France is a secular republic looking for a way to integrate Islam, just as it has done with Christian religions and Judaism A bill under discussion in Parliament aims to strengthen control over places of worship but also over associations and schools “La Croix Campus” takes stock of French secularism
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Emmanuel Macron feels misunderstood While France has been hit hard by terrorist acts since 2012, he intends to counter “terrorism and radical Islamism” and defend “the Enlightenment”, he explained on November 16 in an interview with the magazine Le Great Continent He is even convinced of leading a most essential “European fight”, since it is a question of defending the values of the Old Continent. But he is surprised at the certain isolation of France, especially among European countries
Since the assassination of Professor Samuel Paty, beheaded on October 16 near his college in Yvelines, France has felt lonely Critics from the American press have even descended on his way of organizing the separation between state and religions. Its secularism – a term that does not exist in most other languages - is described as liberticidal, even Islamophobic …
Why is the French system of relations between the state and religions so disparaged? Is it misunderstood, or really ineffective? And how are other countries doing?
The answer is tricky, because each system is the result of a complex history and particular political, demographic or religious power struggles In the United States, “Americans have a visceral relationship to religious freedom,” recalls political scientist Nadia Marzouki It would not occur to them, for example, to scrutinize the eating or clothing habits of Muslims, or others
American culture is marked by a “disengagement of the State” and “a great diversity of modes of practice”, notes Nadia Marzouki In the United States, mosques are frequented by Salafists or the Muslim Brotherhood, and on the other hand by gays or women “The anti-Western discourse among some Muslims exists, but not the anti-state or anti-secular discourse since religion is everywhere “
In Canada, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not spare his criticism of France after the republication of the cartoons of the Prophet of Islam, the situation is again different “We are a large country whose borders are not exposed like yours Mobility is greater, migrants are valued more: some Muslims are successful businessmen, especially because we select our immigration Above all, we do not have your colonial history, “recalls Solange Lefebvre, holder of the cultural and religious diversity chair at the University of Montreal.
Canada has never been hit by Islamist attacks On the other hand, it shares with New Zealand the sad privilege of being the only Western country to have known a deadly attack on a mosque: on January 29, 2017, Alexandre Bissonnette, a far-right activist, opened fire in the Islamic Center of Quebec, killing six people
More than with North America, it is undoubtedly with other European countries that the comparison of relations between the state and the cults would be relevant In particular with Germany, also affected by numerous terrorist attacks
For the past hundred years, the French model separating the state and religions has been opposed to the one chosen by the Scandinavian countries, England or Greece, which instead combines the state and one or more religions But across Europe systems are moving, and fast “Each of our countries has a minority group that asks for more visibility, or a majority group criticized for its legitimacy”, explains anthropologist Anne-Laure Zwilling “Today everyone feels a little helpless “
All countries are considering the best way to reconcile religious freedom and national cohesion, in particular by relying on schools In Great Britain, they teach “British values” In France, the “values of the Republic”
Germany, which together with France has the largest presence of Muslims (4 to 5 million people), allows religion classes in schools and Islamic theology faculties at public universities “In terms of display, it’s excellent,” observes academic Sylvie Toscer-Angot “Little Muslims are not treated any differently from little Protestants or Catholics, and this prevents children from attending Koranic schools “
Planting of a secular tree in the presence of a priest, a Muslim, a pastor and elected officials in Halluin (North) / Thierry Thorel / Voices of the North / MaxPPP
In France, the annual report of the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights shows that in thirty years, tolerance has increased in society, especially with regard to Muslim citizens In a recent collective work (Face aux bombats, PUF), the researchers note that it has even improved since the 2015 attacks
It is above all the policy of successive governments that intrigues abroad For thirty years, the public authorities have wanted to institutionalize an “Islam of France” “They need an interlocutor”, justifies Haoues Seniguer, professor at Sciences-Po Lyon “But they confuse representation and representativeness, while Islam is plural Wanting to regulate Islam from above is doomed to failure “
A bill to “reinforce republican principles” has been under discussion in the National Assembly since January It aims to strengthen control over places of worship but also over associations and schools. The need for better training of Muslim religious leaders is emphasized but without concrete application On the one hand, successive governments display the ambition to bring about an “Islam of France” or a “republican Islam”, detached from foreign funding But on the other hand, they deprive themselves of the means to act by defending a strict application of the principle of separation between state and religions
At a rally for freedom of expression and in tribute to Samuel Paty, in Paris / Cyril Bitton / Divergence
More than the principle of French-style secularism, which attempts to combine religious freedom with the separation of the State and religions, it is its interpretation, and the speeches that accompany it, that our neighbors misunderstand They see it as haste, grandiloquence, even a form of “hysterization”, “whereas it would take respect, appeasement, and leave time for those who are not comfortable with this. system ”, suggests Anne-Laure Zwilling
Are Muslims unhappy in France? Not necessarily, according to a 2018 survey by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency among Muslim populations in 15 European countries It shows that the feeling of attachment to the country of residence is strong in Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, lower in Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Greece Secular France is therefore not doing so badly in terms of integration With one nuance According to this survey, the feeling of attachment is slightly higher everywhere among descendants of immigrants, except in France and the Netherlands where second-generation immigrants express it less than their elders
Like any bill, the one “reinforcing republican principles” was first presented to the Council of Ministers – on December 9 – and it will be debated in the National Assembly and the Senate, which will have to decide ‘agreement on the final text It will then be promulgated by the Head of State with a view to its concrete application In its initial version, the bill seeks in particular:
→ Affirm the neutrality of public services Noting that public services are not immune to Islamist proselytism, the bill intends to reaffirm political and religious neutrality within them These principles will target employees of private law bodies responsible for a public service mission: bus drivers, postmen, SNCF controllers, etc.
→ Fight against terrorism Article 3 expands the “Fijait” file, which identifies perpetrators of terrorist acts, to people who advocate terrorism However, the registration of a person in Fijait prohibits him in particular access to certain jobs or functions
→ Fight hatred After the October 16, 2020 assassination of history professor Samuel Paty, the text creates a new crime of endangering the lives of others “Revealing, disseminating or transmitting” for a malicious purpose, even if no act is committed, “information relating to the private, family or professional life of a person allowing him to be identified or located” would be punished by three to five years imprisonment
→ Strengthen the religious police The reform wants to strongly encourage Muslim communities to adopt the legal regime of religious association (known as the “law 1905”), while they are most often organized under the more flexible and less controlled regime of association known as “law 1901” Sanctions would be increased in the event of incitement to hatred or violence in a place of worship or in the event of a political meeting in a place of worship
→ Better control of associations The text aims to oblige associations which request a subsidy to commit, by a “republican engagement contract”, to respect the values of the Republic, in particular “human dignity”, “the principle of equality, in particular between men and women “,” the principle of fraternity “and” the rejection of hatred “
→ Home education and off-contract schools in the sights The text wants to make compulsory the education of children from 3 to 16 years old in a school, public or private This is to fight against group lessons, more or less formal, within undeclared structures and sometimes presented as family school, which do not clearly separate religious education and school education
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