Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Integrating Ethnic Minorities

If you've heard about the recent French vote to ban Muslim headscarves (& other religious adornments) in schools, then this article in The Economist will be an interesting read. The manner in which a nation incorporates "outside" cultures into more dominant cultures says a lot about the openness of that culture. I've mentioned a bit about French attitudes about Christmas (no outward displays of their apparently strong beliefs). This Ecnomist article sort of confirms that. Basically, everything ends up being lily-white (double-entendre meant). In France there seems to be no desire to see different cultures in public space. In the UK, however, society has many outward displays of different cultures. Of course, this may have lead to some un-desirable things, like race riots and the like. I have to learn more about the UK's legal approach to minority rights, but from what I know, it makes a lot more sense than France's. When it comes down to it, not allowing one to wear her culture on her shoulders (or head) can only lead to other sorts of subjugation. The linked article goes into some discussion about providing fodder for extremist mindsets. While that may take some time, I think it's clear this will happen. Isolation isn't the way to go here. While this French bill proposes to outlaw all religious adornments in schools, it's clear this is aimed at Islam.

Assimilation into the wider culture is one thing. Bleaching of one's culture is wholly different and will lead to many unintended consequences.

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