyed pointing out to my friends the flaws in their reasoning (it’s easy for me because I’m atheist). Let’s face it, I was accepted, and I had absolutely no hair in my tongue when it came to discussing things…. simply because my friends did it, and that was the norm, we even debated whether Goofy was really a dog.

                I stated a fact, as far as I know it. And nobody in their right mind would object when told her/his tribe produced brilliant legal minds. There’s nothing wrong with it.

                • Origami Isopod

                  And nobody in their right mind would object when told her/his tribe produced brilliant legal minds. There’s nothing wrong with it.

                  You’re not Jewish. You don’t get to tell me what I should or shouldn’t be offended at w/r/t comments about Jews.

                • The Dark God of Time

                  One of my friends came up with what I call the “cheat code theory” of Jewish culture.

                  The idea is that Jews and their culture have had to adapt to different cultures and regimes, so over time they’ve been able to prosper because of their ability to understand and exploit cultural loopholes that aren’t apparent to those raised and living in said culture.

                • ΧΤΠΔ

                  @The Dark God of Time: Sully said something similar regarding gays in the essay “What Are Homosexuals For?”

                  Also: What OI said — “brilliant legal minds” is no less malign than “Africans sports good.”

                • OK, I won’t mention the word Jew or Jewish, in this blog, ever again if it makes you feel bad.

                  I do want to remind you I’m not the one who accused anybody of being a troll or such other intolerant remarks as I read above. I thought this blog was fairly interesting when I read it for the first time, but I’m not keen on being insulted, belittled, or otherwise being criticized for stating the obvious. Maybe USA culture is really becoming intolerant to such an extent you as a group can’t discuss much without having a cow.

                • Origami Isopod

                  Maybe USA culture is really becoming intolerant to such an extent you as a group can’t discuss much without having a cow.

                  Or maybe you’re just a militantly ignorant asshole. Stranger things have happened.

        • Snuff curry

          It should also be noted that religious attire for women is usually an element actively contributing to their social subjugation and isolation.

          Wouldn’t it be easier just to name the small handful of cultural goodies that don’t actively contribute to women’s oppression? Because allowing for and expanding, rather than limiting, clothing choices doesn’t rank in the scheme of things, selectively-applied paternalistic tropes notwithstanding.

          “Isolation,” self-imposed, is an exciting new concern on behalf of only women. What about the monks, is my query.

          There are certain minimum standards imposed upon everyone and certain reasonable limits (not covering one’s face in public as a matter of course) which I would consider unassailable in Western societies.

          A “matter of course” is doing a lot of work there, since “Westerners” cover their faces all the time and for many reasons, without incident and without the disingenuous handwringing. Why does it matter if it’s done occasionally or all the time? Is it only “unassailable” when it can be linked to religious custom or is perpetrated by someone accused of being “ostentatiously” religious?

          • Cheerfull

            I am no fan of forbidding women, or anyone, from wearing what they want in public, but your easy comparison of women forced or pressure to veil, and monks choosing to cloak themselves doesn’t really work. I am not aware of countries where monks are half the population, or all men are treated as monks and required to shield their faces from public view.

            • pillsy

              Of course, the French ban applied to not just face coverings, but also scarves that covered the head but left the face exposed. If that’s the level of covering we’re talking about, then Sikh and more religious Jewish boys and men also cover their heads.

              Those coverings were also banned by the French law.

              Evidently Jewish boys were prohibited from wearing yarmulkes in order to free Muslim girls from sexism. Go figure.

              • Cheerfull

                If you’re referring to appearing in public, then you are incorrect that scarves are also banned.
                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_ban_on_face_covering

                If you’re referring to the ban on religious wear in schools, then you have a point.

                • pillsy

                  I was referring to the latter. I’m less skeptical about the face-covering ban, and probably wouldn’t be skeptical at all if it hadn’t come so soon after the school ban.

            • JMP

              Uh, what the fuck? The problem is that France is banning women form choosing to wear a veil. They’re restricting women’s in what to wear in order to oppress women who belong to a minority of women. To ignore that realty and claim that women are being forced to wear the veil instead is just mind-boggling.

