The Gérin Report on Banning the Burka
In my previous post I spoke of a parliamentary commission on the pros and cons of banning the burka. The report, known as the Gérin Report after the Communist deputy that proposed the ban, is analyzed by Yves Daoudal in nº 68 of his weekly newsletter, available through subscription. His analysis was excerpted by Le Salon Beige, and it is their rendition that I'm borrowing for part of this post. Note that a resolution is the step that precedes the passing of a law, and that 'laïque' is the adjective corresponding to 'laïcité':
The report concludes with a draft of a resolution that summarizes tersely in nine overstated ("caricaturale") points the propositions discussed in the report.
- First point: The National Assembly considers it necessary to reaffirm the republican values of liberty, equality and fraternity that are fundamental to the harmony between our communities ("notre vivre-ensemble") and that oppose all forms of radicalism ("intégrisme"), separatism, and sectarianism.
Yves Daoudal notes, quoting another writer Luc Perrin:
"Would the 'laïque' Republic have to create a type of government agency to define what the orthodoxy of a religion is?" And notice the phrase "all forms". That could mean a ban on just about anything: a religious congregation, for example, or even any association emanating from a community (remember that all associations are on principle communitarian).
- Second point: The National Assembly believes that our founding values have as a direct consequence a refusal of any violation of the principles of gender integration ("mixité") and equality of the sexes.
"Any violation" - does this mean that the monasteries would have to be coed, that women could become priests, that there would be no more separate schools for boys and girls, that in the schools the toilets would have to be sexually mixed...?
Note: Just a reminder that many American universities have "mixed" toilets, and mixed dormitories. The American Armed Forces are mixed, and women, some of them mothers, have died on the battlefield.
- Fourth point: The National Assembly recommends the reinforcement of measures that promote equality between women and men.
For Daoudal this means more "stupid quotas".
- Seventh point: The National Assembly considers that freedom of conscience can only be exercised if the principle of laïcité is respected.
This is an affirmation of the most sectarian laïcité: religion must submit to a higher principle, laïcité. While that is certainly the spirit of the law of 1905, it is contrary to the letter of the first article:
"The Republic ensures freedom of conscience. It guarantees the free exercise of religion subject to the sole restrictions enacted hereafter in the interest of public order."
The resolution substitutes "principle of laïcité" for "public order". This reversal is overtly totalitarian.
- Eighth point: The National Assembly believes it necessary to promote an open and tolerant society and to fight against all forms of discrimination.
And what opposes an open and tolerant society? That which is designated in the first point: "all forms of radicalism, separatism and sectarianism". In this way they could, for example, ban a pro-life rally, or associations against abortion or gay marriage or affirmative action, or even the Catholic Church itself, its catechism and its social doctrine. Do you think I'm extrapolating? Of course, the promulgation of a law banning the burka will not result in these these interdictions all at once. But if the resolution is passed (and it will be, unanimously, or almost), it will become the basis for all sorts of abuses. Remember this fact: representatives of various Masonic doctrines and all other "laïque" extremists were consulted by the parliamentary panel. The Catholic Church was excluded. It's all very clear. The Church's only reaction was a little complaint from Monsignor Santier (...)
What complaint is Yves Daoudal referring to? He explains:
In his reaction to the report, Monsignor Michel Santier, bishop of Créteil and president of the Council of Bishops of France on inter-religious relations and new religious trends, regretted that "the parliamentary panel did not see fit to hear the opinions of Christian and Jewish religious leaders, though it did hear other schools of thought" and that the chairman of the panel did not even answer his letter... But he does not ask himself why. He just engages right away in the standard rhetoric of French bishops: "The decisions made must not lead to a stigmatization of Muslim beliefs."
Now we get to the quid pro quo. A deal will be struck with the Muslims that compensates them for accepting the ban on the burka (and we can almost be certain that many Muslims will not even obey the French law, should it pass.) One of the Muslims consulted by the parliamentary panel, Mohammed Moussaoui, head of the CFCM (French Council on the Muslim Religion) declared:
"As soon as you proposed a parliamentary commission to examine the issue of wearing the burka and the niqab on national territory, a debate opened on these practices that took on unexpected proportions. Muslims, in general, find that, more and more, they are faced with generalizations that result in the stigmatization of the whole religion."
Thus, a battle must be waged against generalizations and discrimination, especially "Islamophobia". And we must "reflect on the ways to fully respect a fair representation of 'spiritual diversity'".
