In light of President Sarkozy’s proposed burka ban, Agnès Poirier in the UK TimesOnLine discusses the reason why Britain will not follow in France’s footsteps on debates concerning the burka and other religious symbols.
In the UK, the left embraces multiculturalism while neglecting the fact that many religions marginalize women. Britain has compromised individual freedoms in order to appease other cultures on the basis that they are of equal value. Multiculturalism and cultural relativism ensures the marginalization of women through its tolerance towards the cultures that discriminate on the basis of gender. The fact that Sharia courts operate in the UK to settle civil disputes demonstrates where values of cultural relativism ultimately lead to inequality.
Poirier makes these points, but misses the crucial element of religion when she argues that, “The burka is not a religious problem.” The burka would not exist without the religious dogma associated with it. This is precisely the argument of the politically correct left in the UK that she is opposing.
She points out how such debates concerning religious symbols cross the political spectrum in France. Discussion and criticism of these issues stems from a secular society. France established a ban on religious symbols in state workplaces and in state run schools in 2004.
Unlike France, Britain has an established religion and has members of its church in the House of Lords. Religious education with a distinctly Christian bias forms part of the national curriculum in its public education system. If Britain even began to question other religions, it would have to question its own established religion, the Church of England.