Of Frogs, Burkhas, and Boiling Pots

Bold action, from the French!

Something is not right when the French take a stronger stand against the enemies of civilization than the United States does.

Of course, the French have a much bigger problem in their daily lives than we do.  The United States has a few percentage points of Muslims, most of whom are of the moderate variety and have integrated themselves pretty well into our economic mainstream.  In contrast, not only is the population of France now 10% Muslim, but the culture of the banlieues in which they live has been lifted almost intact from the most repressive and benighted corners of the Islamic world.

We talk about the importance of immigrants assimilating; in France, they hardly even know what that term means.  Large numbers of Muslim youth who have lived their entire lives in France cannot so much as speak French; is it any wonder that they can't find jobs and have no place in the national culture?  Of course, the fact that barely a third of French imams speak French doesn't help.

So the nation of France has created a sizable sub-nation of people who don't understand what it is to be French, don't see themselves as French beyond their passports, and have no desire to become French in any way.  That's poetic justice in a way - the French-speaking Canadians have tried very hard to carve a French-only cultural enclave out of English-speaking Canada at great financial and psychological cost to the rest of Canada.  Turnabout may be fair play, but the French probably don't see it that way - though, to be fair, the French Canadians aren't trying to kill the English ones.

For any nation, harboring this many unemployable, separatist residents would be a severe existential hazard.  The people of France have been concerned about the problem for a long time, but it was only with the riots of the past few years that France's leaders have reluctantly come to realize, as President Sarkozy put it, that the Muslim suburbs need "to be cleaned up with a pressure washer."

Starting with law enforcement is always a good idea, but to change a culture, symbolism sometimes matters even more.  Sarkozy's government has struck a resounding symbolic blow with its vote to ban the burkha from French public places.

Burkhas: Not for Civilized Company

The sight of anonymous funereal shrouds walking the streets of Paris is not just disturbing to chic Parisians.  It is a living, breathing symbol of Islamic separateness from French and Western culture and traditions - a way of walling oneself off from the world.

Many of the thus-secluded Muslim women are forced to dress that way by their husbands or fathers, an infringement of their rights by any definition.  A few choose it themselves - but that's arguably even worse, as they consciously choose to reject the country they are living in.

Not French.
And not American either.

A burkha represents the polar opposite of everything France stands for.

Instead of "Liberty," it symbolizes subservience - to the misogyny of a Koran which teaches a woman is worth half a man, to an infallible clerical hierarchy with its all-encompassing and immutable sharia laws, and to the inhuman teachings of a barbaric prophet and his imaginary god.

Instead of "Equality," it illustrates the teaching that Muslims are responsible only for themselves and have no obligation to respect the rights or preferences of others no matter where they may be.

Instead of "Fraternity," it enforces the teaching of the Koran in Surah 3:28:

Let the believers not make friends with infidels in preference to the faithful-he that does this has nothing to hope for from God-except in self-defense.

If infidels can't see your face, they're not likely to want to make friends with you, thus preserving Muslim women from unwholesome temptation!

As mullahs and imams have proclaimed since Mohammed walked the earth, it is the duty of Muslims to spread their religion until it's the only one around.  The whole point of Islam is to make other believers feel threatened, inferior, no longer in control of their own lives - in the hopes that they'll "repent" and follow the way of Allah.

Islam has always commemorated its victories over other peoples by demolishing their holy places and replacing them with a mosque.

The site that once held Solomon's and Herod's Temple now bears the Muslim Dome of the Rock.  What once was the pagan Kaaba in Mecca is now the holiest site in Islam.  What once was the largest church in Christendom, Constantinople's Hagia Sophia, was converted into a mosque until Mustafa Kemal Ataturk threw the imams out and converted it to a museum.

We see echoes of the same philosophy in the determination to build a mosque at Ground Zero in Manhattan.  In secular France, the French worship their personal liberty, beautiful women, and fine fashions; the dour burkha is a walking assault on all that the French hold dear, and both the French and the Muslims plainly see it so.

For France to ban the burkha is a small, long-delayed step, but a necessary one.  The Frogs have been in the proverbial pot of water long enough, and are starting to jump out before they boil; high time, and more power to them!

Next, perhaps the French can start to take action against other Islamic barbarities - against female genital mutilation, say, or against murderous "honor" killings found everywhere in Islam from Canada to the United States to England to, yes, France.  With a little luck, some French commonsense and strong, determined responses will prove to be contagious.

