The French are probably the United States’ most exasperating allies. And if taking a sardonic view of French foibles is easy, it’s because they so often make it easy.
The latest case in point is the country’s bizarre ban, recently lifted, then (in some areas) re-enforced, on the so-called “burkini” — the full-body swimsuit worn by many conservative Muslim women in respect of traditional religious codes of modesty.
The ban was imposed, according to Prime Minister Manuel Valls, in the name of freedom and human rights.
France keeps sending the rest of the world signals that when it comes to issues of freedom, the government … well, sometimes just doesn’t get it.
Take last year’s tragic Charlie Hebdo murders, when a pair of French Islamist attackers stormed the satire magazine’s Paris offices and killed 12 people in retaliation for cartoons mocking Muhammad. The cartoons, though almost unarguably reckless and aggressively provocative, certainly fell under the category of free expression … a principle the French government would reinforce after the massacre by cracking down on “hate speech.” (It was clear this meant hateful speech by Muslims; speech about Muslims was another matter.)
The burkini, according to Prime Minister Vall, represents Muslim women’s “enslavement” — the credibility of which would perhaps be easier to argue if France’s way of “emancipating” Muslim women from this alleged bondage weren’t to deny them the choice of wearing burkinis on public beaches, under penalty of law. (A video of French police forcing a woman on a beach in Nice to remove part of her upper covering has been making the Internet rounds.)
To paraphrase a familiar saying: Some are born free, some achieve freedom, and some have freedom thrust upon them. Muslim women on many French beaches are going to be liberated from their traditional garb — whether they want to be or not.
This despite a Friday ruling by France’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, that the ban imposed in some 30 French communities violated “fundamental freedoms … freedom to come and go, the freedom of conscience and personal liberty.”
What’s the French word for “Duh”?
Nonetheless, mayors of some coastal towns say the ban will stay in effect in their communities. Muslim women in those towns have the choice of exercising the “freedom” the French are forcing down their throats, or going to jail.
Isn’t liberty a beautiful thing?