I like to consider myself conservative (economically) and a social liberal. I also believe that we need to think realistically about the world and that sometimes our idealism about how the world should be, must be tempered with how the world actually is.
Many, particularly European countries, have been debating recently whether to allow Muslim students to wear headscarves to government run schools. This has been particularly topical in France and the Netherlands. Because of fears of Muslim domination of society, these states have moved to ban the wearing of religious symbols in public schools and in the government bureaucracy. A noble gesture striking a blow not only for women’s rights (women of course being subjected to the shackles that are the barque), but also for the separation of church and state. Except that the consequences of such actions are far worse than the relatively minor debate about what people do and do not wear.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m all for freedom of expression and freedom of speech. I also passionately believe that the church should have no part in the running of the state. I’m even dubious on the tax breaks the church gets for its religious activities. However, we need to be realistic about the alternative and what could happen if we force muslims out of mainstream schooling.
One of the best ways of ensuring the young muslims become a part of mainstream society is to ensure that they feel part of society and adopt the norms and other cultural cues that the rest of us hold dear. School is a very important part of this and a very important part of shaping their view of the world. If we force these students out, because of religious ideas that they hold, they will find education in muslim run schools, outside of mainstream education. This will lead to them feeling marginalised by society and they will not necessarily learn societal norms and cultures. This then leads, in some instances, to radicalization and (potentially in the very extreme cases) terrorism.
So, lets not alienate one sector of our community over what are relatively unimportant dress code matters. Let’s embrace all those who live in our society and accept all for who they are. The marginalisation of one sector of society can only lead to isolation and radicalization.