Tuesday, January 20, 2004

In his column in today’s Irish Times (20/01/04) Fintan O’Toole writes concerning the protests by women of the Islamic faith, which took place throughout Europe last Sunday. The protests themselves centred upon the proposal by the French government to ban the wearing of headscarves by Islamic girls in schools.

O’Toole points out that in Lara Marlow’s report on the Paris demonstration many men forbid the media to speak to veiled or semi veiled women who walked behind them. In Dublin our own Green MEP Patricia McKenna stating that this ban is an attack on democracy. Others in the protest state that this is an attack on Islam.

It must be pointed out that the modern French Republic is a secular state. Displays of religion are banned in all schools. What this means is that in French schools crosses are not displayed, Jewish boys cannot wear skullcaps and Islamic girls cannot wear a veil or a headscarf. It is a law perfect in its simplicity. It is a law that is non-discriminatory and applies to all faiths equally.

The European wide were demonstrations essentially one in support of religious expression but one thing struck me as being ironic as I looked at the report of the Dublin demonstration on RTE the national TV station. There in the middle of all the veiled women were two young guys flying flags of the Socialist Workers Party. Its ironic in the sense that down through the years in Ireland the Socialist Workers Party have fought tooth and nail against any form of religious misuse of authority and here they are coming out in support of a religious edict which many women find very restrictive.

I agree with O'Toole when he states that "There is a real danger that, in the name of tolerance, we end up validating ersatz traditions that use religion as an excuse for oppression".

This blog is in no way anti Islam. It is pro freedom.

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