Correspondence

Islam in France

Letter From Paris

When the French historians of our epoch apply their magnifying glasses to the momentous developments of the first two months of this year, most of them, I think, are likely to conclude that the decisive factor leading to the historic National Assembly vote of February 10—when a massive majority of 494 deputies, compared with only 36 opposed (with 31 abstentions), voted to ban the wearing of “manifestly ostensible” religious insignia in state schools—was an instinctive, gut reaction to an act of Islamic provocation that had occurred three weeks before.

The French, as is well known, are a people of rouspéteurs, of viscerally constituted malcontents and gripers, ever ready to “descend into the street” in order to give public expression to their grievances.  So ingrained a national habit has this desire to let off sonorous steam become that, nowadays, hardly a week goes by in Paris without the staging of one or more demonstrations—regarded by the police as a sacrosanct “right” enjoyed by French citizens—which effectively tie traffic into static knots on major boulevards and streets on both sides of the Seine.  Compared with the huge turnouts that disgruntled schoolteachers, railway and other trade-union workers, public functionaries, overworked hospital nurses, ecologists, environmentalists, and antinuclear Greens of every kind, as well as small armies...

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