Mulla Chirac or Chiracov?

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When analyzed through the standards used for declaring the Taliban as repressive zealots and the communists as evil, French President Jacques Chirac is no more than a French version of Mullah Umar or a premier from the former Soviet Union.

Giving people a choice and not imposing anything against their will has been the basic principles used as a weapon for demonizing those considered as enemies of the West.

Nicholas Kristoff nicely summed up these principles. In his New York Times column, “Saudis in Bikinis,” he writes: “If most Saudi women want to wear a tent, if they don’t want to drive, then that’s fine. But why not give them the choice? Why ban women drivers and why empower the religious police, the mutawwa, to scold those loose hussies who choose to show a patch of hair?” [1]

Defending the same principle, Pamela Constable wrote in Washington Post: “I wore a shalwar kameez… But as a matter of both principle and sanity, I refused to wear a full burqa.” [2]

May we ask: Where are the principles of choice and free will now? If these were necessary for the Taliban and the communists to respect; if these are what the Saudis are expected to respect: Why should secular countries like France and Germany violate the same principles? [3]

If the Taliban’s enforcing burqa was part of “their religious scruples” and “profound contempt” of the West, [4] what does the forced removal of Muslim headscarves and Jewish skull caps in the West mean? Is it not a kind of religious fundamentalism with the only difference being that “secularism” is begin used as a religion?

To understand how and why, it will help to examine a comprehensive definition of religion found in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. It lists some characteristics of religions rather than simply declaring religion to be one thing or another. The more markers that are present in a belief system, the more "religious-like" it is. Following is an abridged version of it:

– Belief in something sacred.

– A distinction between sacred and evil.

– A moral code based on what is considered sacred.

– A world view and the place of the individual therein.

– A more or less total organization of one’s life based on the world view.

– A social group bound together by the above.

A particularly interesting possibility revealed by the above definition is that while gods can play an important role, they are not indispensable to a religion. This means that a religion without theism should be possible.

Except for the issue of gods, Communism, for example, had most of the characteristics listed above. So does secularism. It is, undoubtedly, one of a small group of modern non-supernatural religions.

Now revisit Chirac’s December 17, 2003 address and try to find what Madeleine Albright condemned as the Taliban’s “lack of respect for human dignity in a way more reminiscent of the past than the future" in her November 1997 visit to Pakistan. [5] You will find that Chirac also believes the rules he promulgated have been “part of [French] customs and practices for a very long time.” So be it.

If traditions and longer time span could not legitimize the “oppressive” rule of the Taliban, so it goes for Chirac. For Chirac, occupations and colonization are also part of the French legacy.

9/11 is a far more perfect ruse for the US occupations abroad than Charles X, who sent his army to occupy the town of Algiers in response to the day of Algiers striking and calling the French consul names.

The invasion eventually led to the announcement in 1848 that Algeria was part of the republic of France, making Algeria the first French colony. [6] Why doesn’t Chirac go on new "mission civilisatrice" [7] and rayonnement [8] on the basis of French history and practices?

While exaggerating evils of the Taliban, Boston Globe wrote in its editorial (March 25, 1999) that ”no other regime in the world has methodically and violently forced half of its population … from showing their faces.” [9]

Here we go. We have another regime in France that is doing the exact opposite –” holding women from covering their heads –” in the name of another religion, called secularism.

Chirac has laid out a blue print for systematically purging public sector and every way of life of headscarves and other religious symbols.

A secular state’s banning believers from following the discipline of their respective religions amounts to imposing the state’s worldview upon them.

Secularism, as a religion, is worse than other religions due to the fact that no other religion dictates its precepts on non-believers. Secularists, however, tell people of all faiths what they should believe and how they could express it.

According to Chirac: “It cannot be tolerated that under the cover of religious freedom, the laws and principles of the republic are challenged.” It means secular laws and principles are sacred to him, and anything treated as such becomes a religion in itself. So secularism becomes the religion of a secular state.

A secular leader’s declaring that “state schools will remain secular” is no different than a communist leader promising that state schools would remain communist or a Muslim leader’s categorical declaration that state schools will remain Islamic.

It makes little difference if Chirac and others do not consider secularism as a religion. Suffice their admission that “respect for the principle of secularism… is not negotiable.” Chirac clearly stressed the other day that the total organization of life under secularism would be according to secular principles. Any challenge to it “cannot be tolerated.”

Doesn’t Chirac sound like Brezhnev when he says: “All of France’s children, whatever their history, whatever their origin, whatever their beliefs, are the daughters and sons of the republic.” One of the policies of the Communist system also was to discourage and get rid of all cultural and religious differences to make everyone equal members of the Commune.

Under communism this was done with the intent that it will create a higher level of peace between the many different peoples if they have no such differences between them; wars over religion, culture and race will cease to be. Now Chirac says: “It is the neutrality … which enables the harmonious existence side by side of different religions.” What is the difference when religions are not allowed to practice in the first place?

He said: “pupils, who are naturally free to live their faith, should nevertheless not arrive in schools, secondary schools or A-level colleges, in religious clothes.”