Maybe we'll catch on here, if not this November, then in 2012!

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments
Great article, and you raise a point I had not previously thought of. The mosque at Ground Zero represents something different to them than it does to us. To them, in keeping with their religious history, it represents a military victory on that spot. Outrageous.
July 27, 2010 8:26 AM

The "Frogs"? Really?

The French Canadians (Quebecois and Acadian) are in a bit of a different situation from the French Muslims in that they didn't come to the nation of Canada -- Canada came to them. We may as well lump the Acadian cousins, the Cajuns, into that situation (substituting the USA for Canada, although in truth they've lived under the government of no less than three different nations without having moved an inch in the last 250 years). The French Islamics chose to come to France from elsewhere. I hope we can agree that there is a difference between wanting to maintain a cultural identity that pre-existed whatever nation is running the show in that nation's current land, and wanting to do the same after having moved to a new place knowing that the culture was different.

I'm in agreement about many of the abuses inherent in Islam as it often exists today. How many of these same accusations could have been accurately levied against Christianity at one time or another? I'm pretty sure Christians also converted the holy buildings of other religions to churches, for example.

July 27, 2010 11:00 AM
Yes, there are various abuses of human rights in the history of Christianity, from the Spanish Inquisition to the Salem witch trials.

None of these have happened any time remotely recently, and as we've previously written, there should be a statute of limitations on grudges of one lifetime.


Islam, in contrast, has barbarity in its past, its present, and also its hoped-for future, in total contrast to all relevant branches of Christianity as well as all the other major world religions. As a religion, it needs to grow up, as Christianity, Judaism, and the rest did a long time ago. Until that happens, Islam is not fit to have around.
July 27, 2010 11:13 AM
Werebat said:"I'm pretty sure Christians also converted the holy buildings of other religions to churches, for example."

Strangely enough Christians tend in most cases to view structures of other religions as tainted when it comes to secondary habitation. When they do use such structures it is usually as a stop over while construction is being done on a new building. Even when occupying a non-religious building there are purification rituals that are undertaken to prepare the building for use by the congregation.
July 27, 2010 12:16 PM
"I'm pretty sure Christians also converted the holy buildings of other religions to churches"

Try as I might, I can't think of one instance.

Christians (long ago) might have ransacked or knocked down holy buildings, but I can't recall any instances where they made a specific point of erecting their own on that spot.
July 27, 2010 12:26 PM
Several ancient Roman temples have been converted to churches, for starters. The Temple of Fortuna Virilis, for example, was converted into the church of S. Maria Egiziaca. Comments that this "doesn't count" necessitate an explanation of just what it is about converting places of worship from one religion to another that is so terrible.

In any event, I have long thought that Islam was a religion acting out its younger years, and one that by and large really does need to grow up (I suspect that in time it will). Christianity and even Judaism had their fair share of horrid actions, but I'll agree that most of them were in the distant past (Judaism is a bit of a special case, not having really had the POWER to commit many atrocities for a long, long time).

The connection, to me, is clear -- by and large, these truly regrettable events happened when the religion in question was the "official" religion of the state. Modern Christianity tends to dominate only those societies where there is a clear separation of church and state. Modern Judaism... will be interesting to watch (Israel has some important decisions to make). Modern Islam tends to be the official state religion wherever it dominates, and very close to the political power of the state.

It seems to me that any of the world's major religions have more or less equal POTENTIAL to become heralds of evil. That Islam is currently closer to that potential than the others is a statement I can probably agree with. When it is ultimately neutered (as Christianity has been in the vast majority of nations where it dominates) by a separation of church and state, it should grow and mature, as it will have to.
July 28, 2010 10:04 AM
Everything you're talking about (converted temples, "horrid actions") happened under Catholicism, not Christianity. There is a distinct and profound difference, and no I'm not splitting hairs.

This would be hotly debated by most people, who would point to "Christianity" as covering both Catholicism and Protestantism because both recognize Jesus as the Son of God. Those people are wrong. Jesus being the Son of God is barely relevant.

Christianity - that is, to "follow Christ" - formed from the Early Church and the direction of the two disciples Paul and Peter. It's origin are completely and totally aligned with "Christ" Jesus being the salvation of mankind. Belief in and acceptance of that being the only way to achieve salvation. "Works" in one's life are not important. And the affiliation with a sect or leader are unimportant.

