Monday, March 14, 2011

Islamophobia Rising In France


Jews may or may not have invented multiculturalism, but we have certainly benefited from it. In fact some level of multiculturalism has been essential for the thriving Jewish existence in the West since - well since there has been a thriving Jewish existence in the West, which is to say since WWII at least. Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, argued quite consistently, from the 19-teens through his last book in 1970, for the multi-national state and the multi-state nation - multiculturalism writ large - as the key to an ethical nationalism.
So we have much to worry about when multiculturalism is under attack as it is in Europe, the U.S. and even parts of Canada - a country that since the 1980s is officially defined as multicultural. Leading the way in this reactionary movement is France. In an article in the Georgia Straight, Gwyn Dyer writes:
From the beginning of next month, it will be illegal for a Muslim woman in France to wear a full-face veil (niqab) in any public place. An opinion poll last week suggested that Marine Le Pen, the new leader of the far-right National Front, could win the first round of next year’s presidential elections in France. These two facts are not unconnected.
President Nicolas Sarkozy is in a panic as the National Front gains in the polls, for his own core vote is also on the right. He has responded by ordering a nationwide debate on Islam’s place in secular France, and he has made it quite clear which side he is on: he wants no minarets in France, he tells journalists, and no halal food in school canteens.
... The right is in the ascendant in French politics, and this has unleashed a wave of panic-mongering over “multiculturalism”. ...
Whoever can more convincingly claim to have the solution for [the multicultural] problem wins the right-wing vote, and the National Front is drawing ahead of Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). Under the leadership of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the National Front came second in the 2002 presidential election; under the leadership of his daughter Marine Le Pen it could do even better.
The recent opinion poll commissioned by Le Parisien newspaper gave her 23 percent of the vote, while Sarkozy’s party and the Socialists got 21 percent each. She has ditched the National Front’s neo-fascist and racist rhetoric in favour of a low-key, “common-sense” style that is having a real political impact. ...
The full article is worth a read.

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