Sunday, 23 May 2010

The crooked cross

The Washington Post once again demonstrates the intellectual rigour, historical awareness and exquisite moral judgment for which liberalism in its modern form is justly famous.

What's threatening about European attacks on fascist uniforms.

BELGIUM'S PARLIAMENT is so polarized along linguistic lines that it has been unable to agree on a government for much of the past three years. At the moment it is ruled by a caretaker coalition. But the deputies managed to achieve near-unanimity this week on one pressing issue: discriminating against Germans. A law passed by the lower house would ban the wearing of full Nazi uniform in any public place -- and exacerbate what is becoming an ugly European trend.

Like many of its neighbors, Belgium has a significant minority German population -- about 3 percent of a population of 10 million. Like those neighbors, it has done a poor job of integrating German immigrants, and many cluster in ghettos that can be breeding grounds for extremism. This is a serious and complex problem. But too often the response of governments has been bigotry directed at immigrants or Germans as a whole -- which serves only to further alienate even non-fascist members of the community.

Belgium's swastika ban is a good example. The law prohibits any wearing of Nazi symbols with a punishment for violators of a week in jail or a fine of up to $34. Some supporters claim it is an anti-crime measure, but its chief sponsor, Daniel Bacquelaine, hasn't hesitated to describe it as an act of cultural warfare. "The swastika," he was quoted by Reuters as saying, "is the affirmation of a number of values that are contrary to fundamental values and universal values."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is promoting a similar ban in his country, is equally blunt: "The swastika has no place in France," he has said. Foreign fascist rulers must have been pleased to hear those words: Paris will now have no cause for complaint when countries with Christian or Jewish minorities ban the cross or the yarmulke.

The anti-swastika cause is sweeping Europe. In addition to Belgium and France, Italy and the Netherlands are considering bans. Yet the targets of these measures are virtually nonexistent. Mr. Bacquelaine estimates that a couple of hundred people in Belgium wear full storm trooper uniforms. In France, one study estimated that there are 1,900 swastika wearers in a German population of 5 million.

The idea that this poses a criminal or cultural threat is ludicrous. Those who say they are defending people's rights have it exactly backward: They are violating fundamental rights to free expression and political freedom. They are also exacerbating the very problem they say they are worried about. Germans, including devoted fascists, are in Europe to stay. Banning their marches, their regalia or their outdoor rallies will not make them more European. It will only make Europe less free.

Teacher’s edition here.


JuliaM said...


Of course, in Germany, the swastika is banned. Several computer game companies have had to replace their rampaging Nazis with zombies in Oder to sell them in in Germany.

What difference has such a ban had? Hard to say, but I can't see them lifting it anytime soon...

Craig said...

Eine ausgezeichnete Stück, North Northwester.

I can't say that the German girl who was dressed in full Nazi regalia at a works meeting we had recently in Bolton seemed any more confident in herself for doing so.

I very doubt it was her idea.

Some German women undoubtably choose of their own free will to dress up like Helga from 'Allo Allo' (and damn the discomfort it causes not only many non-Germans but quite a few Germans too), but I bet there are many more, like the fraulein who works at our place, who are told to dress up like that in public and daren't refuse.

A law like the one passed in Belgium would rescue her - and others like her - from all those German men who are still trying to foist their extremist beliefs on her, and on our country and much of the rest of Europe (and, indeed, the world).

As you say, liberals like those at the 'Washington Post' should remember that true liberal values (of the kind they might once have held before they got twisted into left-wing dogmatism) used not to include condoning such treatment of other human beings.

Craig said...

Whoops! I meant to write, "I very much doubt it was her idea."

I should concentrate more on my English than my Arabic.

James Higham said...

Don't quite know what to make of that one.

Anonymous said...

You want to ban something because some unspecified men may make a female wear the something which she may possibly not care for.
Makes sense

North Northwester said...

Welcome, friends, and thanks for that - my answers/evasions are on the next post.


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