Catholicism formed as an offshoot of Christianity, the concept created from the writings of Ignatius about 100 years after the Early Church began. The origins of it are NOT aligned with "Christ" Jesus or "salvation" as the central important. The term "Catholic" means "universal" because Ignatius' wanted to emphasize that it should be everywhere. In the spirit of that commitment, the Catholic church formed and began developing features that promoted a closeness with the Catholic sect and its leaders. Catholic leaders - priests, bishops, cardinals and popes - are integral to the parishioner process. The leader's blessings, interpretations, and words are of parallel importance to Christ's Words (ie. The Bible). The urge for the Catholic Church to be everywhere led to aggressive missionary efforts, which in turn led to many atrocities. Think Jihad. Works, demonstrating ones commitment to the sect, are HIGHLY important to Catholic salvation.

I could go on and on about the practical and theoretical differences which led to a starkly different history between Catholics and Christians. Bottom line is that the Catholic church does not "follow Christ" in virtually any of the ways the Early Church defined and modern Protestants follow. I do not say this as a Protestant. I say this as someone who understands the history and doctrine of both.

I'm pointing all this out because I'm tired of people lumping them together out of convenience. The misconception is everywhere.
July 28, 2010 10:37 AM
Ah -- any negative examples are not "true Christianity". An old canard. Would you accept the same from a Moslem?

You make me laugh, lfon.

July 28, 2010 10:53 AM
Laugh away. Your inability to debate what I said, point by point, tells me everything I need.

"Negativity" isn't the issue. There is plenty of negativity in Christianity - I could talk about it at length. Since my opponent doesn't understand the paradigm, I'll save my energy.

Yes, I would gladly accept the same from a Muslim (or Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, Jew, etc). There is very little understanding of the history or doctrine of the world's religions. The mainstream media and the education system are largely to blame. Liberals, operating in both places, have lumped religions together, fudged the facts and lied about the intentions. Children and consumers are deceived. Fictional stories are made real. All so that they can conveniently say "hey, we're no better than them because Christians killed people too." Everyone nods contently.

The original point of all this, I think, was that Islam has not been the only religion to aggressively convert unbelievers. That is true. The Catholics have matched them act for act.
July 28, 2010 11:05 AM
Some centuries ago, the Islamic conquerors demolished a temple to the Hundu god Ram and erected a mosque on the site. Not too long ago, a Hindu mob destroyed it. The site is now vacant. The Hindu majority vows to put the temple of Ram back; they have the plans.


for a summary of the situation. Indian supreme court ruled that the mosque should not be destroyed; Hindus destroyed it anyway. The article says 2,000 people were killed in the rioting when the mosque was destroyed.
July 28, 2010 6:03 PM
You make many of the arguments I suggest for why the burka should be banned in the U.S. I live in Texas, and I am deeply saddened and unfortable with the fact that women are walking around in burkas. This is ridiculous and fundamentally opposed to what it means to be an American.
July 30, 2010 6:28 PM
Islamics do not care what it means to be an American. All they care about is power. The power that means the most to them is power over women. Too few women realize that.
July 30, 2010 6:37 PM
lfon, it's possible that I'm simply not intelligent enough to understand the subtle nuances of your argument, and therefore woefully unable to even grasp it, let alone debate it.

However, from what I'm seeing, I've seen more thorough arguments that Catholicism is not a form of Christianity, and seen them debunked. Your argument appears to be that one cannot follow Christ AND the Church, so anyone who tries to follow Christ through the teachings of the Catholic church isn't Christian. One could make the argument that anyone who follows the teachings of anyone else regarding Christ's message and directives is also not a Christian (and Protestantism is full of such people).

As they say, "He who makes the definitions wins the argument". If you define "Christian" as "one who believes in Christ and follows His teachings according to their own understanding ONLY", then most who call themselves "Catholic" (or "Protestant") are not in fact Christian.

Meanwhile, of more relevance to the article is the important of the separation of Church and State. I'll concede that MOST abuses inflicted on the world by Christianity were in fact inflicted by the Catholic church, but that has much more to do with the Catholic church having more power than a greater tendency towards abuse. I would expect that the Catholic church has also done more good than any other branch of Christianity, again simply because it has had more time and more ability to do so.