              • antoni_jaume

                In France all religions are repressed. And headgear is not forbidden unless religiously motivated. What I or anyone believe is not a legal free-pass. And your belief that Muslim women are not pressured is mind-boggling, indeed.

                • Origami Isopod

                  In France all religions are repressed.

                  Yeah, crucifix necklaces totally don’t get a blind eye turned to them. Bullshit.

                • antoni_jaume

                  And you can use Star of David necklaces, and if there is a Moon Crescent, its use is not relevant.

                  There have been Muslims in France for quite some time, it was never a problem, beyond the prejudices of people. Which is a big problem. Things like scarves were not a source of conflict until the 1980s. If there one now, I think it is the anticommunism of the USA that is to blame.

                • Abbey Bartlet

                  Things like scarves were not a source of conflict until the 1980s. If there one now, I think it is the anticommunism of the USA that is to blame.

                  This is the most French sentence that was ever Frenched.

          • Merkwürdigliebe

            I am talking about the isolation of kids immediately separated from the crowd and “othered” by the headgear their parents put on them.

            • JL

              That is the fault of the people doing the othering. Atheist kids in strongly Christian communities in the US are othered by their parents’ refusal to take them to church (growing up an atheist Jew in strongly Christian communities, I have some experience with that one). Kids with two moms or two dads are othered by that. Kids who are the lone member of their race in a crowd are othered by that. In pluralistic societies, we should be fighting the dynamics and attitudes by which people other people based on this kind of demographic stuff.

              • Merkwürdigliebe

                I concede your point there.

          • Merkwürdigliebe

            And on the point of face-covering:

            You seriously don’t get what’s the difference between donning a Halloween mask and not being permitted to ever show one’s face in public?

            • jdkbrown

              What about choosing not to show one’s face? I know at least one muslim woman in a western country who wears the veil over her husband’s objections.

              • Merkwürdigliebe

                I’m sure there are such cases. But in the aggregate, it is – particularly in the context of Islam as currently preached and practiced – still an expression of attitude towards gender roles which is incompatible with the norms of secular democracies.

                • Nang Mai

                  The status of women is far from secure in secular democracies. See: Women’s March on Washington January 21.

                  A person can’t help but notice that these policies in France target/affect children and women disproportionately. As with so many feminist issues the question of agency arises. Should women not be ‘allowed’ to adorn themselves as they wish? Another question that comes to mind is: why is France threatened by a culture that chooses modesty?

                  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/10/hair-western-woman-veil-femininity

                • CP

                  The status of women is far from secure in secular democracies.

                  It’s almost as though many people in the majority group find it more comfortable to project the problems of gender inequality onto a relatively powerless immigrant minority that already suffers from widespread prejudice, than to examine the problems in their society as a whole.

                  Hey, weren’t we talking about exactly this phenomenon at the beginning of the thread…?

      • Robespierre

        I somewhat agree, but really, this highlights the enormous passes religion gets (and decentralised, cultural oppression gets). There are no muslim kids, or hindu kids, or christian kids.

        There are religious parents though.

        What when, say, muslim speakersdemand sex segregated audiences, or “muslim” kids refuse to shake female teachers’ hands?

        • Warren Terra

          Weak strawmen. They don’t get to demand sex-segregated audiences of venues that aren’t for some reason normally sex-segregated, and I don’t believe in touching kids who don’t wish to be touched unless it’s absolutely necessary, whatever their reasons.

          • Robespierre

            Bullshit

            • Robespierre

              You’re the living answer to the question: “where exactly is this happening?”: in your head, that’s where. You wouldn’t tolerate a minute of this shit if it were about race or if christians did it. And you’d be right.

        • Jameson Quinn

          What when, say, muslim speakers demand sex segregated audiences,

          That would be imposing their views on others. Not allowed.

          or “muslim” kids refuse to shake female teachers’ hands?

          The rules can require that they show respect without discriminating by gender. If they want to avoid touching female teachers, they can find a respectful non-touching gesture to use for all teachers.

          Got any more?

