Published: Sun, 26 Mar 2017 00:00:00 -0400
Last Build Date: Sun, 26 Mar 2017 14:54:50 -0400
Fri, 10 Mar 2017 04:00:00 -0500
(image) A French police sniper accidentally fired a shot, injuring two people, during a speech by President Francois Hollande.
Thu, 09 Mar 2017 04:00:00 -0500
(image) The European Union parliament has voted to remove the immunity of French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen after a request from French prosecutors. The move allows Le Pen to be prosecuted under French law for publishing violent images. French officials are investigating Le Pen for posting images of executions committed by the Islamic State.
Mon, 27 Feb 2017 19:20:00 -0500Marine Le Pen of the anti-immigration, pro-welfare state National Front, is improving her standing in some French presidential polls—she is expected based on her polling performance so far to make it through the first round of elections, while a corruption scandal that rocked the candidacy of Republican candidate Francois Fillon has reduced his lead in head-to-head polling with Le Pen to a 12 points. In the most recent poll of the most likely run-off scenario, Fillon topped Le Pen 56 to 44. Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie, made it into the run-off against the incumbent Jacques Chirac, where the challenger was trounced 82 percent to 18 percent. In the first round, Chirac led with 20 percent and Le Pen finished second with 17 percent. Chirac received nearly 20 million additional votes in the second round, while Le Pen gained only 700,000. Polling in the 2017 election suggests Fillon, or whoever else makes it into the second round with Le Pen, cannot expect support as broad as Chirac received. Some French leaders are warning that a Le Pen win is far from impossible. She has a 27.7 percent chance of winning according to prediction markets aggregator ElectionBettingOdds.com—within the range of Trump's chances of winning during much of the 2016 campaign. "I think Madame Le Pen could be elected," Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a former Republican prime minister, warned this month according to Euractiv, while another former prime minister, Socialist Manuel Valls, who ran unsuccessfully for the Socialist nomination for president this year, said it was dangerous to assume Le Pen could not win. Le Pen has mixed a nationalist, Euroskeptic, Islamophobic and anti-immigration message with promises of increased social and welfare spending to expand the National Front's appeal, particularly relative to her most likely second-round opponent, Fillon, who is campaigning on much needed civil and government services cuts as well as labor market deregulation. The Socialist Francois Hollande's presidency failed in large part under the weight of unsuccessful efforts to get French government spending under control and to remove barriers to economic growth. Socialist voters, The Independent columnist Satyajit Das suggests, faced with the run-off choice of Le Pen and Fillon or a center-left candidate (the Socialist Benoit Hamon is not expected to make it into the second round in most scenarios), may choose Le Pen at a higher rate than French pundits are willing to admit. The center-left candidate, Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker and founder of the En Marche! party, is, like Fillon, is also running on labor reforms and tax cuts, two policies critical to improving France's economy but not popular with Socialist voters. Le Pen has not been shy in trying to align herself with Donald Trump and with Brexit (she supports a French withdrawal from the European Union), and launched her campaign earlier this month with the slogan "France First." In response to Macron rising in the polls, she has adopted a Trump-like attack on the French media, accusing it of campaigning "hysterically" for Macron. Last year she praised Russia President Vladimir Putin as a real leader and called the EU the real enemy, and earlier this year she denied that Russia invaded Crimea, which is under the control of Russia but recognized by most of the international community as still being part of Ukraine.[...]
Mon, 13 Feb 2017 12:10:00 -0500
(image) The suburbs of Paris have been rocked by protests, some violent, since the alleged rape by police officers of a 22-year-old black Frenchman identified only as Theo—he was arrested during an ID check.
Last night's protests turned violent again, with some protesters reportedly throwing objects at cops and setting vehicles on fire and police responding by using tear gas on crowds of protesters. A group of officers were caught on tape telling protesters they were going to "fuck [them] in the ass."
An initial investigation by police into last week's incident found that the alleged rape was an accident and there was "insufficient evidence" to substantiate the sexual assault claim, The Independent reported. One lawyer argued an expandable baton penetrated Theo's anus "by accident." Police have reviewed a video not made publicly available—one police source told French media Theo's pants "slipped down on their own." Frederic Lagache, deputy secretary general of the French national police union, Alliance Police Nationale, complained that the four officers were "victims of a media flood" and that they were "going to trial before the trial."
