The West Stands Up for Its Customs
by Daniel Pipes
Is Europe finished? Some major authors, such as Bat Ye'or, Oriana Fallaci, and Jean Raspail, say "yes." But I think not; there is still fight left in the old continent, as the 2004 French ban on hijabs in public schools signaled. And although I usually focus on the Europeans' willingness to bend to Muslim demands, this entry documents some cases, in reverse chronological order, when they stand up for their historic ways.
"Muslim girl cannot skip swim class: German high court": The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig rejected an appeal by a Muslim schoolgirl from Morocco living in Frankfurt to skip swimming lessons on the basis that the Koran forbids her from showing herself to boys and also seeing the topless boys. The court argued that in warm weather, men in Grmany go about bare-chested and it will not suppress this "social reality." It advised her to wear a "burkini." This decision upheld a September 2012 ruling by an administrative court in Kassel. (September 11, 2013)
"Muslim teens not exempt from swim lessons": Switzerland's highest court has ruled that a 14-year-old girl from a strict Muslim family in Aargau must attend swimming class at school, though she can do so in a full-body swimsuit (known as a burkini). The decision specifically referred to the need not to permit "parallel societies" to develop in Switzerland. (May 10, 2013)
Burqa, no handshake doom French citizenship: The French immigration ministry announced that a Moroccan man living in France since 1999 and married to a French woman since 2004, failed to "assimilate into French society" and displayed a "discriminatory attitude toward women," and so has been denied French citizenship.
(July 9, 2010)
"No Religion at School: Berlin Court Rules Against Muslim Student Prayers": A Berlin court ruled in 2009 in favor of a 16-year-old Muslim praying in a room by himself on the grounds of his private school in the Wedding district. The city government's education department appealed the ruling on the grounds of state neutrality with regard to religion.A higher Berlin court has now overturned that judgement on the grounds that such prayers could disturb school peace. Its ruling in turn is likely to be appealed to the Federal Administrative Court. (May 27, 2010)
"Une Marocaine en burqa se voit refuser la nationalité française" ("A Moroccan woman in burqa is refused French nationality"): The Council of State refused to grant citizenship to a woman of Moroccan origins, married to a French citizen, and mother of three children born in France, because it deemed, in a statement dated June 27, that she had "adopted, in the name of a radical practice of her religion, a public behavior incompatible with the core values of French society, in particular the principle of gender equality" ("a adopté, au nom d'une pratique radicale de sa religion, un comportement en société incompatible avec les valeurs essentielles de la communauté française, et notamment le principe d'égalité des sexes").
Comment: This is a complex story, heavily covered in the French press, with many implications. Suffice to say here that this step reflects a European hope to fend off radical Islam. (June 11, 2008) July 19, 2008 update: For English-language coverage of this topic, see "A Veil Closes France's Door to Citizenship" by Katrin Bennhold.
"Parents protest at school's 'Halal-only' lunch": The administration at Kingsgate Primary in West Hampstead, North London, whose student body is about three-quarter Muslim, has decided to serve only halal meat. But then, what the Daily Mail terms "furious parents" carried placards and staged protests outside the school. Abusive callers to the school led the staff at Kingsgate to stop accepting inbound calls. A mother, Jacqueline Gomm, explained her views:
She went on to say about the British National Party: "the sad thing is, many people will turn to them because they feel there is no other choice."
A father, Neville Grant, who entered the school to challenge the principal's claim that a parental survey showed a preference for halal meat had the police called on him and says he is now liable to be arrested if he steps inside the Kingsgate grounds. "I went to the school to protest because I didn't believe the statistics but the headteacher refused to show me them. The next thing I know is when my daughter called me and said that three police cars and a van had pulled up outside my house. I'm a next of kin for my son and now I can't even go into the school. It's outrageous." A spokeswoman for the Camden Council, however, denied Grant had been banned from the school grounds.
The spokeswoman noted that Kingsgate is one of four schools in Camden Borough to have adopted halal-only menus, adding that "There will also be a vegetarian choice and a jacket potato with toppings of choose, beans or fish, so there is always a hot, healthy option available for all children." (February 9, 2007)
Muslim teacher sacked over hand shake: The Vader Rijn College in Utrecht, Netherlands, a vocational school, has sent a letter of dismissal to a female Muslim teacher who last summer began refusing to shake hands with men, which she previously has been willing to do. The director of the college said the teacher gave a bad example to students. The Equal Treatment Commission, however, issued an advisory ruling granting the teacher the right to refuse a hand shake and stated that the college could not dismiss her for this reason alone. (December 20, 2006)
"Godless Europeans turn to cultural Christianity": Michael Burleigh, author of Earthly Powers: Politics and Religion in Europe (Harper Collins) sees Europeans turning to a "cultural Christianity" to establish a common identity and fend off radical Islam. The term, he says, is borrowed from Jews who identify themselves culturally, not religiously, with their traditions.