          • Origami Isopod

            If they want to avoid touching female teachers, they can find a respectful non-touching gesture to use for all teachers.

            Yes, and this would go not only for male Muslim students but for students with neurological/developmental diagnoses that make touching other people uncomfortable for them. Good-faith workarounds, we could call them.

        • Origami Isopod

          There are no muslim kids, or hindu kids, or christian kids.

          There are religious parents though.

          This is really not true, and I say this as an atheist. Kids aren’t cognitively mature, no, but that doesn’t mean they’re incapable of believing things strongly, including religious things, of their own accord.

          • Merkwürdigliebe

            You still wouldn’t call someone a “communist kid” or a “conservative kid,” though they might be capable of strongly believing these ideologies of their own accord.

            (Well, maybe an anarchist kid…)

            • Origami Isopod

              No, I would, although of course I’d be mindful that the belief would be much less fixed in a child than it would be in an adult.

            • JL

              Why…would you not call someone a communist kid, a conservative kid, a liberal kid, etc?

              You’re also ignoring the degree to which certain “religious” identities are about factors like cultural practice or the racialization of appearances. For instance, I have a friend who converted from Islam to Christianity as a young adult, but has stated that they still see “Muslim” as the best descriptor of their racial identity, albeit not one that shows up on any demographic surveys, because people who look like them and have names like theirs in the US are widely assumed to be Muslim and racialized on that basis. I am an atheist, and also a Jew, on the basis of ethnicity and cultural ties/practices, which is a way of being Jewish that has been accepted in Jewish communities for a long time. I know plenty of atheist or agnostic young adults who still think of themselves as Catholic in some sense because they grew up in Irish-American urban Catholic working class ethnoreligious communities.

              Perhaps, including with children, the best thing to do is to listen to how a person describes themselves when it comes to [ethno]religious identity, politics, and so on. For children (or adults), that may mean they change it up later, but so what? It may also reflect something they haven’t thought deeply about (yet), but again, so what? Though I wish it were otherwise, lots of people don’t think all that hard about their identities, at any point in their lives.

              • CP

                For instance, I have a friend who converted from Islam to Christianity as a young adult, but has stated that they still see “Muslim” as the best descriptor of their racial identity, albeit not one that shows up on any demographic surveys, because people who look like them and have names like theirs in the US are widely assumed to be Muslim and racialized on that basis.

                Let’s also not reject the popular conspiracy theories rooted around “taqiyya,” which hold that Muslims who convert are just pretending outwardly while secretly plotting to kill us all as soon as they’re able to, as their religion commands.

                Which basically destroys any claim that it’s their beliefs that people object to, since even an explicit rejection of these beliefs isn’t enough to win the bigots’ trust.

      • Would you bash Gay or Trans kids as easily as you’d bash Muslim or Hindu kids

        Considering AMK’s previous remarks about trans people…

      • bender

        I think there is some overlap between the idea of pluralism and the idea of reasonable accommodation.

        The University of California has been known to schedule fall registration on Yom Kippur, which was an unreasonable burden on observant Jews (and most Jews who are at all religiously observant, not just Orthodox Jews, are at prayer on Yom Kippur. I don’t think this is an issue now that most colleges and universities have online registration, but it used to be. And saying “We didn’t deliberately schedule registration on your holiest fast day, it just happened to fall then because of our calendar,” doesn’t change the fact that the result was oppressive to a religious minority.

        Something of this kind which is going on right now is the effort of Sikhs to get dress codes and uniform codes of public schools and employers relaxed so that they are allowed to wear turbans and tiny ceremonial knives to school and work. The US Army recently made this accommodation. Sikh children have been sent home from public schools under zero tolerance weapon bans for wearing a nonfunctional knife the size of a jewelry charm, something which is a religious obligation for them.

        Meanwhile the religious majority usually gets their norms supported by law, whether it’s Christmas as a Federal holiday, bans on nudity at public beaches, restrictions on abortion, or Sunday laws of various sorts.

    • Abbey Bartlet

      “Religious fundamentalism is a civil right when it’s 49% of the population and brown, but a threat when it’s 51% of the population and white” is RWNJ-level stupid.

