But even setting aside the alienation this law will bring on moderate Muslims during an already difficult time, it seems to me that French legislators have missed entirely the point of public education. I have no problem with private colleges making their own rules as regards dress and so on. Private clubs can run their own shows (to a certain extent). But surely public education is about taking all children, as they are, and providing a learning environment for them, without saying ‘you must obey our dress code’. That’s why uniforms have no place in public schools. If parents want to raise their children according to their traditions, that is their choice, and it is not right for the State to implement laws preventing them from doing so. Rather than it being the responsibility of individuals to conform to what makes the State comfortable, it is the State’s responsibility to accept the diverse religious traditions of its citizens (provided they do not infringe on the freedoms of others). You cannot instil tolerance by telling people to camouflage their differences. Instead, we must ask our youth to embrace diversity.
From January 1 2004, the Irish government plans to ban smoking in all workplaces – including pubs and restaurants. The idea behind the law, of course, is to protect non-smokers from the dangers of passive smoking. But hang on, I thought, don’t non-smokers have a choice as to whether they enter a smoking area or not? Don’t they give up their right to complain when they make that crucial choice to sit with smokers? It was only later that I realised this was a smokescreen of an argument.
‘You say you believe there is one love in life for each of us – this is just not true. Can you believe that God means for millions of really young people to go on through life alone because a war robbed them of their first loves?… The world is full of lonely people – people capable of happiness and of giving happiness and love is not a magic touch of cosmic dust that preordains two people and two people only for each other. Love can grow slowly out of warmth and companionship and none of us should be afraid to seek it.’
So what if the UN didn’t give the go-ahead for the invasion of Iraq? What is the UN? A group of countries. What was the American-led coalition which invaded Iraq? A group of countries – democracies, fighting against a brutal dictatorship. The 1999 Kosovo war was just as ‘illegal’ as the invasion of Iraq, but you didn’t have hordes of lefties going on and on about its ‘illegality’ to the extent that you still have over the Iraq conflict. Why? Because liberals supported the idea of stopping Milosevic’s campaign of ethnic cleansing. In that case, even for lefties, the end justified the means. But, by 2003, Saddam Hussein had done many, many things to rival the evil of Milosevic’s genocide. And yet, somehow, if the West decided to do anything about Saddam, it was being ‘illegal’.