President Francois Hollande visited Theo in the hospital after the first riots last week, spending thirty minutes at his bedside. Theo reportedly told protesters to "stop the war and stay united" and said he trusted the justice system to work. One of the four officers involved in Theo's arrest was charged with rape, the other three with assault—they have all been suspended.
Last week, a police spokesperson said eight officers could have been killed in one night of rioting—no police officers were actually reported killed.
France saw riots in 2005 after two African immigrant teens reportedly running from police were electrocuted to death after reaching an electricity substation at a dead end alley—officials eventually denied police were chasing those specific teens.
The anti-immigration National Front's Marine LePen, a candidate for president in this year's election, said in a statement that protesters were "gangs of scum that nothing seems to be able to stop anymore, and certainly not the courts in a overall context of decadence."
Watch a portion of the arrest caught on video and posted online below:
src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_bLGewkH86A" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">
Wed, 01 Feb 2017 04:00:00 -0500
(image) France has banned restaurants and other places that sell drinks containing sugar or other sweeteners from offering free refills of those drinks. Some restaurants have already removed or moved their drink fountains, while Five Guys has placed microchips on drink cups that switch off their drink fountains if someone tries to refill a cup. The ban is aimed at fighting obesity.
Mon, 09 Jan 2017 10:56:00 -0500The two-year anniversary of the massacre at the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo passed quietly over the weekend. In contrast to last year, there were only a few relatively quiet remembrances for the 17 murdered artists, journalists, staffers, and policemen killed by Muslim extremists. Zineb El Rhazoui, one of Charlie Hedbo's journalists who was out of the country at the time of the attack, told France's Agence France-Presse (AFP) that she is leaving the magazine because it now lacks the "capacity to carry the torch of irreverence and absolute liberty." El Rhazoui added, "Freedom at any cost is what I loved about Charlie Hebdo, where I worked through great adversity," but she now believes the terrorists who murdered her colleagues accomplished what they wanted, as the magazine no longer publishes images of the Prophet Muhammad. Charlie Hebdo's current editor, Riss, tells AFP that "We've done our job. We have defended the right to caricature," but that "We get the impression that people have become even more intolerant of Charlie...If we did a front cover showing a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad now, who would defend us?" El Rhazoui counters that if she were in charge, she would continue publishing Muhammad images, telling AFP that "we cannot permit that our colleagues died for nothing." A Moroccan-French atheist, El Rhazoui has been described as "the most protected woman in France" due to her 24-hour police protection. She recently published a book called Destroy Islamic Fascism and last year told the New York Times Magazine: "It's totally crazy. I have done nothing against the law and have nothing to hide, yet I live with security while those who threaten us are free," El Rhazoui declares with an air of shock and anger that underscores the arbitrariness and brutality visited on a 34-year-old woman condemned to living on the run and mostly in the shadows. "And if you call them by their names you are Islamophobic and racist. I am racist? I can teach them a few things about Arab culture. I can show them how to discover its richness and the diversity of their culture. I believe this culture deserves universality because you can be Arab, Muslim and a free thinker." It is hard to fault Charlie Hebdo's current editorial leadership for being squeamish about publishing images of Muhammad. The magazine persisted in its mission of no-holds-barred militant secularism even after having been firebombed about three years before the 2015 massacre. Although the immediate reaction to the killing of journalists over cartoons was an international outpouring of support for free speech, very quickly Charlie Hebdo faced accusations that the organization was a racist "white power" publication, and later faced a boycott by 145 PEN America writers over an award presented to the magazine, as well as insinuations from everyone from Pope Francis to John Kerry to Garry Trudeau that the deliberately provocative journalists had somehow asked for their tragic fate. Charlie Hebdo, which marked the one-year anniversary of the massacre with a cover depicting a bearded "God" figure carrying a rifle, chose a drawing of a laughing man staring down the long barrel of a gun held by a jihadist for the second grim anniversary issue. The accompanying caption reads, "2017, at last, the light at the end of the tunnel."[...]