      Where exactly is this happening?

      • Gareth

        Here.

        At Park View, Golden Hillock, Nansen and Oldknow academy, teachers were instructed not to use images in any subject which displayed even slight intimacy between sexes. The investigation found that “terms such as condom, the pill and so forth have been banned” and that governors had insisted on an Islamic approach to subjects, such as Personal, Social and Health Education, science, religious education, and sex and relationships education.

        More at the link, and those are public schools. As for the liberal response:

        Mr Kershaw stated that the council had been “slow to respond” to allegations in the letter and said there was “culture within of not wanting to address difficult issues and problems with school governance” for risk of incurring accusations of racism or Islamophobia.

        • sigaba

          After perusing the Wikipedia article (which I point out is very poorly organized, which is typical) it appears you’ve cherry picked the “liberal response.”

          For what I can tell, what’s alleged is a systematic campaign by Islamists to “take over” the administration of publicly-funded schools. This would be wrong for any sectarian group to do, I don’t think that’s controversial. Also there appears to have been a substantial government response.

          The actual allegations pertain to school (mis)-governance, not influence over curriculum, that would be a subsidiary problem. I agree this is bad but it’s not like there were all these poor British headmistesses meekly teaching Salafism because they didn’t want to offend anyone. It wasn’t about that at all, there was a concerted effort to take over the decisionmaking bodies of these institutions.

          • Gareth

            After perusing the Wikipedia article (which I point out is very poorly organized, which is typical) it appears you’ve cherry picked the “liberal response.”

            The local government of the city where the schools are is a pretty big cherry.

            • sigaba

              You didn’t quote the city government, you quoted one person’s surmise of the intentions of the city government. Nor did you establish that this constituted a “liberal” opinion.

              Stop worrying about exploding heads and start thinking critically.

        • Abbey Bartlet

          I don’t know what you think that link shows, but it certainly doesn’t show what AMK is alleging.

          • Gareth

            If Christians had done that, your head would have exploded. Sorry, I guess that’s a poor choice of words in this context.

            • Abbey Bartlet

              AMK said: “Religious fundamentalism is a civil right when it’s 49% of the population and brown, but a threat when it’s 51% of the population and white”

              You’ve yet to demonstrate that such a scenario exists anywhere.

    • Robespierre

      As much as I despise voodoo of any kind, I don’t agree with the french approach of expecting everyone to hide their religion in public.

      Why should they keep it at home? It is one thing to expect neutrality from public institutions and, on the job, public officials. It is another entirely to demand it of private citizens.

      I think it reflects a totalitarian expectation that individuals will be patriotic (in the broad sense) – to go with the actual Robespierre, that “all citizens in a republic are republicans”.

      Well, no, they won’t. Some people are not. Some citizens will believe nonsense. Some citizens have aims opposed to those of the constitution, some are outright evil. And guess what, they are no less citizens than the others.

    • Snuff curry

      “Religious fundamentalism is a civil right when it’s 49% of the population and brown, but a threat when it’s 51% of the population and white” is RWNJ-level stupid.

      France is not 49% “brown,” so what the fuck are you on about?

    • McAllen

      More broadly, the reflexive need on the part of some liberals to defend complaints from every minority group in every context just because they’re a minority group is endlessly frustrating and politically untenable.

      It’s almost like minority groups are treated unfairly!

      “Religious fundamentalism is a civil right when it’s 49% of the population and brown, but a threat when it’s 51% of the population and white”

      More like “Religious fundamentalism is a civil right when religious people are trying to follow their own beliefs, but a threat when they are trying to impose their beliefs on others.”

      • Abbey Bartlet

        More like “Religious fundamentalism is a civil right when religious people are trying to follow their own beliefs, but a threat when they are trying to impose their beliefs on others.”

        :thumbs up:

      • AMK

        More like “Religious fundamentalism is a civil right when religious people are trying to follow their own beliefs, but a threat when they are trying to impose their beliefs on others.”

        How about “rape is a civil right when rapists are raping among themselves, but a threat when they try to rape other people?” Makes sense if you don’t understand the definition of rape.