(June 2, 2006)
"Integration book to explain Flemish norms and values": The Belgians are taking it slower than the Dutch (see the March 16, 2006 update, below). An "integration guidebook" to be distributed at immigrant reception centers tells about family services, informs how to obtain subsidized housing, runs through the Belgian system of government, and more broadly provides "a compass to navigate a path in Flemish society," according to Flemish Integration Minister Marino Keulen. The commission (made up of both native and immigrant Belgians) reached a quick consensus over norms and values, such as liberty, equality, solidarity, respect and citizenship. As for attitudes toward homosexuals, freedom of religion, abortion, euthanasia, and the equality of men and women, the head of the commission, Marc Bossuyt, said immigrants don't have to applaud these views but resistance against such freedoms should not be urged either. "Social norms cannot be imposed. We plead for tolerance and dialogue." (May 2, 2006)
"'Migrant test' raises concerns": Andrew Robb, parliamentary secretary to Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone, has raised the idea of introducing a compulsory citizenship test for prospective immigrants, one requiring them to demonstrate their knowledge of English and of Australia's values, customs, laws and history. "From my point of view, successful integration is overwhelmingly in the interests of migrants and the broader community. For this reason, I am prepared to have a serious look, over the next couple of months, at the merits of introducing a compulsory citizenship test." The opposition Labor party backs the proposal in theory. "We would need to look at who is going to decide what would be in the test, what consultation there would be and how the test would be assessed," said its immigration spokeswoman, Annette Hurley. (April 28, 2006)
"A Dutch Film Warning: Nudity and Gay Kisses Ahead": The Dutch government has produced a two-hour-long film, titled "To the Netherlands," intended to give potential immigrants a taste of life in the country they might be moving to. It asserts Dutch values in a number of ways. For one, it shows, according to a New York Times report, "an attractive woman sunbathing topless." The narrator counsels viewers: "People do not make a fuss about nudity."
(March 16, 2006)
"Muhammad cartoon row intensifies": Until now, Europeans have taken a stand on some pretty minor issues – wine with meals, co-ed swimming, burqas. Today, that all changed. Cartoons might also seem minor, but not when they are caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The issue has been brewing for four months, since the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten published the twelve cartoons on September 30, 2005. Today, eight major newspapers in six countries (France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands,, Spain, and Switzerland) reprinted the cartoons. I plan to deal with this topic at greater length in a column but here are a few observations for now:
"Berlin school bans languages other than German": The Herbert-Hoover Realschule in Berlin's heavily-immigrant Wedding district has banned students from speaking languages other than German while on school grounds or on school excursions. The "house rules" that every pupil must sign state that "The language of our school is German, the official language of the Federal Republic of Germany. Every pupil is obliged to only communicate in this language within the jurisdiction of the house rules." (Jan. 20, 2006)
"Flag burner first to be jailed over riots": Hadi Khawaja, 24, was sentenced to three months in jail for burning the Australian flag, thereby becoming the first person jailed for his part in the Sydney-area beach riots last month. To be technical, he pleaded guilty to malicious damage and entering enclosed lands on December 11 with intent to commit an indictable offence. The magistrate, Paul Falzon, described burning the flag as a matter "of great significance" and therefore he ordered a toughter penalty than would usually be the case. "It's vandalism of a particular kind. It's extreme vandalism … because of the nature of what was obtained to be burnt in the context of what happened and what was happening around this time." Khawaja, of Peakhurst in southern Sydney, arrived in Australia from Lebanon at the age of six and is an Australian citizen. (Jan. 13, 2006)
And here is the update: Eleven years later, Loichemol finally staged a production of Mahomet, ou le fanatisme. It was a reading on Dec. 8 in Saint-Genis-Pouilly, a French town near Geneva, where the mayor, Hubert Bertrand, provided police protection. In response to a Muslim spokesman's protest at a reception before the theatrical event, Bertrand asserted that "Freedom of speech is important, it is a critical part of laïcité." Loichemol was more angry: "You have no right to come here and tell us what we do or do not have the right to produce in the theater." After the performance began, one car and several trash cans were set on fire, which the mayor condemned as unacceptable. (Dec. 9, 2005)