Where is then the freedom to live by their religion?

This is no freedom to allow someone to believe. Believing in any religion also entails practicing its principles, just as Chirac’s belief in secularism would be meaningless until he develops a system to live by secularism and practice its principles.

Communists were demonized for throwing out religion and the Taliban for doing exactly the opposite. Secularists are engaged in both practices at the same time; i.e., throwing out other religions and fanatically embracing secularism as a religion.

For example, “conspicuous signs,” leading to “people immediately noticing and recognizing somebody’s religion, are not allowed.” But recognizing somebody’s sexual preferences, cross dressing, display of homosexual symbols, etc., are allowed for it is freedom of expression. It means everything goes, but religion –” a war on religions in the most perfect way.

In a secular state women can go around in public bare-breasted [10] but they cannot put a scarf on their head or display the 10 commandments because the former does not violate state religion, whereas the latter acts do assert a religious belief system.

Women have a choice [11] to prance around topless or not, but they are choiceless when it comes to head scarves because of its threat to state religion. Is it not a Mulla Umar-like theocracy à la Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan or a communist state à la Soviet Union?

Secular systems are devised to bring about the public disappearance of other religions. This is exactly what communism also promoted. According to a draft of the Communist Confession of Faith: "Communism is the stage of historical development which makes all existing religions superfluous and brings about their disappearance." [12]

Chirac concluded his speech with comments: “I declare very solemnly that the republic will oppose everything which separates people…The rule is that of the mixing of people.”

The communists, in fact, were criticized for doing exactly the same.

It was argued that the Western system is better than communism because it appreciates diversity and takes into account human nature, especially the need for self-actualization. Communism was criticized for its ideology that required a total surrender of personal freedom and privacy to the will of the state.

In his historic “evil empire” speech to the House of Commons on June 08, 1982, Ronald Reagan made specific reference to the communists’ throwing religion out. He regarded “individual liberty, representative government, and the rule of law under God” as “the great civilised ideas.”

May we ask: Where is the rule of law under God after the fall of communism? Where is the individual liberty in this age of flight from God?

Many professed secularists might disagree, just as the New York Times openly rebuked Chirac’s secular idea. [13] However, this holding of the same ear with a different hand does not mean that a different kind of secularism is promoted in the US.

It is simply that when it comes to hiding the truth, twisting and un-twisting of logic becomes an exercise in futility. Secular norms that change with the changing number of votes [14] will never replace permanent norms. Human societies will keep on suffering at the hands of promoters of such godless standards until the gods of false religions are exposed for the farce that they really are.

Notes:

[1]. Nicholas D. Kristof, “Saudis in Bikinis,” The New York Times, October 25, 2002.

[2]. Pamela Constable, “A Veiled View of the World,” The Washington Post, Oct 4, 1998.

[3]. Schroeder backs headscarf ban for teachers, Associated Press, Story run by Jerusalem Post Dec. 22, 2003. Second German state to ban scarf: BBC News UK Edition, December 09, 2003. The government in Germany’s biggest state, Bavaria, has prepared a draft law to ban Muslim teachers from wearing headscarves in schools.

[4]. Ibid. Pamela Constable

[5]. Quoted by William Shawcross, “Where the Music Has Died, and the Women Walk Softly,” The Washington Post, Nov 23, 1997.

[6]. Chipman, John. French Power in Africa. Basil Blackwell, Inc. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1989.

[7]. It was within French colonies that France began to pursue a policy of assimilation. This assimilation ideal, based upon the concept of mission civilisatrice, was aimed at making the citizens of the colonies an "integral part of the mother country."

[8]. Which literally means lightening the way for others.

[9]. Editorial, “Afghanistan war against women,” Boston Globe, March 25, 1999.

[10]. See: Women’s are-breasted equality. http://www.globalideasbank.org/reinv/RIS-27.HTML

[11]. Martin O’Hanlon, “Bare breasts OK in Saskatchewan, judge rules,” July 22, 1998. See: http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/6107/
Canada/Saskatchewan/Jul2298CFRA.html “Topless ruling allows women to choose.” See: http://varsity.utoronto.ca:16080/archives/117/jan16/opinions/topless.html

[12]. Source: MECW Volume 6, p. 92; Written by Engels, June 9 1847; First published: in Gründungsdokumente des Bundes der Kommunisten, Hamburg, 1969. See: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/11/prin-com.htm#ne

[13]. Editorial, “Religious Symbols in France,” New York Times, December 20,
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/20/opinion/20SAT3.html?pagewanted=print&position

[14]. In 1998, Newport residents nixed plans for an ordinance to hold a woman from displaying her breasts in public. A woman wanted to mow her lawn topless. Neighbors did not like it. The secular solution was to let the voters decide. The woman won due to a vote of 775-283. See: “MAINE OKAYS TOPLESS MOWING,” Associated Press, November 04, 1998. See: http://free.freespeech.org/topfreedomusa/id4.htm

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Abidullah Jan’s latest book "The End of Democracy" is now available here .

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