        The nature of religious fundamentalism means that it always ends up being about the imposition of belief on others and society at large–that’s why it’s a problem.

        • Origami Isopod

          How about “rape is a civil right when rapists are raping among themselves, but a threat when they try to rape other people?”

          TIL I learned that wearing a scarf in public is just like rape.

          Also, wearing a full-body wetsuit on the beach is just like rape. The nice police officers pointing a gun at you and demanding you remove it aren’t sexually assaulting you; they’re preventing you from raping others!

        • McAllen

          I would buy your argument (though still not agree with it, probably) if the French were targeting the husbands and fathers of veiled women. But in fact they seem to be targeting the women themselves.

    • pillsy

      Isn’t France the country where they “tell everybody to leave their bullshit at home” by banning head scarves and kipot, but allow Christians to wear small, tasteful crosses and crucifixes?

      Because it’s easier to take these sorts of things seriously if they apply them ruthlessly to both the religious majority (or plurality) and much smaller minorities. Carving out exceptions for small, tasteful exceptions when the majority has already tailored its expression to its own taste sort of gives the game away.

    • Origami Isopod

      Telling everyone to keep their voodoo at home is pretty straightforward concept–if some Muslims or Orthodox Jews have a problem with that, the problem’s on them.

      As clueless about the problems of anyone who isn’t you as you usually are, I see.

      Oh, and, Catholicism in France gets a lot more leeway in public spaces than the laïcité rhetoric lets on. A lot more.

      • Cheerfull

        I have always been amused by the fact that Ascension is a state holiday.

        • sigaba

          REALLY? Is May Day a national holiday too or is Feast of the Ascension doing double duty?

          • Cheerfull

            you’ll note that the Assumption of Mary is also a holiday
            https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/france/

            Admittedly I always get that and the Ascension mixed up, but I am sure there was an actual discernible difference at the time.

            I asked an extremely secular French person about this and she shrugged her shoulders and said the holidays come at convenient times in the calendar and everybody is used to them.

            ETA: and yes May 1 is a holiday and so is May 8 (VE day) so May is just one big holiday in France.

            • sigaba

              Maybe the holidays just became tokens in labor negotiations and they’ve become inviolable.

              I didn’t have MLK off as a paid holiday under my union contract, because the west coast local traded it for Good Friday — east coast, Independent and low budget tier producers hate Baby Jesus and love civil rights, apparently.

  • Lurks

    Separation of Church and State works fine only as long as the needs of State are not actively undercut by Church, and this is something that I have seen both conservatives and liberals deliberately blinker themselves about. For the former, because Christianity is the only religion that counts, and the latter “because inclusiveness”.

    For instance and without naming names, there are quite a few faiths where someone raised in and firmly believing its tenets would have profound difficulty as a soldier in following orders from an officer who was female, non-white, Muslim, and/or Jewish. Ditto for civilians and their relationship to the police. And whether or not they would grit their teeth and reluctantly conform is irrelevant. What matters is their Church would be counter-productive to and impeding the effectiveness of a necessary function of, or overall stability of the State. And this does not even touch the fundamental intolerance and bigotry some of these faiths pass on to the next generation.

    • Merkwürdigliebe

      Or the beliefs that secular governments are inherently illegitimate and should be overthrown and replaced by theocracy as soon as an opportunity presents itself.

    • Just_Dropping_By

      there are quite a few faiths where someone raised in and firmly believing its tenets would have profound difficulty as a soldier in following orders from an officer who was female, non-white, Muslim, and/or Jewish.

      I would be very amazed if you could enumerate more than a dozen faiths (and I’m using “faiths” extremely broadly here to include different minor Christian sects as being different faiths), let alone “quite a few,” whose teachings would cause their adherents to have “profound difficulty” in following orders from a non-white officer.

      • Lurks

        You clearly have not talked to any members of a Christian Identity group lately (and for that you should be grateful). And while things have changed recently, I would imagine Mormon doctrine on blacks in the past would have had much the same effect.

