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December 12, 2004



'when society decides that people's religion, rather than their class or gender, is the cultural fact that matters, power inevitably passes to the priests and the devout for whom religion does indeed matter most.'

It's not the fact that matters, but it is a fact.

For the last few years the secularist left in France has campaigned against the headscarf as 'a badge of fundamentalism' and supported a ban on it. Now in Holland, as described in Simon Kuper's article mentioned in your earlier post, following Van Gogh's killing, among other things, 'Women report having had their headscarves yanked off'.

Cohen's article is not a useful contribution to the debate. It ignores totally the way in which attacks on Islam can be a mask for attacks on a racial minority.



That last sentence is a perfect example of the perils of this form of legislation. What constitutes an "attack"? Why are existing legal safeguards inadequate to prevent it? In what way might they be supplemented so to do without curtailing free speech? What, in this context, constitutes a "minority" (after all, men are a statistical minority; will their self-image receive protection too?).

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