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April 15, 2011

Nicolas Sarkozy’s Desperate Campaign

Roy Meachum

France’s ban against Muslim women wearing a face veil went into effect Monday. I’m flabbergasted that this was made into an anti-Islam move.


With polls kicking Nicolas Sarkozy to death in face of the coming election, the French president has taken a very low road to keep his office; actually, there was no need. He could have followed the principle established in the French Revolution that established France as a secular state. The concern then was not Islam but the Roman Catholic Church that dominated the country. After all, a Huguenot became King Henri IV only after embracing Catholicism, allegedly saying “Paris is well worth the price of a mass.”


The degree of the Vatican’s domination is literally incomprehensible in this age of fading mainline Christian faith. In boarding school, I was attended by a covey of French sisters, who were forced into exile by laws forbidding them to wear religious habits. They were nuns of the congregation of the Presentation of Mary, decidedly not an American order.


Curiously, in pursuing what is known as the anti-Burqa law, M. Sarkozy and his supporters never cited their Constitution’s preamble: “France shall be an indivisible, SECULAR, democratic and social Republic. It shall insure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion.” I capitalized “secular” to make my point. The latest version was adopted in 1958 to create France’s Fifth Republic and it follows earlier constitutions in not mentioning a deity. (By the way, it was the Third Republic that was terminated by World War II, which sent the nuns to New Orleans.)


The French leaders do their nation a disservice by criticizing rising Islam as reason for forbidding the niqab that has only slits for the eyes and the burqa, which demands a mesh over the face, including eyes. School girls were forbidden last year to wear ijāb, the hair covering that has become prevalent in Middle East countries and popular in France. When I first went to Cairo there were very few visible.


When the ban against facial coverings passed into law 12 months ago, a single member of the French Assembly voted against it. Joblessness has soared in Europe, as well as this country. Furthermore, partially by design, followers of Islam possess little political power despite the Fifth Republic’s high sounding words in the Constitution. Before Americans stone Paris for hypocrisy, they must be reminded that slavery existed and prejudice flourished when our official documents proclaimed otherwise.


M. Sarkozy’s desperation for another term goes a long way to explain his government’s threat to bomb Libya all by itself, pulling along London and Washington. With fierce determination to victoriously effect a change, it’s not hard to understand why French soldiers appeared to capture Ivory Coast rejected President Laurent Gbagbo; Paris put on an elaborate show to reject the charge. Still, behind hands, everybody “knows” the reality.


The French president latest gambit – joined by English Prime Minister David Cameron – argues against NATO’s policy since Washington withdrew managing Libya’s air strikes and backing of the opposition. Actually, the two were hawks hustling President Barack Obama to make a decision to join them.


Nicolas Sarkozy led the so-called anti-Burqa ban on strictly political basis; the anti-Muslim campaign was started by a Communist mayor in the country’s north that remains strongly Christian. Protestant or Catholic? I don’t know.


But I recognize dirty politics that I stumble across. What a pity that French presidential campaigning dropped to the depths of hurting six million men, women and children because of their faith, as they say “Quelle domage!”


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