The report then refers back to another equally notorious report from 2005, called the Machelon Report, that opened the way for government financing of mosques by saying that even though the Republic cannot build religious edifices, it CAN build cultural ones, and insofar as a mosque is also a cultural center, government subsidies are authorized:
The Gérin report states that the Machelon Report had demonstrated that real margins of legislative maneuverability exist because Article 2 of the law of 1905 that forbids government funding of religions "was not constitutional." Moreover, Machelon "approved direct aid in the construction of places of worship...", as well as the teaching of Islam in the schools of Alsace-Moselle placing it on a par with the other religions approved by the Concordat. And most innovative of all, Machelon suggested that new religious holidays could be "substituted" for other holidays (referring of course to Christian holidays).
To recapitulate: Using the Machelon Report as a reference, the Gérin report finds an smooth path to the building of more mosques, the teaching of Islam and Arabic in schools, and the establishment of Islamic holidays for France. Reminder: the Concordat applied only to Alsace-Moselle and allowed State funding of religion, because when the law of 1905 was enacted Alsace-Moselle was not part of France, but was German. Upon re-conquest by France in 1918 the region remained exempt from the 1905 law.
The Machelon Report was commissioned by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, under Chirac's presidency. It is Machelon that has enabled the French State to fund mosques. Now it is again being used to justify the expansion of the Islamic influence.
Finally, where is the burka in all of this? Daoudal goes on:
The report explains how the State must "protect women from restrictions that could become a heavy burden for them (...) It matters very little whether such abuses are committed by a sectarian group, a new religion, a religion of the Book or a quack doctor. When a certain number of criteria have been met, the first one being a status of subjugation, a repressive action by the State must be implemented."
As for banning the burka, there is a long and surreal discussion that maintains that a ban cannot be passed in the name of laïcité, or in the name of human dignity, regarded as a notion of uncertain content, but that the "least risky way" is to ban it in the name of public order. In short, the burka could be used to hide weapons, and does not allow the person wearing it to be immediately identified. It is contrary to "good mores", that is, to our "social code" (...)
Those are the major features of the new 656-page report. According to Le Figaro:
(...) the risk is great that the resolution will be censored, in the name of individual freedoms, by the Constitutional Council or by European law. It is for this reason that some parliamentarians, of both Left and Right, have taken a stand against the idea of such a law.
What are the reactions of readers at Le Salon Beige? Most find the report both typical of this government and frightening for its implications:
- The National Assembly is truly the recording studio for Hell. Let us pray that Satan's fumes dissipate, otherwise France will be completely suffocated very soon.
- Point nº 7 is genuinely revolutionary because it states in black and white a reversal of perspective. The law on laïcité grants freedom of conscience, but it was created, according to its authors, in order to guarantee this freedom for everybody (and don't forget that this very same law allows for chaplains in the army and for the State maintenance of churches built before 1905). Henceforth, it's turned upside down: it is laïcité that prevails over freedom of conscience, implying that a republican decree will be able to change an article of faith! It's unheard-of.
- Naturally the bishops have nothing to say! It seems they attach more importance to this republic than to respect for their mission, which is to tend the Lord's flock, and to protect them from what is not CATHOLIC!
- That reminds me that once in a restaurant in Marseilles, prayers and grace were printed on the menus. My atheist cousin was shocked - we were in a country of laïcité. I replied that it was the State that was "laïque"but a proprietor was free to display (or not to display) his religion in his own restaurant.
I think that says it all - it the State that is "laïque", the State maintains its neutrality in matters of religion, but the individual, in a private business, in a non-governmental enterprise, is free to express his faith. Under the new hypothetical law, the religious individual would be "laïque" first, and all religious expression would be subordinated to laïcité. So they are moving from freedom of religion to freedom from religion. How can this apply to Islam? It cannot. But that's a loose end that no one is attending to right now...
This Wikipedia page provides a discussion of the concept of laïcité in France and similar concepts in other countries. The contrast with the United States is of special interest, since it emphasizes the traditional cooperation between Church and State in America as opposed to the strict separation we find in France.
Also, those interested can read more excerpts (in English) of the 1905 law at Concordat Watch. You'll notice that Article 2 reads:
"(...) on the 1st of January which follows the publication of this Law, all expenses concerning the practice of religion shall be abolished from the budgets of the State, Departments and municipal councils."
And yet the list of municipalities that have funded mosques, at least partially, through long-term leases at a token rent of a few euro per month, is long and still growing.