Mon, 02 Jan 2017 04:00:00 -0500
(image) Robert Menard, mayor of Bexiers, France, has been charged with incitement to hatred or discrimination after noting in a TV interview that 91 percent of the students in one class in his town are Muslim. "Obviously, this is a problem," he said. Menard says he was simply describing the reality of life in his town.
Thu, 01 Dec 2016 16:45:00 -0500The Socialist French president, Francois Hollande, announced today he would not be seeking a second term, saying he was aware of the "risk that going down a route that would not gather sufficient support would entail." Hollande's decision doesn't come as much of a surprise, his approval ratings had been dismal, hitting 12 percent in a poll this summer. And that was a longtime coming—back in 2014, just 3 percent wanted Hollande to be the Socialist nominee for president again in 2017. 85 percent wanted a Socialist primary, and just 15 percent would vote for him in that case. Last week, Hollande had just a 1 percent chance of being the next president of France on ElectionBettingOdds.com. That betting aggregator, and polls, suggest the first round of the election, scheduled for April 23, 2017, could lead to a win by Francois Fillon of the Republican Party (the former UMP, whose last president, Nicolas Sarkozy, lost this year's nationwide primary) over the National Front's Marine Le Pen without the need for a run-off. The Socialists, so far, are a non-factor—they have a primary scheduled for January. Hollande promised in his election bid in 2012 that he would resign if he couldn't turn the economy around—surprisingly the socialist prescription of government jobs programs failed to do that. Unsurprisingly, Hollande never resigned. He did face a revolt in his own Socialist Party when trying to push through labor reforms meant to make it easier for employers to hire employees. Fillon, the center-right frontrunner of the 2017 election, was described in Bloomberg Businessweek as "a neo-Thatcherite who wants to downsize government, slash taxes on corporations and the rich, and scale back labor protections." His main opponent, Le Pen, meanwhile, who is often described as "far right", has an economic plan, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, "that could be mistaken for a Marxist tract, with calls to strengthen the social safety net, raise trade barriers, and nationalize the banks." The National Front is also an anti-immigrant, nationalist party. Hollande's popularity problem started before a series of terrorist attacks kicked off by Al-Qaeda-linked gunman massacring the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. There were a series of attacks in Paris in November in which 130 people were killed, and a truck attack in Nice earlier this year that killed 86. There have also been a number of smaller incidents like stabbings, a beheading, and vehicle rammings. France has been in a state of emergency since the November Paris attacks. Although Reuters reports it's the "first time in decades that an incumbent French president has not sought re-election," Jacque Chirac was a two-term incumbent when he chose not to seek re-election in 2007. However, in the history of the Fifth Republic, established in 1958, no other incumbent non-interim president had chosen not to run for re-election. Vincent Auriol chose not to run for re-election in 1953 during the brief Fourth Republic. "The work was killing me," Auriol said at the time, "they called me out of bed at all hours of the night to receive resignations of prime ministers."[...]
Tue, 01 Nov 2016 12:00:00 -0400
(image) Perched on France's southern coast, Cannes is famous for its luxurious beaches. But enjoying the seaside became more difficult for many Muslim women this summer: In July, the city passed a month-long ban on burkinis—head-to-toe two-piece swimsuits—on public shores.
Cannes is one of several French municipalities that moved to prohibit the demure swimwear following recent terrorist attacks across Europe. Prime Minister Manuel Valls supported the bans, telling the French newspaper La Provence that mayors are trying to "encourage people to coexist peacefully." In Cannes, women wearing the swimwear would be asked to leave as well as face a fine of 38 euros ($42).
In late August France's highest administrative court overturned one of the ordinances, calling it a "manifestly illegal infringement of fundamental liberties." But mayors in the region vowed to ignore the ruling; the situation remains in flux. Civil liberties groups have denounced the laws.
France has a history of mandating and enforcing secularism. In 2004, Parliament banned noticeable religious symbols, including headscarves and large crosses, in public schools. And in 2010, lawmakers passed a prohibition against women wearing burqas and niqabs in public, a vote that drew criticism from human rights and religious organizations.