When I stop to consider the job that Protestants have done when they have been similarly in control of or affiliated with the State, the first two that spring to mind are the Church of England and the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. I think we can agree that neither of these can boast much about their lack of abuses.

Again, the best way to ensure that religions of any type sit down and behave is to politically neuter them. Most of the Western world knows this, having learned the hard way (although there are always those willfully ignorant of history); the Islamic world has yet to learn, but will, I think, in time.

July 31, 2010 7:38 AM
"The best way to ensure that religions of any type sit down and behave is to politically neuter them."

Yes, in the sense of neutering them from having formal political power as organizations. It is, of course, right and proper for them to be able to try to persuade their members or the general public with their opinions, just like anyone else can.

Islam has no concept of separation of church and state, which is a large part of the problem. Until most Muslims view their religion and their government as two different things, Islam will fit badly if at all in civilized countries.
July 31, 2010 7:47 AM
"One could make the argument that anyone who follows the teachings of anyone else regarding Christ's message and directives is also not a Christian (and Protestantism is full of such people)."

Exactly right. There are many people that call themselves Christians but are anything but.

Recent polls have shown that upwards of 75% of Americans self-identify as "Christian". A cursory glance at our society shows that that is simply insane, by any objective measure of Christianity.

"one who believes in Christ and follows His teachings" is right but not "according to their own understanding only". It is perfectly legitimate to say that their are many differences in how one interprets the Bible from Christian to Christian, and I have no problem with that. But there are virtually no differences in how DOCTRINE is interpreted. The nuanced interpretations are what Christians refer to as "standards". Doctrine and standards are very different. Christians certainly differ on standards but never on doctrine. For example, a doctrine is "how do I get to heaven?" while a standard is "is drinking alcohol wrong?".

The Puritans of the Bay Colony are about the only example of Christian abuse I can think of. Thanks for reminding me of that one. I would suggest that there were significant differences between that abuse - mostly internal abuse aimed at their own followers - than the abuse of Catholicism and Islam that invaded and abused others outside of their religion. Still, good example.

I flew off the handle a bit on my last response, for which I apologize. I feel like this issue is a lost cause.
July 31, 2010 7:50 AM
Petrarch, agreed on all counts.

lfon, what is the defining difference between doctrine and standards? You say that "how do I get to heaven?" is a doctrine, yet there are those who call themselves Christians (Christadelphians, for example) who do not believe that they will ever "get to heaven" because heaven is not a place where human souls ever go. Are Christadelphians, in your view, "not Christian"?

The Catholic view is that there needs to be some official body to keep everyone on the same page regarding what they are supposed to be believing and doing in order to best follow Christ. To my knowledge they never claim to know better than Christ, or that papal decisions may override Christ's directives. I could be wrong, and even if I'm not I can't claim to know that the Catholics are right, but I do think there is more to their viewpoint than simple powermongering (although I do think that's part of it).

As for the Puritans, remember the barbaric way they treated the Quakers in their midst:

On the 22d of May, 1661, finding the hanging business had been somewhat overdone, the Court, with vindictive epithet, enacted a new statute, wherein it is ordered that Quakers, both men and women, are to "be stripped naked from the middle upwards, and tied to a cart's tail and whipped through the town;" also to "be branded with the letter R on their left shoulder," and "the constables of the several towns are empowered.to impress cart, oxen, and other assistance for the execution of this order."

(Upsall) Between about 1660 and 1664 in Massachusetts twenty-two Quakers had been banished on pain of death, three martyred, three had their right ear cut off, one had been burned in the hand with a letter H, three had been ordered by the court to be sent to Barbadoes as slaves, thirty-one had received six hundred and fifty stripes administered with extreme cruelty, £1044 of property had been taken, and another was martyred in 1661.

(Quoted from http://www.mayflowerfamilies.com/enquirer/quakers.htm )

Public stripping, whipping, branding, burning, mutilation, seizure of property, selling into slavery, and execution. This is what comes of granting formal political power to religions -- ANY religions.

We learned the hard way. Those nations currently dominated by Islam will also probably also have to learn by "peeing on the electric fence", as it were.

An interesting study would be to see what triggered the severance of church and state throughout most of the West. Could such a situation be recreated, encouraged, or simply allowed to happen elsewhere? I feel it is probably one of those things that cannot be imposed from without.
July 31, 2010 10:38 AM
"Are Christadelphians, in your view, "not Christian"?"