"Dutch virtue of tolerance under strain": "We don't expect them to go ice-skating in winter or put on clogs," said a senior figure in the governing VVD party. "But we do expect them to learn our language and accept basic values like the equality of men and women." Such a statement is important for it is part of the sorting out of what immigrants are expected to adopt and what not. So too is the comment by Folkert Jensma, editor in chief of the Handelsblad daily: "It's funny We now want to teach immigrants more about our identity, and we discover that we're not sure what's left of it!" (Oct. 17, 2005)
"French march La Marseillaise into class": Starting this month, France's national anthem, La Marseillaise, must by law now be sung and its history learned in primary schools throughout the country. The Daily Telegraph explains: "Politicians behind the anthem's addition to the national curriculum see the move as an aid to preserving the purity of French culture in an increasingly multi-racial society in which Islam is now the second biggest religion." Jérôme Rivière, the member of parliament whose idea this law was, said the the anthem lyrics "demonstrate the respect of others and the individual freedoms that are at the base of our society." (Sep. 13, 2005)
"Italy bans Islamic burqas": This does not quite fit the pattern, except that women showing their faces certainly is a European custom. The Italian government, in a rare show of bipartisanship, approved a measure banning burqas in public places, as part of a counterterrorism package. Offenders who cover their face can be jailed up to two years and fined 2,000. In addition, law enforcement or soldiers may detain violators for 24 hours without a lawyer present, extract DNA samples without their consent, and deport foreigners suspected of terrorism. (Aug. 1, 2005)
"British Culture – Worth Saving?": That's the title of my blog that considers how the London bombers of a week ago have prompted their fellow British citizens to assert the worth of their culture. This is a stunning new theme in European life. (July 14, 2005)
"EU brushes off Belgian Islam hand-shake spat": The main thrust of this article by Andrew Rettman in the EUobserver concerns the dhimmitude of the European Union's foreign affairs chief, Javier Solana, on receiving Iranian parliamentary delegates meeting in Brussels, serving coffee, fruit juice and water, and perfectly happy to accept that the Iranian males did not shake hands with the EU women ("The Iranians do not shake hands with women. It's their personal decision and they are our guests").
But Rettman also adds that one day earlier, on June 30, the president of Belgium's upper house, Anne-Marie Lizin, canceled her meeting with the same Iranian delegation because of the hand-shake dispute; and the speaker of the lower house, Herman de Croo, cancelled a lunch with the Iranian group after it insisted on there being no alcohol at all at the event. Instead, he briefly met with them in his parliamentary office. As a spokesman for the Belgian senate memorably commented to Rettman, "You can't force the authorities of Belgium to drink water." (July 1, 2005)
"German Court: Muslim Students Must Swim": In a landmark case, Germany's chief administrative court dismissed a complaint brought by two deeply religious Muslim parents from Wuppertal intent on keeping their 11-year-old son out of a co-ed school swimming class, where he would mix with girls in bathing suits. They called this "a dangerous influence on the emotional world of young people." The court rejected their argument, holding that religious beliefs cannot prevent children from attending swimming classes. More assertively, the judges stated, "we live in a western society in which we don't live by the rules of the Koran." (June 1, 2005)
"Muslim citizenship applicants told: 'You can only have one wife'" (also available at muslimnews.co.uk): Married Muslim men seeking Irish citizenship, reports the Irish Independent, "are being asked to swear that they will not take more than one wife." This means having to sign an affidavit promising they will not take a second wife. A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said such inquiries were made in circumstances where "there was reason to believe that person's cultural or religious beliefs comprehended the possibility of more than one spouse at the same time." To which, predictably, the Irish Council of Civil Liberties (ICCL) responded by denouncing the requirement as "despicable." (June 17, 2004)
"No wine, no dinner, Iran told": The Spanish government cancelled a state banquet to be hosted by King Juan Carlos for the visiting President Mohammed Khatami of Iran, and for an interesting reason. The Iranians insisted that there be no wine on the table but the Spanish refused to give it up. "It was to avoid a stand-off between the protocol offices of the two countries," said a Spanish Foreign Ministry spokesman, "and so that the Spanish custom of drinking wine with meals was not dishonoured." His Iranian counterpart said that "Islamic principles are very important for Iran." The newspaper El Mundo reported that the king was ready to make this concession but Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar did not agree. The government has put "a lot of emphasis on the cultural tradition that surrounds the consumption of wine in a country like Spain."
This resolution brings to mind an identical problem three years earlier, when Khatami visited France.
Related to this flap, Khatami's visit was downgraded from "state" to "official."
In the end, neither European country would host a state banquest without alcohol. (October 10, 2002)
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