Sun, 02 Oct 2016 04:00:00 -0400
(image) France has banned disposable plastic cups and plates, the first country to do so. The government had already banned plastic bags. The law will require "all disposable tableware to be made from 50% biologically-sourced materials that can be composted at home by January of 2020. That number will rise to 60% by January of 2025."
Mon, 29 Aug 2016 06:30:00 -0400Last Friday's decision overturning a local burkini ban in France was a welcome victory for tolerance and religious freedom. But it relied on a narrow reading of public policy goals that supporters of such bans, including French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, define more broadly. That broader interpretation was accepted by a lower court in this case and by courts hearing challenges to other restrictions on religiously motivated clothing. The Council of State, France's top administrative court, ruled that the mayor of Villeneuve-Loubet, one of more than 30 seaside towns that have forbidden women to wear full-body swimsuits, exceeded his legal authority as protector of safety, hygiene, decency, and public order on the beach. Limits on freedom "must be justified by proven risks of harm to public order," the court said, and the city has failed to demonstrate any such risk from allowing women to wear burkinis. "In the absence of such risks," the court added, "emotions and concerns arising from terrorist attacks, including those committed in Nice on July 14, will not suffice to justify in law the contested prohibition." Hence "the contested decree has imposed a serious and manifestly illegal restraint on fundamental freedoms such as freedom to come and go, freedom of conscience, and personal freedom." Villeneuve-Loubet's ban, like the others, did not mention Islam specifically. Instead it banned swimwear that is not "respectful of morality and the principle of secularism, and in compliance with hygiene and safety rules." Whether such a command is legal depends on how you understand "decency" and "public order," two inherently subjective justifications for municipal beach regulations. In a ruling last Monday, a judge of the Nice Administrative Court deemed the burkini ban a "necessary, appropriate, and proportionate" precaution aimed at preventing public disorder following recent terrorist assaults, especially the truck attack that killed 86 people in Nice on July 14. The Council of State rejected that rationale, viewing "emotions and concerns arising from terrorist attacks" as irrelevant to the ban's legality. Although the burkini ban cited "the principle of secularism" as a justification, Valls argues that such laws have nothing to do with religion per se. "The burkini is not a religious sign," he says on Facebook. "It is the affirmation of political Islam in the public space." Valls has also called the burkini a tool for "the enslavement of women." He insists that last week's ruling "doesn't exhaust the debate that has opened up in our society on the question of the burkini." Defending its ban on full-face veils in public, the French government likewise claimed "the practice was a recent phenomenon which was not required by religion but arose from radicalization and extremism" and maintained that it violated the principle of gender equality. In 2014 the European Court of Human Rights rejected the latter rationale but agreed that the law was justified to protect "public safety" and "the rights and freedom of others." The court reasoned that wearing a veil is inconsistent with "respect for the minimum requirements of life in society" because "the barrier raised against others by a veil concealing the face is perceived…as breaching the right of others to live in a space of socialization which makes living together easier." In other words, the veil causes social disharmony by offending people. Supporters of burkini bans believe the same is true of excessively modest swimwear. Once such considerations are admitted as legitimate rationales for restricting freedom, it is hard to find a principled stopping point.[...]
Fri, 26 Aug 2016 09:55:00 -0400
(image) On Friday, France's highest administrative court ruled that French leaders may not ban burkinis, the full-coverage swimming garments favored by Muslim women, from public beaches.
The French Council of State ruling related specifically to the town of Villeneuve-Loubet, but it should also block bans passed by dozens of French towns and cities recently amid alleged concerns about terrorism.
