Cultural diversity in France

I am in Paris as the American representative to a UNESCO conference on cultural diversity. Approximately twenty scholars and public figures will be attending, but I expect to have the strongest sympathies for cultural free trade.

From my point of view the timing for this conference could not be better. The French like to charge that American mass culture has no respect for diversity or minority points of view. But recently a French panel recommended a ban on religious attire in French public schools. Headscarves, skullcaps, and “large” crosses would not be allowed. Apparently sufficiently small crosses would be OK, Stars of David would be OK too, again provided that they are not too conspicuous. Many people in France expect that this measure will pass into law, Chirac just endorsed it. French Muslims, of course, are irate. Note that many French Jewish schoolchildren have been afraid to wear religious attire to public school for some time, mostly for fear of being beat up. Randall Parker offers commentary and numerous links on all of these issues.

The French also failed this week to rewrite the veto powers written into the Nice agreement of 2000. More specifically, the French and Germans cannot push through any EU reforms they wish. Instead, the Polish and the Spanish, both allies of the U.S. I might add, keep enough voting rights to have veto power. This development, of course, favors the rights of the smaller countries, although there is now talk of a financial punishment for Poland and Spain. Now I am waiting to see what happens when one of the smaller EU countries fails to meet the three percent rule for deficits, just as the French and Germans have failed to do.


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