Thursday, March 25, 2010
President Sarkozy promises to ban the Muslim veil in France
France is to ban the full Muslim veil to protect the dignity of women, President Sarkozy announced yesterday. His decision followed months of wavering by politicians of Left and Right and ended a long silence by Mr Sarkozy on what do do about the niqab, burqa and other full face-covering garments.
"The full veil is contrary to the dignity of women," the President said. "The response is to ban it. The Government will table a draft law prohibiting it."
He gave no details but his announcement means that he has come down on the side of members of Parliament in his own camp and the opposition who advocate a full ban on the full veil on French territory.
An all-party parliamentary committee recommended lesser measures last month that would require women to expose their faces on public transport and on state-owned premises such as post offices, universities and hospitals.
Until recently Mr Sarkozy had merely said that the full veil symbolised the oppression of women and that it "has no place in France".
Mr Sarkozy was speaking in an address to the nation to take stock of the results of regional elections in which his Union for a Popular Movement was beaten heavily. The triumph of the Socialist-led opposition was seen as a direct rebuke to the President over the style and substance of his leadership.
Speaking from the Elysée Palace, Mr Sarkozy said that he had heard the message of distress that voters had sent him. He accepted that the French were frustrated and worried about the failure to revive the economy faster but he insisted that he would continue to pursue his ambitious programme of reforms.
"I understand your impatience. I owe you a response. But nothing would be worse than to change tack on everything by giving in to the agitation of an electoral period," he said.
Mr Sarkozy promised not to ride roughshod over public opinion when raising the retirement age this year. He also promised to defend French industry and told farmers that he would prefer to trigger a crisis in the European Union than accept cuts in the Common Agriculture Policy.
The Opposition accused Mr Sarkozy of turning a deaf ear to discontent by ploughing on with unpopular reforms. They also charged him with pandering to right-wing voters who had deserted him for the National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen.
"This was a speech aimed at re-establishing himself with the electorate on the Right rather than re-establishing the international competitiveness of France," Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, a senior Socialist MP, said.
The President acknowledged that his administration had failed to curb violent crime and promised a renewed effort on that issue.
His announcement on the Muslim veil will be well received since a strong majority of the French favour a ban, according to opinion polls.
Some leading politicians in Mr Sarkozy's camp and in the opposition are opposed, on the grounds that such a measure would stigmatise France's six million Muslims. France is also likely to cause anger in the Muslim world with a ban that would go far beyond the existing prohibition of headscarves in state schools.
Mr Sarkozy gave no indication as to how an outright ban would be imposed and policed.
Opinion polls this week have shown that a strong majority do not want Mr Sarkozy to be re-elected in 2012.
A poll for Paris Match showed that 60 per cent of the country wanted the Opposition to win power in the next presidential and legislative elections.
More appalling "safety" correctness in Britain
Teachers leave boy, 5, stranded in tree because of health and safety (then report passer-by who helped him down to police)
A boy of five was left stranded in a tree at school because of a bizarre health and safety policy - which banned teachers from helping him down.
The mischievous pupil climbed the 20ft tree at the end of morning break and refused to come down.
But instead of helping him, staff followed guidelines and retreated inside the school building to ‘observe from a distance’ so the child would not get ‘distracted and fall’.
The boy was only rescued after 45 minutes in the tree when passer-by Kim Barrett, 38, noticed the child and helped him down herself. But instead of being thanked for her actions by the head teacher of the Manor School in Melksham, Wiltshire, she was reported to the police for trespassing.
Miss Barrett, who lives in Melksham with her six-year-old daughter who attends a different school, said she is ‘surprised’ and ‘shocked’ by the school's policy. She said: 'I was completely shocked when I first saw him because he was sitting on a branch hanging out over the pavement.
'He was so young. He didn't look frightened but he was completely on his own - there were no teachers or friends in the playground and the field was empty. 'I walked past at 11.15am and he told me he had been hiding since the end of playtime because he didn't want to go back into class. 'Break ends at 10.30am so that means he had been in the tree for at least 45 minutes.
‘I stopped to ask him if he was OK, and it became clear that he'd been there since the end of playtime, which had been around half an hour earlier. ‘I was immediately concerned. I walked over to the school with the boy and was met by the associate head.
‘He didn't appear at all concerned, and was actually very patronising, patting me on the arm and asking me “what do you expect me to do, exactly, dear?” ‘When I said I thought it was a serious incident, he then said his only concern was me trespassing.
‘I was initially surprised that no one appeared to have missed this boy, no one could have known where he was because they could not have seen him from the school, and I was shocked at the way I was dealt with.’
The incident occurred on the morning of March 1 as Miss Barrett was walking home past the side entrance of 213-pupil The Manor Church of England Primary School.