For more on the burkini bans—and the flawed logic backing them—see Reason's previous coverage:
French court suspends burkini ban in Villeneuve-Loubet after challenge pic.twitter.com/XuRA4HsBun— AFP news agency (@AFP) August 26, 2016
Fri, 26 Aug 2016 07:30:00 -0400A French citizen who sees Muslim women wearing full-body swimwear at the beach and loudly declares the burkini a symbol of Islam's backwardness and misogyny is committing a crime: insulting people based on their religion, which is punishable by a fine as high as €22,500 and up to six months in jail. By contrast, a French politician who imposes a ban on the burkini because he considers it a symbol of Islam's backwardness and misogyny will not be arrested and probably will prevail against any legal challenge, as long as he frames the ban in terms of security, equality, and/or social harmony. As Asma T. Uddin, director of strategy at the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom, explains in a New York Times op-ed piece, the European Court of Human Rights has upheld bans on burqas, veils, and head scarves based on the premise that women who wear them "are simultaneously victims, in need of a government savior, and aggressors, spreading extremism merely by appearing Muslim in public." Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights ostensibly guarantees an individual's "right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion," including his right "in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance." But Article 9 also allows restrictions on religious freedom "necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others." When French Prime Minister Manuel Valles says the burkini is a tool for "the enslavement of women," or Cannes Mayor David Lisnard says "the burkini is the uniform of extremist Islamism, not of the Muslim religion," they are implicitly appealing to those Article 9 exceptions. Uddin cites a 2001 case in which the European Court of Human Rights rejected a Swiss public school teacher's challenge to a rule preventing her from wearing a head scarf in the classroom. The court worried that "the wearing of a head scarf might have some kind of proselytizing effect" and that the custom is "hard to square with the principle of gender equality," meaning a teacher so attired would be ill-equipped to impart "the message of tolerance, respect for others and, above all, equality and nondiscrimination that all teachers in a democratic society must convey to their pupils." In 2005 the court upheld an Istanbul University policy that prevented a medical student from wearing a head scarf while taking an exam, concluding that the ban furthered gender equality and aided the government in "fighting extremism." A 2014 ruling said France's ban on face-covering veils promoted harmonious coexistence. The commodious exceptions to Article 9 are reminiscent of the all-purpose limitation on Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 1 of which allows "such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society." Among other things, that loophole has been used to uphold bans on so-called hate speech, notwithstanding the "freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression" that the charter supposedly guarantees. It may seem that Section 1, which also qualifies the "freedom of conscience and religion" promised by the charter, would be a handy excuse for restrictions on religiously motivated clothing. But Canadian courts do not seem to share the French passion for coercive secularism. Last year the Federal Court of Appeal overturned a rule that would have required a Muslim woman to shed her veil while taking a public oath of citizenship. The court resolved the case on statutory grounds and therefore did not reach the constitutional issue. But in 2012 the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed a Muslim wom[...]
Thu, 25 Aug 2016 14:47:00 -0400France's recent crackdown on a garment known as the "burkini," popular among Muslim women who want to remain modest while enjoying a swim, has accrued ample criticism from all over the world this week. But it's just one example of a wave of non-religious fundamentalism, in which the allegedly patriarchal print of Islam and other faiths must be destroyed by the righteous benevolence of public officials. In Germany this week, a Muslim woman was fired from her government internship when she refused to remove her headscarf. In Tajikistan, a country long hostile to Islam, some officials have begun keeping lists of women who sport hijabs, the traditional head-covering worn by Muslim girls and women. "The country's staunchly secular authoritarian government disapproves of attire or grooming that would suggest supposedly radical Islamic beliefs," reports The Washington Post. True, Tajikstan is an extreme example: its government has been known to shut down mosques at random, ban parents from giving their children Arabic names, and otherwise go hard on quashing religious expression. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, "the government of Tajikistan suppresses and punishes all religious activity independent of state control." But France, an allegedly liberal and democratic country, also takes a pretty authoritarian line toward religious expression. Secularity is its own sort of religion there, at least to those in power, who have banned religious symbols such as crosses, yarmulkes, and hijabs in all government buildings and public schools. More recently, some 15 towns voted to ban burkinis on public beaches. This week, the sight of French police publicly forcing a Muslim woman at the beach to remove clothing has (understandably) drawn a lot of outrage, with many rushing to point out why such policies go against the spirit in which they're intended. This takes the state at its word on why Muslim women's garments have been banned: they're a symbol of women's ongoing inequality in some cultures. That is not the culture of France, say leaders, and hence its zero-tolerance policy for such symbols of female oppression. It's a silly scheme for several reasons. For one, it's unlikely to make the lives of actual oppressed women any better; for those whom husbands or families force headscarves and burquas in public, a ban on these items will simply mean many Muslim have to forgo the beach and other public outings entirely. (It's also unlikely to inspire goodwill among Muslim communities already alienated from mainstream French society.) For another, it's contradictory: in the name of women's equality, France is literally forcing women to wear less clothing than they're comfortable in and passing laws that target female attire but not male. And these policies are also hypocritical in how they define symbols of female oppression. As many, many Muslim women have pointed out, hijabs and other traditional Muslim garments don't necessarily signify second-class status, and women may choose to wear them for cultural reasons or personal beliefs about modesty. Some folks counter that the "cultural reasons" are rooted in sexism, so what difference does it make? But surely we could say the same about many women's garments, from the habits worn by Catholic nuns to the wigs worn by Hasidic Jewish ladies to the stiletto-heels and string-bikinis worn by some secular women. Certainly not every woman who dons a skimpy outfits or slaps on bright-red lipstick is doing so to please men, or fulfill cultural norms, but many are, and you don't see France rushing to ban Forever 21 or L'Oréal. But of course this is about more than just women's clothing. France's burkini-beach-party crac[...]
