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Secularism & Islam in France

Date & Time

Jun. 16, 2021
10:00am – 11:00am ET


Laïcité or secularism is a key part of the French political fabric but also causing friction and divisions – especially with Muslim communities. A new “Islamist separatism” bill, which would further expand on the separation of church and state, is currently being passed through the French parliament. It would prohibit any civil servant or contractor for the public sector from wearing religious symbols. Although the bill does not explicitly mention Islam as such, many fear that it could unfairly target and further alienate Muslims in France.

Is secularism in its current form still working in France? What can be done to guarantee the separation of church and state, but also protect religious freedoms and religious minorities? How do legitimate security concerns, and the debate about political Islam and freedom of speech heighten tensions?

Join us for a conversation about Secularism & Islam in France on Wednesday, June 16th at 10AM ET/ 4PM CET.

Selected Quotes

Amel Boubekeur

“The central problem in France is that it’s really difficult for a secular state as the French state to acknowledge the specificities of Muslims as citizens. So this is really the issue we have to focus on, rather than putting the blame on Muslims.”

”The issue of management of Islam as a religion always fades, because of mainly two issues, or two traps, I would say. The traps are namely the fact that the French state has always leaned on Muslim representatives in order to try to have a kind of management of Islam, and second, the idea of reforming Islam is also not such a natural project in France – it has always been linked to the political regime in place, and its ambitions.”

Steven Philip Kramer

“If many Muslims in France are not well integrated in the republic, and if some of them feel ambivalent about France, it’s a result of a series of long-term trends which have marginalized the French Muslim population.”

“As you know, Laïcité doesn’t mean just freedom of religion as it does in this country. It’s a range of thinking about how you deal with religion, above all how you make it into a completely private thing, and it was developed against the Catholic Church to some extent, and that kind of animus against religion still remains, but it’s being directed against the only truly vibrant religion in France today which is Islam, and that’s a real problem.”

Hakim El Karoui

“I do believe that to solve the problem we, the Muslims, will have to find our solutions. The issue is not the government, the state, the French society. The issue is within Islam, the battle between Salafism, political Islam, and to face the battle for identity, how we combine a Western identity and a Muslim identity. This is a question of modernity, and the answer is within the Muslims’ hands.”

“From my point of view, the people who will solve the issue of Islam are the Muslims, but if the vast majority and specifically the elite of French Muslims do not engage in a new representation, (…) in a new way to launch the battle inside Islam against fundamentalism, the issue will not be solved, and it will be treated and used by the far-right.”

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Global Europe Program

The Global Europe Program addresses vital issues affecting the European continent, U.S.-European relations, and Europe’s ties with the rest of the world. It does this through scholars-in-residence, seminars, policy study groups, media commentary, international conferences and publications. Activities cover a wide range of topics, from the role of NATO, the European Union and the OSCE to European energy security, trade disputes, challenges to democracy, and counter-terrorism. The program investigates European approaches to policy issues of importance to the United States, including globalization, digital transformation, climate, migration, global governance, and relations with Russia and Eurasia, China and the Indo-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.  Read more

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