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February 17, 2015

NY Review of Books: French Establishment, Like American Liberal Establishment of the 1970s, Had Better Wake Up and Begin Speaking Clearly About Actual Reality or They'll Go the Way of Jimmy Carter

Another organ of left-wing thought is sounding the warning bells on the liberal establishment's absolute commitment to pretending away the Islamist Problem.

This has resonances for America generally, and specifically for Bobby Jindal, who was attacked for echoing the claim that Paris had "no-go" zones. Well, if "no go zones" can mean areas in which backwards Islamic mores are enforced by vigilante morals police, and the real police do nothing to stop them from beating up women wearing pants or skirts, then indeed Paris has "no go" zones.

The charismatic preachers--called "older brothers"--who attract young boys and men are largely trained in Saudi Arabia, Syria, or Iraq and have never lived outside a Muslim country. A great number do not speak French. Their followers--though born in France and French-speaking--are much more observant and separatist than their parents are and have much more extreme views on issues like sexuality (particularly homosexuality), female purity, and Jews and Israel. They and the older brothers can be seen policing certain neighborhoods, singling out girls and women whose dress they find inappropriate.

It is in this setting that recent French debates over laicity in the schools must be seen. The positions are highly polarized. Integrationists see an increasingly fundamentalist Islam as a threat to the French model and think that the schools should actively resist it by teaching secular values; classic republicans think that the state must keep religion completely out of the schools but should not interfere with private beliefs; and multiculturalists think that Islam is simply being stigmatized, that social exclusion is mainly to blame, and that differences of all sorts should be represented and celebrated in schools....

Each of these views has problems, but it is the multiculturalist one that seems the least in touch with social and political reality today. Not because the French don’' need to learn to accommodate more differences, but because it refuses to recognize the very disturbing developments in the Islamic world today (which are anything but accommodating to differences) and how they have already affected French life. The current mantra, which President Hollande felt obliged to repeat, is that Islamic terrorism has "nothing to do with Islam" and that the most important thing is not to "make an amalgam" of all Muslims. (The Socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, went even further, declaring the terrorists to be "without faith"--in other words, infidels.) But this attitude only reinforces an institutional and intellectual omerta that makes it difficult even to discuss what is really going on in the schools.

The evidence has been there for anyone who cared to look for it, in books like those of Kepel and the growing literature of memoirs written by former teachers in the quartiers who gave up because they could not control their classes or enforce the principle of laicity [the official French doctrine of strict secularism by the state and by students in the schools (i.e., you can be religious but not in state-run settings)]. In 2004, for example, the Chirac government received a report it had commissioned on the presence of religious "signs and belonging" in the schools, which was promptly buried because its results were so disturbing. This Obin Report was based on on-site visits government inspectors made to over sixty middle and high schools across France, concentrating on disfavored quartiers [euphemism for "slums"].

The extent to which life in many of them had been, to employ Kepel's term, "halalized" shocked them. The report recounts stories of girls being under constant surveillance by self-appointed older brothers who mete out corporal punishment with fists and belts if they deem modesty to have been violated. Wearing skirts or dresses is impossible in many places, also for female teachers. There is an obsession with purity, as students and their parents demand separate swimming hours or refuse to let their children go on school trips where the sexes might mix. If they do go, some refuse to enter cathedrals or churches.

There are fathers who won’t shake hands with female teachers, or let their wives speak alone to male teachers. There are cases of children refusing to sing, or dance, or learn an instrument, or draw a face, or use a mathematical symbol that resembles a cross. The question of dress and social mixing has led to the abandonment of gym classes in many places. Children also feel emboldened to refuse to read authors or books that they find religiously unacceptable: Rousseau, Molière, Madame Bovary. Certain subjects are taboo: evolution, sex ed, the Shoah. As one father told a teacher, "I forbid you to mention Jesus to my son."

...

If anything plays into the hands of the National Front, it is this resistance to reality. The famous bon mot of Charles Peguy, a hero of French republicanism, applies: "One must always say what one sees. But especially--and this is the hard part--one must always see what one sees."

That quote is obviously of particular usefulness at this moment of Great Pretending.

I've omitted the parts concerning nearly all Jews withdrawing from public school in order to attend costly private school -- because the French state cannot guarantee the safety of Jews in its schools.

And only Jews, incidentally.

And on that -- the below video shows what it is like to walk the streets of Paris while wearing a cap and shawl marking one as a Jew.


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posted by Ace at 03:57 PM

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