Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Christians… what brings all of these faiths to band together in protest? In today’s world we normally see these faiths at fists, but as you see in these striking images, this is not the case. Our real world issue of the French law banning conspicuous religious symbols, such as the hijab for Muslims or the turban for Sikhs, in primary and secondary schools has been a topic of discussion since the law was passed on March 15th 2004 but was enforced the following September when schools opened.

This is called secularism, which has been a part of France since the time of Napoleon, as it was written in the Napoleonic Code. Thus, if a girl came into a school with her hijab on after the rule was set in place, she would first be given a warning and then if it continued she would be expelled as it is not breaking a school rule, it is breaking a law set by the government. There was an overwhelming majority of 494 votes for and 36 against the law in the French parliament. If there was such a huge majority that favored the law, then why all the protests?

The reason behind this is that the French in France are in favor of the law, but minorities, such as Muslims originally from Algeria and Sikhs from India are against it. The Muslim population of France is a staggering 5 million which makes up 5. 5% of the population. Although they are a minority in the country, they still have an extremely large population, and they are making sure their voices are being heard. This law has not only affected faiths within France, but has become a global issue, as religious groups around the world have protested against this ban as well.

Religion, to some, is what defines you, and thus is an important part of your daily life. Thus, our question that we will answer is how just is it for a government to come in between its people and their faith? PERCEPTION: When one speaks of perception as a Way of Knowing, one can define it as our awareness of things, from which we gain knowledge, through our 5 senses. But how does this relate to our Real World Issue? Well, how people perceive things contributes to their overall understanding of the issue.

In fact, there is a school of thought, empiricism, which believes that all knowledge is ultimately based on perceptual experience. Thus, I will first look into how this ban has been perceived positively, and then how it has been perceived negatively. Solely based on perception, other nations have viewed this ban in various ways; this is due to the selectivity of perception, and confirmation bias. Combining these two factors creates a situation when there is such an inflow of information taken in by our senses that we only allow what we want to see, hear, smell, taste, or touch to believe.

According to a nation’s pattern of interests, based on what they perceive, they are either with, or against this ban. This issue has been perceived positively by Turkey, in particular, as a positive action. This is due to the fact that Turkey is a secular nation, in name and in part by practice, as well. I will be talking more about Turkey later on in our presentation under Related Issues. Moreover, this issue is perceived by the French Government as them creating “United France”. This would be beneficial as a more cohesive nation would create a sense of pride and nationalism.

Instead of a France’s face being made up of many different religions, which they view as a barrier, the face of France can be uniform and singular. Thus, protecting French culture while also promoting nationhood. Moving on to the negatives. This first point is also included as a negative, as most nations have perceived this situation in that manner. For example, Pakistan has viewed this issue as a suppression of the individual’s right to express one’s religious beliefs, while the United States has viewed this ban as an infringement on human rights and the liberty of the individual.

Although these viewpoints are different, they both contribute to how this issue if negatively perceived by outside nations. This is basically each nation’s interpretation of the situation, which is provided by our minds through our senses. Moreover, as young people watch these protests on television, or hear about it from their parents, they will be affected as children’s minds can easily be molded. These protests – that might seem violent – can change their views, such that they might fall into extremism as they see the plight of their people.