"The people are afraid of being Islamized..."
As I suspected, Madame Dounia Bouzar's outrageous proposal to do away with two Christian holidays in France and replace them with Yom Kippur and Aïd, has fallen like a lead balloon. Forced to retract her statements made on September 23 in the magazine Challenges, she now says, in an interview with Le Figaro, that "the people were afraid of being Islamized, and I understand that."
It's a pity she didn't understand before making the proposal. She would have spared ten thousand people the trouble of signing a petition, and Catholic associations from sending out notices that her ideas were an incitement to war.
The French reaction to this woman's ignorant and offensive notion of laïcité has been another sign that the country is not entirely asleep. In the Figaro interview she sounds quite concerned about the presence of salafist elements in French businesses, and also declares her opposition to the burqa, or full-length veil. She does not indicate what the police should do when they see women wearing the garment, but she insists there are adequate laws in place to control religious problems. Here are a few excerpts:
- Explain your thinking.
- I thought it would be interesting to think about the possibility of adding a Jewish and a Muslim holiday to the religious holidays. The idea was to find a symbol, some kind of precursor, to bring the French together, whatever their religion, rather than to stumble into religious separatism. Considering the reaction, including that of Muslims, I saw that I was wrong. An idea that arouses fear is a bad idea. The people are afraid of being Islamized, afraid of radical speech that seeks to impose a so-called Muslim standard. I understand them.
- But weren't you aware that you were waving a red flag?
- No doubt. I'll be accused of helping the Front National for the next ten years… Nor should the radical Islamists have the pleasure of saying "See. We won. They gave in for Aïd."
Note: Being accused of helping the Front National is, in her eyes, far worse than imposing Aïd on the French.
- Did moderate Muslims and Jews want this?
- With regard to Muslims, it's a complex issue. Some, especially the young, would often like to take a day off for a religious holiday but are afraid of being singled out by their colleagues. The Jews, other than the request that exams not be held on Saturday, are usually discreet on religious issues. They are well organized within their community, with nurseries and private schools, and even the Sabbath Observance Employment Bureau, that puts job seekers in contact with managers who observe the Jewish holidays.
Note: This bureau, called in French "Bureau de Chabbat", was created in the '60's when large numbers of Jewish North Africans emigrated to France. Mme Bouzar clearly recognizes the self-sufficiency of the Jewish community.
- You counsel large businesses like EDF (Electricity), Air France and l'Oréal, that must deal with religious demands. Are these demands more numerous and forcefully expressed?
- I can see the rise of a radical salafist element and sectarian behavior that tends to imply that a "purified" group holds the truth and must live separately from the rest of "pagan society ruled by sex and money." Of course, this does not concern most salaried workers, but you have to know how to deal with this demands.
Note: At least she acknowledges a "rise" in the number and influence of salafists in French enterprises.
- What do you advise?
- I try to tell the managers of these businesses that they must never provide parochial responses to these religious demands. Thus, we will not serve a halal menu in the cafeteria, but will offer a meal without meat. Practicing Muslims and Catholics who don't like beef stew will be able to eat a mushroom omelet. Six criteria enable the resolution of problems: the security regulations and rules of hygiene must be observed; proselytizing is forbidden; the religious requirements must not disrupt the worker's duties or his aptitude, and must not go against the commercial interests of the enterprise.
Note: She uses the word "particularist" that I translate as "parochial". "Particularist" in English is a complex term I preferred to avoid here.
- You were in favor of the law banning the burqa.
- Yes, because it is based on a simple principle: one does not have the right not to be identifiable in a public space. To do nothing was to fall into a trap. But, I'm sorry that a very large majority of the population thinks the burqa is required by the Koran. This garb was invented seventy years ago in the rigorous countries of the Persian gulf, yet Islam is fourteen hundred years old!
- What is the most troubling religious demand today?
- The demand that affects relations between men and women. The radical Muslim that refuses to shake his female colleague's hand or look his female supervisor in the eye. He says: My religion prevents me from touching a woman who is not my wife or from looking her in the eye." Could a worker refuse to shake the hand of a black man, a homosexual or a handicapped person? Besides this, the situation in educational associations is often ambiguous. They recruit many young people, in the name of the "big brothers" policy, without training them. Those in contact with youngsters are not always clear on the questions of laïcité and neutrality.
Note: If she means that young Muslims are hired to educate and orient even younger Muslim children into the rigors of French laïcité, she is in a typical liberal ivory tower. We tried many "big brother" programs to help ghetto children in America, but the ultimate problem was the big brothers themselves. Who guards the guardians? How can you expect angry young Muslim youth to educate even angrier children? Most likely the older ones and the younger ones are comrades, not mentors and pupils. Another problem is that even a well-intentioned "big brother" will find himself up against the angry resistance of youngsters who regard him as a traitor ("kisser" is the word they use here).
The French (both major parties) are attempting the impossible - to force a totally artificial, anti-religious, neutral, culture-free ideology called laïcité down the throats of a fourteen-hundred-year-old cult, primordially connected to a vengeful god, and founded on a text that is the immutable word of this god. Those Muslims who want to break away from their violent cult may be able to adapt, but the others...