Well, you're description of them is incorrect.

First, there are VERY few Christadelphians. So little, they are almost disregarded as existing, especially when you consider that their beliefs undermine their existence.

They don't have a central set of beliefs as written down or passed along from pastor to parishioner or from parent to child. They believe that everyone, children included, should read and interpret the Bible for themselves with no help from others. In a sense, I respect that belief myself because of the good intentions that it's based on. While well-intended, it's very impractical.

As to their belief in heaven, it's more complicated than that. They believe in "heaven on earth". Converts will not go To Some Other Place but Jesus will return to earth and build his "heaven" here.

When I said "how do you get to heaven?" I was referring to methods of salvation. That is absolutely, without question, a core doctrine of Christianity (if it isn't, nothing is). The Christadelphians absolutely believe in salavation by faith, through Jesus' death on the cross.

The Christadelphians are definitely Christians and definitely "follow Christ" and are "Christ like". In fact, they are more Christian than most American Protestants in their intent and practice.

The word "Christian" does not necessarily refer to:

a) anyone that claims to be,
b) any group with a variation of "Christ" in their name, or
c) anyone that quotes portions of the Bible or refers to Jesus now and then.

Words MEAN things. What does "Christian" mean? I've give my definition and stand by it. Within most theological circles, my definition is correct.

My question for you - what IS a Christian?
July 31, 2010 10:54 AM
I understand the Christadelphian belief in an earthly salvation, but I think calling it "heaven on earth" is misleading as Christadelphians DO believe in "Heaven". They don't think humans ever get to go there, though. Clearly you can see that their envisioning of "heaven" differs quite a bit from what most Christians (if we can call them that) mean when they say "heaven". Consciousness after death in Heaven with God, versus a period of unconsciousness (after death) followed by resurrection (on a remade earthly paradise).

You may consider the distinction unimportant. Salvation is offered either way. You seem to be hinting that you feel the difference between these two beliefs to be a difference of standards, not doctrine -- and yet we both know there are those Christian groups who would excommunicate those who held to one or the other if it didn't fit in with their belief system (the Christadelphians may in fact be one of those groups; I am unaware of what they would do to an Ecclesia member who asserted their belief in consciousness in Heaven after death).

A "Christian" would be a follower of Christ. Arguments about who follows Christ BETTER, more effectively, more authentically, etc. tend to be unwinnable past a certain point because Christ isn't here in an obvious way, correcting those who have it wrong.

Of possible relevance, I do have a conviction that one does not need to be of above average intelligence and a Biblical scholar in order to be a Christian, or to achieve salvation; I have no proof of this, it's just that the alternative doesn't make any sense to me. I could be wrong, but I hope not.
July 31, 2010 11:48 AM
To be fair to Christadelphians, the Bible actually isn't clear "where" heaven is. I don't believe that they are rejecting core doctrine by having their views. The book of Revelations refers to Jesus coming back to earth, destroying everything and rebuilding His Kingdom.

"we both know there are those Christian groups who would excommunicate those who held to one or the other if it didn't fit in with their belief system"

Someone once said "one of biggest problems with Christianity is Christians." It's true.

There is a fairly clear list of core doctrines that most Christian theologists, across many denominations, would agree on.
July 31, 2010 12:13 PM
"There is a fairly clear list of core doctrines that most Christian theologists, across many denominations, would agree on."

Any person who claims that the majority of those who call themselves "Christian" aren't REALLY Christians must realize that just because MOST people in a group are in accord on something doesn't mean that thing is true.

A very important question for anyone professing to adhere to any religion is how they know what they are supposed to believe and do. There are "sola scriptura" Christians who believe that the ONLY authority is the Bible, but you yourself see the trouble with everyone reading and interpreting the Bible on their own (even assuming a common belief in Biblical inerrancy).
July 31, 2010 12:33 PM
"Any person who claims that the majority of those who call themselves "Christian" aren't REALLY Christians must realize that just because MOST people in a group are in accord on something doesn't mean that thing is true"

Yes, but then I'm talking about a very short list. There aren't many core doctrines. Please don't ask me to name them. I need to enjoy my Saturday. :)
July 31, 2010 12:35 PM
Enjoy your Saturday, then. I'm out of the country tomorrow, and will be gone for some time. Best wishes.
July 31, 2010 12:41 PM
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