Last summer, during his speech to the Muslim world in Cairo, President Barack Obama took America's harshest rhetorical shot at France since Donald Rumsfeld dismissed it as "old Europe"� when he was defence secretary in the run-up to the Iraq war. Alluding to western countries that try to "dictate what clothes a Muslim woman should wear"� "“ as France did when it banned headscarves in schools five years ago "“ Mr Obama said: "We can't disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism."�
This was bound to confuse his fellow Americans, even the Francophobes among them. They are taught not to be judgmental about customs and rituals that differ widely from their own. And now they are being enjoined to cut no slack to the democratic republic whose political tradition, of all the political traditions on the planet, most resembles theirs.