Wed, 24 Aug 2016 17:55:00 -0400Viral images of a Muslim woman being compelled by police to remove her "burkini" on a beach on Nice, France, combined with reports of women being fined for wearing the modest swimwear (which has been banned in a number of French cities), have sparked quite the debate over gender equality, religious liberty, free expression, and government overreach in legislating morality in France. The Guardian reports that Nice's Socialist mayor, Ange-Pierre Vivoni, called his ban on this particular style of ladies' swimwear a vital act to "protect the population." The mayor was backed by a tribunal ruling calling the ban a "necessary, appropriate and proportionate" response in the interest of maintaining public order following several jihadist attacks in France, including one where 84 people were killed by a maniac in a truck last month, just a few hundred feet from the beach in Nice where the woman in those viral images was forced to dress down by armed agents of the state. The tribunal also justified the ban by stating that the burkini — which resembles a looser-fitting version of a standard wetsuit — was "liable to offend the religious convictions or (religious) non-convictions of other users of the beach," and "be felt as a defiance or a provocation exacerbating tensions felt by [the community]," according to The Guardian. In a recent Reason column, Steve Chapman noted that for proponents of the ban, it's not just the feelings of non-Muslims in terror-scared France at stake, it is concern for Muslim women compelled by what they describe as "sexist oppression" to hide almost all their skin in public: Their argument goes as follows: France must dictate what Muslim women wear to teach them that no one may dictate what they wear. In the name of promoting the freedom of Muslim women, government should deprive them of the right to make their own apparel choices. It's the logical extension of France's law against full-face coverings, particularly the kind worn by some Muslim women. Supporters of that law, enacted in 2010, said it was needed to keep criminals from concealing their identity. That excuse doesn't work for the burkini, which confirms it was just that: an excuse. CNN reports, "Rachid Nekkaz, a wealthy Algerian entrepreneur and human rights activist, has stepped up to the plate to pay the penalty for any Muslim woman who is fined in France for wearing the burkini" and according to the BBC, the controversy has led to "booming" burkini sales. But the burkini bans are just an extension of France's nationwide ban on burqas, which is in keeping with country's strict adherence to the separation of religion and public life. One sociologist was quoted by The Local as saying the burqa ban "created a monster," arguing that despite the government's best intentions, "it has both encouraged Islamophobia as well as given Muslim extremists more cause to feel the need to rise up against the French state." France has also banned wearable religious symbols such as Christian crosses, Sikh turbans, and Jewish kippahs (male head skullcaps) in schools and government buildings. But the banning of clothing — which is inherently an expression of identity, particularly religious identity — is also a logical extension of the many bans on other modes of expression meant to rid French society of wrong thinking. In its (literally) centuries-long quest to foster an enlightened, secular, bigotry-free society, the French government has made Holocaust denial a criminal act punishable by prison time. The same goes for making stupid drunken anti-Semitic comments to cell phone-wielding tourists, as well as making jokes "condoning terrorism." Local government bans on meetings of [...]