Freedom of Religion and Human Rights

Today the French Senate passed the bill banning the burqua or more accurately niqab in public. The number of women wearing the veil that covers their hair and entire face is small. Only 2000 women would be concerned. But they can face fines if seen in public wearing the niqab and men caught forcing them to wear it will face a year in prison.
When the debate around the mosque near Ground Zero is splitting the USA, it is interesting to remember that both countries are founded on two very distinct principles.
France’s most cherished value is its secular foundation. Islam is now the second religion in France and according to the most recent information the number of Muslims is reaching 5.5 millions for a population of almost 65 millions residents.
On the other hand people flew to America for freedom of religion. 305 millions people live in the USA. Only 7 millions are Muslims.
The number of mosques in France is estimated at 1900 and we have 2368 in the USA.
Although opposition to the building of a mosque in New York City is loud I have the feeling it is much more about its location perceived as too close to Ground Zero than the opposition to Islam.
In France the passing of the bill can trigger violence toward mosques but also synagogues since Islam and Judaism cohabit with difficulty in France. We’ve heard of a few anti Islam incidents here in the USA but who contests our freedom of religion right?
That is a major difference with France where Islam and its practice are perceived as an obstacle to assimilation.
However this is in France that the largest petition against the stoning of an Iranian woman accused of adultery has started last month. French politicians and artists have engaged their names to protest the barbaric act of violence against women.
Paradox? Looks like it but if France has a hard time to deal with obnoxious signs of religion it is still the number one country fighting for human rights.

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