Giles Fraser Exploits Refugees’ Plight to Attack French Secularism.
Giles Fraser: Exploits Refugees’ Plight to Support Attacks of Secularism.
One the most tasteless, not to say, repugnant, attempts to make political capital out of the plight of the refugees and migrants in Calais, has been published
It comes not from the xenophobic right but from the Guardian’s favourite Cleric, Giles Fraser. (Thanks: JD)
why don’t the refugees want asylum in France? One reason is because many of them perceive Britain to have a stronger tradition of religious tolerance than France. And this often surprises the French, because they pride themselves on their much-discussed notion of laïcité – roughly, secularism plus – so sacred a notion that it’s enshrined in article one of the French constitution.
Now it is to expected that a paid employee of a State Church – at St Mary’s Newington in south London – would defend his source of income. Although no doubt he puts this in the Guardian Register of Ideological Interests one does not notice any parallel effort on his part to draw attention to this privileged place in Britain’s uncodified constitution.
No doubt his mind is on higher things.
Last year Giles Fraser indulged in this rant.
The glorious triumph of atheistic rationality over the dangerous totalitarian obscurantism of the Catholic church is one of the great foundation myths of republican France. And coded within this mythology is the message that liberty, equality, fraternity can flourish only when religion is suppressed from the public sphere. It is worth remembering what this ideological space-clearing involved.
At the end of the 18th century, France’s war against the Catholic church reached its bloody conclusion. By Easter 1794, the same revolution that once proclaimed freedom of conscience had forcedly closed down the vast majority of France’s 40,000 churches. What began with the confiscation of church property and the smashing of crosses and chalices, ended with forced conversions and the slaughter of priests and nuns at the guillotine.
It is in this period, the so-called Reign of Terror, that the modern English word terrorism – deriving from the French terrorisme – has its origins. “Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, inflexible justice; it is therefore an emanation of virtue,” argued Robespierre, in what now sounds like a sick press release from Islamic State. Over in the Vendée, those who remained loyal to their centuries-old faith were massacred in what historian Mark Levene has called “an archetype of modern genocide”. The systematic de-Christianisation of France was not the natural and inevitable collapse of sclerotic religion and the natural and inevitable rise of Enlightenment rationality. It was murderous, state-sponsored suppression.
This was but the prelude to Fraser displaying unforgiving spite against our comrades in Charlie Hebdo, “the reason publications such as Charlie Hebdo persist with their crass anti-clerical cliches (where the joke is usually a variation on bishops buggering each other) is that a powerful strain of French self-understanding actually requires a sense of external religious threat against which to frame itself.”
The Tendance replied at the time.
We pointed out the Terror was presided over by Robespierre, who put a stop to “De-Christianisation” declared that “atheism is aristocratic” and tried to create a state cult of the ‘Supreme Being’. We suggested instead of relying on a Clerical Wikipedia he actually read some of the history of the period, which includes conflicts inside the Church – a minority of which backed the Revolution – and the majority which supported the counter-revolution, which by definition, did not. We even supplied a short reading list, for the vociferating Vicar to read.
In a truly atheist spirit we stated that Fraser was speaking gobshite about our Charlie and had spat on the graves of our beloved martyrs.
Now Gilles is at it again.
He has yet to tackle that reading list, which would no doubt have disturbed the unfurrowed creases of his brow.
There are indeed no facts, only interpretations.
Secularism is repression.
Laïcité began as justification for eradicating the influence of the Catholic church – and involved the murder of thousands of priests during the revolution. It continues as a cover for discrimination against Muslims.
From the Terror to Discrimination there is but a small step.
It would be interesting to know how the principle of religious neutrality means …religious discrimination.
The one-time Putney Preacher – fond of evoking the Levellers’ Putney debates, perhaps less so on airing the intolerant and bigoted side of the Parliamentary and other Puritans, makes a further link,
….laïcité is a way of ensuring the state’s systematic blindness when it comes to religion. It is an official pretence not to notice whether or where somebody prays. For its detractors, this supposed neutrality is nothing of the sort, but rather a cover for the eradication of religious visibility, indeed religious rights, from the public sphere. This week, both Amnesty International andHuman Rights Watch condemned the French police’s human rights violations against Muslims.
Perhaps a better way of saying this would be that there is a contradiction between defence of universal human rights in secularism and the practices of the French state. How can we judge this: by reference to the same universal human rights.
Britain, one assumes because it is not secular, has, apparently a much better human rights record than France.
Fraser unfortunately does not offer evidence of that.
Nor does offer any proof that faith is an issue, rather than, say, the strict regulations that govern French refugee status, and the fact that speaking and learning that language, rather than English, may appear daunting to many.
There is one further problem with Fraser’s attempts to use other people’s misery for his own ends.
Religiously tolerant Britain – or rather its Government – is more than reluctant to accept the Calais refugees and migrants