Tuesday, August 31, 2004

France - just not tolerant enough 

You can never be too tolerant, as France is now discovering:

"Despite France not having troops in Iraq and having led the opposition to the war and given that the majority of French people are more sympathetic towards the Palestinian cause, France joined other nations -- from Egypt to Japan -- scrambling to save their countrymen taken hostage by Islamist extremists in Iraq.

"In fact, the death threat hanging over the heads of kidnapped French journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot has little to do with French actions overseas, but everything to do with a newly passed law at home, banning Muslim girls from wearing Islamic head scarves to school...

"On a last-ditch rescue mission in the Middle East, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier Monday also described the two missing reporters -- and France in general -- as friends of the Muslim faith.

" 'Their abduction is incomprehensible for all those who know that France, country of human rights, is a land of tolerance and respect of others,' Barnier announced during a stop in Cairo."
French Jews might have a somewhat different opinion on that one, but hey, what's some tolerance between friends?

In a morbidly humourous manner, the Islamic Army, of Iraq, which is the group holding the Frenchmen, and which last week also claimed responsibility for murdering the Italian journalist, has called the French head-scarf prohibition "an injustice and an attack against the Muslim religion and individual liberty." I will stop short of declaring it as positive sign that an extremist Islamic group is now championing "individual liberty" - I might just wait until the Islamic Army of Iraq calls on France to also at the same time rescind its ban on large Catholic crosses, Jewish skullcaps and Sikh turbans.

Update: Anti-Semitism in France is of course a river of a topic, but reader Steve W. kindly pointed me out to this very good piece from last year by Marie Brenner, which gives a good background and context to what has been happening recently in the land of brotherhood, liberty and equality (how ambitious of the French to attempt the impossible - to achieve all three).

Update II: The Islamic Army of Iraq might be somewhat rash (another example of the "dumb al Qaeda" phenomenon?), but the well-established groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad certainly know something about strategic thinking:

"Palestinian militant movements Islamic Jihad (Holy War) and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) calledon Tuesday upon Iraqi militants to immediately release two French Journalists kidnapped a few days ago. Mohammed al Hindi, a senior Jihad leader, said in an interview with the official website of the kidnappers that their demands thatFrance end a ban on Muslim headscarves in schools 'can't be treated in such a way.' Al Hindi added that 'France has its own view concerning the American occupation of Iraq which is different from other European countries' views'."


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