In this episode of UpFront, we ask Polish politician Dominik Tarczynski about his government’s immigration policy and anti-Muslim rhetoric.
And in our Arena, Rim-Sarah Alouane and Benjamin Haddad discuss what is behind the ongoing debate over secularism in France.
Polish MP: ‘For me, multiculturalism is not a value’
Poland‘s ultra-conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) won a second term in office last month, a victory that critics fear will accelerate the country’s slide towards authoritarianism.
The PiS rose to power in 2015, following a campaign that focussed on social conservatism, along with a generous social spending programme.
But the party’s refusal to take in refugees, along with its attempts to reform the judiciary – critics say at the expense of independence – has put it at loggerheads with the European Union.
Just this week, a top EU legal adviser said Warsaw broke the bloc’s law by refusing to take in refugees during Europe’s 2015 migrant crisis.
But the PiS’s Dominik Tarczynski insists his country did nothing wrong and says Poland stands by its immigration policy.
“We don’t want Poland being taken over by Muslims, Buddhists, or someone else … and no one will ever force us to take Muslims, Buddhists, non-believers in huge numbers,” said Tarczynski.
“For me, multicultural society, it’s not a value … it’s not a virtue,” the Polish MP said. “Christian culture, Roman law, Greek philosophers, these are the virtues for us.”
This week’s Headliner is a member of parliament for Poland’s governing Law and Justice Party, Dominik Tarczynski.
France, secularism and hijab paranoia
The debate over Muslim women wearing the veil has been reignited in France after a mother was verbally abused last month by a far-right politician during her son’s school trip to a regional assembly. The politician demanded the woman remove her headscarf or leave.
Wearing the veil – known as the hijab – is banned in French schools and government offices.
Politicians are now examining a proposed law that would ban parents from wearing religious symbols on school trips.
The legislation has little chance of passing, but it has put the issue of French secularism, embodied in the principle of “laicite”, firmly back in the spotlight.
Critics see a worrying trend where laicite could enter more areas of French society.
“We are witnessing a transformation of ‘laicite’ into a legal monster that it was not aimed to be when the law was implemented,” said human rights researcher Rim-Sarah Alouane, who focuses on religious freedom and civil liberties.
“We have religious freedom at stake, but also constant harassment and targeting of a part of our population,” she added.
Benjamin Haddad, a director at the Atlantic Council, says it should be acceptable to have a political debate about what some see as problems with integration.
“You have a lot of secular Muslim women who say that they feel pressured, they feel threatened … you also have religious leaders going to mayors asking to have separate hours in public swimming pools between men and women. You’ll have a lot of young girls who don’t want to sit in biology classes in school because they feel pressure from their parents or from their brothers,” Haddad said.
“That makes it very complicated for young women and other groups such as LGBTs to express themselves,” he added.
In this week’s Arena, we discuss secularism in France and its effect on religious freedom.