        Are you implying my entire statement is invalid, or merely taking umbrage that I might include overt racism by whites as something some of them incorporate into their divine “argument from authority”?

        After all, wasn’t slavery defended as a general Christian practice for quite a while?

        • Quaino

          You could probably just answer the question instead of moving goalposts. Your entire response tried to redefine the question by talking about the past when you very clearly initially talked about current sects. The fact that people were racist when slavery was government policy isn’t really impressive evidence of anything.

          I don’t care what the answer is, I’m just curious why you get very specific about knowing names and then take umbrage that someone might ask you what the names are.

        • Just_Dropping_By

          You clearly have not talked to any members of a Christian Identity group lately

          Hence why I said “more than a dozen,” not “any.” I don’t dispute that there are some religions with anti-non-white views. I dispute that it’s “quite a few,” particularly in the context of there being literally thousands of Christian sects alone.

    • Origami Isopod

      Well, yes, there are liberals/leftists who go overboard with inclusiveness, defending (e.g.) overtly sexist practices because “it’s their culture.” Although, of course, sometimes that’s not so much a defense of them as an acknowledgment that (a) the white West rushing in to “save” people isn’t going to help and in fact will make matters worse; and (b) Muslim women, for example, do have agency and may choose to veil themselves — which is no more inherently invalid a choice than when a woman chooses beauty and fashion articles that may be deleterious to her health, because both choices are influenced by enculturation and socialization.

      Anyway, I overall agree with you that, so long as the needs of a secular state are not undercut by religious practices, those practices are harmless. Only that “needs” is sometimes too broadly interpreted.

      • Lurks

        Only that “needs” is sometimes too broadly interpreted.

        Aye, and there’s the rub. “Needs” is a both a moving target as a legitimate item, say due to societal changes because of technology and simultaneously the excuse used by those who wish to discriminate in some way but who do not actually have an argument to justify it, e.g. “women don’t need abortions” or “blacks don’t need more than separate but equal”.

        I’m sure that our new government will have plenty of ideas on what we do and do not “need” as a society.

      • JL

        Last time this topic came up on LGM, someone posted a link to an excellent qualitative study on 30 Muslim women in, I think it was France, who veil – their histories, their reasoning, how their families felt about it, etc. Unfortunately I no longer have the link in my browser history – anyone have it?

  • Thom

    Very interesting post, filled with evidence of different perspectives and ironies. Thanks!

    On a completely different note, around 15-20 years ago, I first heard people refer to King as “MLK,” a designation that was never used in his lifetime (that I recall). I suppose it is understandable that people got tired of saying “the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.”, (people used to complain in Berkeley that the “Martin Luther King Jr.” street signs were so long that trucks hit them going around corners on that street, some of which is fairly narrow) and of course it is a parallel construction with JFK, RFK, and LBJ. But it still grates on my ears, which still hope to hear “Martin,” or “Dr. King.”

    • Lurks

      Complaints about the current generation shortening extended phrases down to their initials? LOL.

    • Origami Isopod

      Yes, this is totally a new thing, this uncouth shortening of names and other words.

      Yr obt svt,
      OI

      P.S. I wouldn’t refer to him as “Martin,” but then again, I’m white.

      • Thom

        The point is that while they were alive, whereas John and Robert Kennedy were normally referred to as JFK and RFK, and Johnson as LBJ, King either got the very long version of his name, or by supporters (including some whites) was referred to as Martin King. So to me it comes off as a historical mistake, suggesting that he was a political figure in the same way as the other three. Political he was, of course, but not in the same way–he was not running for office.

        • Origami Isopod

          I don’t see the inherent connection between acronymization and a certain brand of political action. Lots of things are called by their acronyms, including non-political things.

          • Thom

            Right, I was not suggesting an inherent connection (that would be odd), but a contemporary historical connection, presumably an echo of the use of FDR for Franklin Roosevelt.

        • Hogan

          Headline writers liked to use initials or nicknames for longer presidential names, hence FDR, Ike, JFK, LBJ. King wasn’t a president, but he also didn’t present that problem for headline writers at the time, so it happened later.

