The formal imposition on Monday of the French ban on the full-face veil, which led to the prompt arrest of two women protesting the law, has been accompanied by the usual government invocations of French values, as well as issues of security and gender equality.
But there’s no question about the real purpose of this giant step backward — or of an earlier law banning Muslim veils in schools, or the “debates” organized by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party, Union for a Popular Movement, on “French identity” and secularism. They are all cynical attacks on Islam, the religion of about a tenth of France’s population, to curry favor with France’s increasingly anti-immigrant right wing.
Barring the niqab from government buildings, public services, streets and entertainment venues has been the most passionately debated of these measures, with some arguing that it is a symbol of the subjugation of women. But only a tiny handful of France’s five million to six million Muslims ever don the full veil, and their decision to do so is patently not the business of the government or the police.
The ban serves only to encourage the spread of Muslim-bashing in France and elsewhere in Europe.
The New York Times (April 13)
Getting the budget done
In a dramatic, near-midnight Friday finish, the White House and congressional leaders averted a shutdown of the federal government by reaching belated agreement on a 2011 budget.
In the end, Republicans and Democrats agreed to $38.5 billion in cuts, slightly more than President Barack Obama’s initial proposal of $33 billion. While the accord slashes a long list of programs, the military will receive $5 billion more — not less — in the deal that will fund the government through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year.
One political winner was Speaker John A. Boehner; the Ohio Republican was able to keep under control the tea party elements in his House majority who had sought cuts up to $100 billion. Obama also came out looking good for holding firm against the extreme cost-cutting demands while maintaining government operations.
The American people were winners, up to a point, since their government kept functioning.
The only way for the nation’s leaders to settle the budget crisis once and for all is through calm and responsible deliberation, and not before midnight.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (April 14)