Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Unhappy; or, what's the matter with kids today?

A certain number of people in France think they are unhappy about Muslim immigrants and their children for not fitting in to the French way of life. I am not so sure that their self-diagnosis is correct.

The issue that everyone is talking about is the government policy forbidding women -- Muslim women -- from wearing in many public places veils of various sorts and more concealing garments like the burqa. Although there are about 5 million Muslims in France, it is estimated that only a few thousand or maybe even a few hundred women actually wear these things. Yet the government is rolling out the big guns against them.

It was when I read the Globe and Mail report about the wider context of this move that I began to doubt that Islam is really that central to this feeling of France is on the wrong track. Look at these quotations and you tell me:

The public hearing [part of a government-sponsored national debate] was called to discuss one question: What does it mean to be French? It got off to a rocky start...

The next speaker wanted to talk about globalization. “Kids today,” he said, as people around him rolled their eyes, “identify more with Michael Jackson and Madonna than with France."


The French have also been uninhibited in their response to the call for debate, with more than 40,000 comments posted in the first month on the government's national identity website. About 6 per cent, according to the Immigration Ministry, were racist or hateful enough to be removed.

The posts that remain run the gamut from quotations from 19th-century French philosophers to rants about immigrants.

“France has become a colony of Africa,” wrote one contributor. To be truly French, wrote another, one must have “French blood” from both parents “and going back several generations.” Others said all schoolchildren should be required to memorize the Marseillaise and to sing it, on pain of punishment, at least once a week.


Nadine Morano, the junior minister for family affairs, has tried to backtrack for days after she was filmed at another debate advising young French Muslims how to fit in. “What I want,” she said, “is that they love France when they live in this country, they get a job, they not use slang … and not wear their caps back to front.”

I absolutely love the junior minister's remarks about the characteristics of all powerful, unstoppable, heritage-endangering Islam. If you somehow missed that in the last paragraph, that dangerous foreign religion apparently consists of:

Hating France

Not getting a job

Using slang

Wearing [baseball] caps back to front.

Straight out of the Arabian desert in the seventh century! I might buy some of this had I not been a teenager in the 60s, when I was told that wearing jeans to school and growing your hair too long made you some kind of outlaw. Same, same.

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Blogger Greg Wotton said...

It's interesting for the French to claim that one must have French blood on both sides to be French. Perhaps it comes from living in Canada where the only people I know with "Canadian blood from both sides going back several generations" are Ojibwa or Cree that I cannot grasp this concept. Or perhaps it's because of the historical knowledge of the various mixtures which have coloured "French blood".

Certainly there could be no English, Norse, Roman or German blood mixed in there from the wars or the colonies. Or were they 'adopted' as French at some point?

The biggest problem with National Socialism is defining who belongs, and that can be a slippery slope.

5:15 PM  

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