Those who think that the United States is ruled by a fascist junta, and who look to Europe to keep alight the dwindling flame of liberty, would do well to examine this item
in Reason's Hit and Run blog:
Maybe some Francophile (phone, even?) can 'splain it to me, but when a French presidential commission backs a ban on yarmulkes, crucifixes, head scarves, and other "obvious" symbols of religious belief from public buildings I gotta think the nation has gone insane.
The comments are even more edifying than the article. Jean-Bart, a Francophile fixture in Hit and Run's comments, patronizingly explains how the French had to destroy the village of liberty to save it:
Of course the problem is that people who wear these headscarves, called "foulards," are incredibly disruptive, and even violent. According to the French government's tracking of this, nearly ~2,500 incidents last year alone were attributed to people bullying women over not wearing them. French girls - Muslim or not - have been raped solely because they do not wear them. And this was in schools; I can't imagine what it's like to be a Muslim woman in France and have to deal with this issue outside of school.
This is much more than an issue of national identity or religious freedom; in fact, the entire subtext of this issue centers around certain elements of the Muslim community attempting to create state within a state (much as the Protestants attempted to do during the Wars of Religion). Included in that state would of course all the nightmares that come with theocracies.
Banning the foulard is one means of combatting this issue.
I do not know the exact number of Muslim immigrants in France but it is in the neighborhood of six million, one-tenth the country. Thus fewer than one in one thousand Muslim women have been the victim of foulard-inspired bullying -- and the number of perpetrators is presumably much smaller than the number of victims. But Jean-Bart believes that you can look at the foulard-wearers and tell that them folk are up to no good.
If Jean-Bart were just a French Nazi this wouldn't mean much; you can find all sorts of nuts on the web. What's scary is that he appears to think of himself as a liberal, and despises Le Pen and his right wing followers. If you think minorities are troublesome, and attempt to suppress their cultural self-expression, that's fringe Ku Kluxery in America -- but conventional wisdom in France.