She claims that she walked around to the front of the school, onto the playing field and then helped the schoolboy down before taking him back to his class.
But the school alleges that she ‘approached the school in an inappropriate way’ and asked her to leave the premises after she got into a row with staff over the boy's welfare.
Later that evening a letter from head teacher Beverley Martin was posted through Miss Barrett’s door, explaining that the school had contacted police about the incident. The next morning she was visited by a PCSO who told her she had committed a trespassing offence by helping the young schoolboy down from the tree.
Miss Barrett, a part-time cleaner, said: ‘I felt really angry because I felt I had saved the school and this boy from something that could have been far worse, and that instead of thanking me I was under investigation. ‘It was ridiculous. He was all on his own, there was no one near him and you couldn't see the school buildings from where he was.
‘Not only was he at least 6ft off the ground, but someone taller than me could easily have reached in from the pavement and plucked him off the branch. "The school say he was being watched but that's impossible because there is no line of sight from the school building to the tree.
'I am a mother myself and I find it a bit ridiculous that the school's policy is to leave a child up a tree. I would be very angry if this happened to my child. 'I think this is a big cover up and that the school obviously had no idea he was there. When I took him in they had no idea he was missing.'
Mrs Martin confirmed that the school's policy prevents staff going to the aid of children who have climbed trees. She said: ‘The safety of our pupils is our priority [A strange idea of safety!] and we would like to make it clear that this child was being observed at all times during this very short incident.
‘Like other schools whose premises include wooded areas, our policy when a child climbs a tree, is for staff to observe the situation from a distance so the child does not get distracted and fall. ‘We would strongly urge members of the public not to climb over a padlocked gate to approach children as their motives are not clear to staff.
‘To protect children, we cannot assume that people who enter the school grounds without permission have innocent intentions and must act accordingly. ‘If people are concerned about a child's welfare then they should go to the reception and alert a member of staff, who will be happy to help. ‘I am sure these expectations are the same in every school and are centred on children's wellbeing.’
A letter sent to Miss Barrett by Wiltshire Council added: ‘You may well have acted initially out of concern for the safety of the child but any such concerns should have been raised with a member of staff. ‘You subsequently behaved in a verbally aggressive manner to a member of staff.’
British KFC diner told 'you can't have bacon in your burger here - we're now halal'
A diner was left fuming after a KFC restaurant took his favourite meal off the menu because it breached their new halal regulations. Alan Phillips was told he would have to travel five miles to another branch if he wanted the Big Daddy, a chicken burger, topped with bacon, cheese and salad.
The branch, in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, is one of 86 KFC restaurants which is running trials of a scheme where they sell nothing other than halal meat.
The company has taken the burger off the menu because Islamic dietary law forbids Muslims to eat anything which has been prepared on the same premises as pork, which is itself strictly forbidden. It said it was responding to 'increased demand' for a halal menu in the areas of Britain with growing Muslim populations.
Mr Phillips said he found the change 'extremely unfair' on non-Muslim customers. 'I can't believe a chain like this has taken this stance,' he said. 'Staff told me that due to the dietary laws halal meat could not be prepared in the same place as other meats, so I couldn't have my bacon. It was like they were saying I couldn't buy bacon because it might offend people.'
Mr Phillips was told he would have to travel to another KFC five miles away to buy his bacon burger. He protested that this was too far for him to travel. 'It is getting silly,' he said. 'I have many friends who are black, white and Muslim but they wouldn't be forced to eat non-halal meat. 'I have no problem with them selling halal meat, but I would like the choice.'
Traditionally, halal meat must be slaughtered by hand, although KFC, which has more than 750 restaurants in the UK, said its chickens are not killed in this way. The meat must also be blessed in the name of Allah and cannot be kept on the same premises as banned substances including pork and alcohol.
KFC spokesman Nina Arnott said the halal trial was expected to last 'a few months'. She said: 'We've responded to requests to provide halal food in some parts of the UK and the Middleway Park restaurant in Burton is one of the restaurants taking part in our trial.
'The Big Daddy is the only product we've taken off the menu at our trial stores and we're using exactly the same ingredients and exactly the same tasting chicken as before.'
The British rape debate is demeaning to women and an abandonment of the principles of justice
The Stern report on how rape cases are handled rehabilitates the Victorian view of women as helpless victims
By Nathalie Rothschild
A new report on rape and the criminal justice system in England and Wales has concluded that the debate around rape has been too much focused on conviction rates. Yet while Baroness Stern, author of the report, recommends that from now on support and care for victims be given as high a priority as the prosecution and conviction of perpetrators, her report is unlikely to change the terms of the debate.
The Stern report does not challenge the way in which women today are encouraged to see themselves as victims and how they are regarded as less accountable for their actions than men. And in suggesting that women reporting rape should be believed from the outset, Stern is insisting that, when it comes to alleged crimes of rape, the accused is guilty until proven innocent.
