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Tuesday, 12 April 2011

France and the Burka

The trouble with France is that it has no liberals.

Historically, half the population has favoured authoritarian right-wing regimes and the other half authoritarian left-wing regimes. The result is a centralised, powerful and entrenched bureaucracy which knows that if it minutely regulates everything - you can't breathe without a permis in France - both right and left will probably be pleased with what you are doing. Officious and small-minded bureaucrats know that they have jobs for life, as do the armies of police required to enforce the rules.

So banning burquas is nothing out of the ordinary. It is part of the French way of life. So too is entrapment and denunciation.

I recall a speed trap in France set up on a small slip road joining one motorway to another, hidden behind bushes on a curve of the road. They were flagging drivers into a lay-by and fining them on the spot. The lay-by was so small and crowded that when they had taken your cash, you had to reverse out back on to the motorway. It clearly did not occur to anyone doing the shake-down that this might be rather more dangerous than driving down the slip road above the speed limit.

As for denunciation, it has both fascist and communist roots, and has had terrible consequences. French Jews had little chance in a denunciatory culture.

The annual round of strikes and accompanying street demonstrations always take the form of generalised (and hysterical) denunciations.

I think the burqua is a form of dress enforced on women by unpleasant authoritarian, insecure, hate-filled men. I have no sympathy whatsoever for these men. Just imagine what it is like to have to walk around in a burqua on a hot or humid day!

The trouble is that the French burqua ban is about one lot of authoritarians seeking to impose its not-very-well-thought-out will on another lot. True, there are precedents in the ban on the veil in Ataturk's Turkey and in other countries seeking to break with an oppressive past. But France is not trying to break with anything. It is just more of the same: No Liberty, no Equality, no Fraternity

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