    • “MLK” as an abbreviation to me almost exclusively refers to the street of that name in my city (and I imagine in many others). I would be mildly surprised to hear someone said “As MLK said…” in person. In my experience it’s either “Martin Luther King Jr.” or “Dr. King”, with the latter more heavily favored by black people & social justice types. On the other hand, “FDR” and “LBJ” seem totally normal, probably because “Roosevelt” and “Johnson” are potentially ambiguous. “JFK” is a thing but “Kennedy” is more common, probably because younger people don’t need to distinguish him from his siblings.

    • Gareth

      Someone on National Review said that he always referred to Reverend King, not Dr King, because anyone can get a PhD.

      • sigaba

        There are also several NR writers who hold to the claim that King’s PhD is illegitimate based on allegations that his thesis was plagiarized.

        • Warren Terra

          My understanding is that his thesis was plagiarized, to a significant degree. Also, he slept around. Maybe he jaywalked, too. None of this diminishes his importance as a transformative figure in our history and a great moral leader.

          And as to the use of “Doctor”: infinitely less respectable people have been routinely accorded the honorific in recognition of completely farcical degrees (purported doctorates in divinity from unaccredited schools, for example) or of honorary doctorates. Giving the title “doctor” to King grants honor to the title “doctor”, not the other way around.

  • yet_another_lawyer

    Of course the example given relates to Islam, and it’s also unsurprising that it’s about the prohibition on images of Mohammad (central to the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015). There’s an attempt to come up with a secular rationale not to offend others—but the emphasis on not doing this “on purpose” walks this back—unintentional offenses apparently don’t count.

    I’m not sure why we can’t just tell children the real reason. “If you do this, then there is a non-trivial chance that you will be attacked or even murdered. It’s not worth the risk, so don’t.” This is similar to the education I got as a child about not wearing certain colors that signified gang affiliation– i.e., sure maybe in theory I should be able to wear red and black anywhere in town, but it’s not exactly a principle we should be willing to take a bullet over.

    Sure, in theory, human affairs shouldn’t be structured so the group most willing to murder gets a de facto veto over everybody else, but life isn’t fair. Kids are going to have to learn that pretty quickly too.

    • Origami Isopod

      Life isn’t fair. But we can make society more just. Focusing on what victims can do to avoid being attacked, rather than focusing on the behavior of would-be attackers, is unjust.

      Comparing religious garb to gang colors is outright offensive.

      • yet_another_lawyer

        Somebody drawing Mohammed might be right on principle, but they’re still dead.

        Also the comparison was between drawing Mohammed and wearing “gang” colors (say, red/black). Both are innocuous, but done in the wrong setting risk potentially fatal retaliation. We can focus on the behavior of would-be attackers all we like, but the attacked is still dead. I really wouldn’t encourage anybody to run those risks on principle, but of course if people want to it’s up to them.

    • Hogan

      If you do this, then there is a non-trivial chance that you will be attacked or even murdered.

      You could say that about wearing a headscarf in France. Or here, the way things are going.

      • Robespierre

        And yet I reckon you wouldn’t say people should just get over it and avoid headscarves for their own good.

        Because wearing what you want, and talking freely about religion, are both things people should be able to do without being afraid for their lives.

        • yet_another_lawyer

          That “should” be the case but, again, the person who “shouldn’t” have been attacked is still dead. It’s not fair, but people have to ask themselves just what they’re willing to risk their lives over. “We’re not drawing Mohammed because we don’t want to offend anybody” is a lie, because the same courtesy doesn’t get extended to similar groups that might be offended by other things. “We’re not drawing Mohammed because we don’t want to run the risk of attack/death” is accurate. If that’s the decision France has reached, then they should just say it.

          • Robespierre

            If we are being truthful about it yes, you are right. It sounds a lot like short skirts talk, though.

            Also – and this is a serious question: the risk of being murdered over discussion of religion depends on the number of people who take religion seriously. In Europe, today, that overwhelmingly means muslims.

            I would like people to be honest with themselves and realise there are limits to how liberal a country can be with a sizable illiberal population.

            This is not a thought experiment. People are being murdered over this.

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