Feminists and rape awareness campaigners have been dismayed at Stern’s suggestion that attention be diverted away from the often-repeated claim that only six per cent of rapes lead to a conviction. This refers to the total number of reports producing convictions, but Stern says it is misleading as nearly 60 per cent of those charged with rape are, in fact, convicted.
A large number of reported rape cases, the Stern review found, are either unrecorded or retracted, while in 23 per cent of cases there is insufficient evidence to charge the suspect. So the attrition rate in rape cases is high, with only 12 per cent of cases reaching court. But the actual conviction rate for those cases that do get to court is as high as 57.7 per cent.
Stern suggests that the way to encourage women to report rape (and by extension to increase conviction rates – an ambition normally restricted to totalitarian states) is by diverting attention away from the off-putting six per cent figure and instead emphasising the more ‘positive’ conviction rates when charges have been brought. In other words, Stern is simply proposing a new spin on rape statistics rather than questioning the basic premises around the debate about rape and the criminal justice system today.
In 2007, Camilla Cavendish of The Times (London) found that rape allegations had jumped by 40 per cent between 2002 and 2005. While this can partly be put down to improved support for women, which facilitates the process of reporting rape, Cavendish argued that a widening official definition of rape also played a big role. Since the Sexual Offences Act 2003 came into force, the definition of rape has been expanded to include oral sex. But there has also been a profound attitude shift with roots in the second-wave feminist idea that heterosexual sex is an inherently violent and degrading act that women subject themselves to against their better judgement.
More than four out of five rape allegations are made against friends or acquaintances. As alcohol and/or drugs were involved in over half those cases, Cavendish puts this down to ‘the culture of binge drinking’. But this avoids the more complex picture. Today, various rape-awareness activists and state feminists are themselves helping to blur the boundaries between sex and rape, encouraging women to regard themselves as violated, abused and traumatised for having gone to bed with a man without thinking it through in minute detail.
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 declared that consent must be ‘active, not passive’; in rape cases, consent is now taken to mean agreement rather than the absence of a refusal. So if a woman goes along with sex, but doesn’t make it explicitly clear that she is actively consenting to it, it can be deemed to be rape. The government has even moved towards ensuring that no agreement can be taken as consent if it is given under the influence of alcohol. As Cavendish pointed out: ‘In our zeal to protect women, are we going to legislate so that a drunken man is accountable for his deeds, but a drunken woman is not? Why do we encourage women to see themselves as victims?’ Absolving women who engage in sexual liaisons – whether drunk or sober – of responsibility for their actions is not liberating; it’s demeaning.
There is no doubt that forcing someone to have sex is a heinous, violent and degrading act and victims of rape should indeed be treated with dignity and respect. But in the name of protecting women, the government is insisting that rape cases be treated differently from all other crimes, while interfering with the course of justice in a way that undermines defendants’ rights and undercuts the power of juries.
For those women who have baulked at Stern’s bout of stats spinning, it is only right for the legal process to be tailored to plaintiffs’ needs in rape cases. The solicitor general, Vera Baird, said she had reservations about ceasing to refer to the six per cent figure - the percentage of rape reports that produce a conviction. ‘Although we don’t count any other offence in this way’, she said, ‘it is particularly meaningful as it reflects the high number of rape victims who drop out before they get to court, and we really need to focus on that group.’ But this assumes ‘that group’ is actually made up of genuine rape cases. Without the chance to test that in court, we can never know.
Similarly, Nicole Westmarland, a lecturer in criminology and former chairwoman of Rape Crisis, insisted the process of reporting, prosecuting and convicting those accused of rape should be on different terms than other offences. She said that ‘all too often rape is just dismissed as “one person’s word against another’s” because a thorough investigation has not taken place. Evidence collection and management must be improved.’
Yet rape is difficult to prosecute precisely because it is, sometimes, a matter of his word against hers. There are often no witnesses and little circumstantial evidence, particularly in cases of acquaintance rape. It is very difficult to establish the truth in rape cases, but that does not mean that truth should have no bearing on the outcome of a rape case in court.
Yet, with the blessing of the government and various feminists, some important legal safeguards have been eroded in rape cases and the burden of proof has been reversed. Rather than the prosecutor having to prove that the woman did not consent, the defendant now must prove that the woman did consent.
Women are done no favours by these changes. They are being treated as feeble dimwits who have constantly to be asked for their consent, to be checked on every step of the way to make sure they’re okay. It is curious that self-described feminists are propounding such a paternalistic view of women as unable to make their own minds up, as too weak and silly to say ‘no’ to men, and as putting themselves at risk by drinking and flirting and potentially knocking out their critical faculties, leading them to wake up in a strange bed without having first given their ‘active consent’.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
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