Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
First Amendment of The Constitution of The United States of America
Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
a) freedom of conscience and religion;
b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
d) freedom of association.
The “Fundamental Freedoms” of
The Canadian Charter of Rights And Freedoms
France is an indivisible, secular, democratic, and social Republic. It ensures the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction as to origin, race, or religion.
It respects all beliefs.
Article 2 of The Constitution of The Republic of France
Ten years of growing nationalism and a crackdown on immigration may seem like the beginning of a trend in European politics, but really it has been the continuation of policies in place for centuries. What started out as religious persecution of one tribe of Christianity over other Christian religious groups, has evolved into secular persecution of “Other” groups, be they Hindu, Sikh or, especially, Muslim.
The Paris riots of 2005 where disaffected Muslim youth burned cars and engaged French police in minor street skirmishes, were just the latest in European religious persecution dating back to the initial religious settlement of America, and even further back into the Crusades. But modern Europe has discarded Christianity so now instead of the sects of Christianity fighting each other internally or slipping across the Mediterranean to fight against Jews and Muslims the latest conflict is being fought by Secular Europe against Islamic immigrants fleeing to Europe from wars started by the European imperialism of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
Swedish International Radio recently [Fall 2006] spent half an hour discussing whether Islam poses a threat to Swedish Secularism. Nearly 4% of the population of Sweden is Muslim, which works out to approximately 300,000 people. These people are predominantly from Iran, Turkey and Bosnia and some are beginning to demand the right to practice their religion in the open, including prayer breaks at work. A Swedish mosque, one of only five in Sweden, was recently burned to the ground.
This follows two tumultuous years of clashes between the Muslim community in France and French lawmakers. France has banned religious symbols from schools, and over half of all German states now have laws banning Muslim teachers from wearing the hijab. In large parts of Germany it is also now illegal to wear Muslim head-dresses to work and prayer in public has also been banned. And now Sweden is considering a similar or greater ban, including a potential ban on Halal foods.
Forced assimilation is becoming the policy of Europe, their argument: Without secularism there cannot be democracy. None of this is new, but what is amazing in these recent discussions is, with the same breath these politicians who are setting policies calling for the forced integration of Muslims into European’s various Secular Societies, they then condemn America for having “racist” tendencies.
It’s easy to understand why the Europeans are doing this, they’ve always been xenophobic. There are not a whole lot of coloured people in Sweden, so when those populations start to grow (due to the migration of people suckered in by the advertised tolerance) and those migrants bring with them their religions and customs, Swedes get freaked. Same for Norway, Finland and so on. Now throw in the growth potential for religious militants (as they see happening in The World in general), be they Sikhs, Hindu’s or Muslims, and the Swede Freak Meter goes into the red. There are three countries on this planet who have managed to become multicultural: Canada, America and India. Japan, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and the rest of South East Asia restrict immigration to the point where it just doesn’t happen, and citizenship is limited to those with long and deep roots in those countries. If you’re a recent or even third of fourth generation immigrant to Europe, Russia and Australia you’re marginalized — your religion and customs are quaint as long as they don’t grow or gain momentum, then they’re dangerous and the laws start getting passed.
But if you listen closely to what’s happening in Europe, France especially, you’ll find Secularism is finally being acknowledged as their True Religion. France’s constitution guarantees a Secular State, therefore there can be no religion. The new European Union constitution will, when it has been written, make sure no religion will have influence over the state or over the citizens of the state. This is why Catholic Poland, Italy and Spain are taking so long to ratify the constitution, these three countries may inevitably get some concessions based solely on the “historical relevancy” of Christianity, but if you’re a Sikh living in Europe and you want your kids wearing their head dresses at school you might want to start pricing overseas moving companies.
Secular States are more likely to become fascist, that’s the problem. Take France as an example. Right now it is illegal for a student in a public school to wear a religious headdress, as a penalty the child will be sent home until they’re willing to come to school without it. But what if the child refuses? Does that child get suspended? Expelled? Lose their right to a state sponsored education? How far does it have to go before that child, or their parents, is jailed? Not far at all. What if all Muslim children refuse to acknowledge the law? How long before the state ups the penalty? If there is civil disobedience, how long before the majority demand the laws and penalties be expanded beyond the classroom?
Or, conversely, if the public school version of the law is successful, how long before it’s applied to areas outside the schools? If children inside schools are so uncomfortable having religious clothing and symbols in their classrooms that laws must be passed to protect them, how long before enough people complain about religious symbols outside of school until laws are passed to protect them?
In India you are free to worship, and that freedom is protected by The State. There are some recurring tensions between specific groups, but India is quickly moving beyond the murderous strife of the past and is now allowing The State to settle disputes. To a certain extent Canada and the Americans are on the same road as Europe. In Canada and in the United States there can be no mention in Public Schools of Christianity at Christmas, the Ten Commandments cannot be posted in court houses, even though they form the basis for all of the Western legal systems. But we haven’t made Secularism our State Religion yet. What we have done, or are on the road to doing, is creating a Multicultural Society in which the dominant culture is the one least revered. But still, if an American or Canadian child wants to wear a Cross, so be it, same with a Sikh’s head wrap, a Muslim’s Hijab or the Jewish Skullcap.
It’s widely misunderstood that the American Constitution protects the State from Religion, when it’s actually the other way round. The American Constitution protects Religion from the State. When the Great Thinkers wrote the American Constitution they were remembering the religious persecution which drove them away from Europe in the first place, so they created a legal document protecting All Religions from State persecution. Here in Canada we have a document — the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — which guarantees our Right to practise any religion we wish. [aside: seeing that our country has only had a constitution and a Charter since 1982 we’re still trying to figure out exactly what all of this multiculturalism thing means…].
But those types of documents are missing in Europe. They don’t understand the persecution suffered by the Jews, Muslims, Sikh’s and the rest are running from, because for the past 1500 years it has been Europe doing the persecuting so they still see nothing wrong with a few more laws limiting the ability of these peoples to worship their Gods inside Europe.
Ultimately it seems that while America claims to be spreading democracy across the Middle East in an effort to protect itself, Europe is limiting the role of democratic freedom inside its borders in an effort to save Europeans from the rest of the world.
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I’m Canadian, it’s what we do. Off the ice.