In a charged environment, France deals with its secular model


The French government on Tuesday began a wide-ranging public debate over the French model of secularism, in an effort to control a controversial topic that has alarmed the nation in recent months and is likely to be a battleground in the upcoming presidential election. Year.

Marilyn Schiappa, Minister of Citizenship, brought together a small group of intellectuals in a gathering in Paris, at the start of what is expected to be a series of discussions that lasted for months and which she described as “public real estate in secularism” – in reference to historical history Meetings held in France to discuss the fundamentals of society French.

Known as secularismFrench secularism, which separates church and state, has been the bedrock of the country’s political system for more than a century.

Ms. Schiappa said, “In every country, there are important words that cannot be overlooked,” describing secularism as an idea “in which there is a French destiny.”

Debate by Mrs. Schiappa Advertise To a French newspaper at the weekend, she surprised many because of her timing and intentions. It began as lawmakers finish work on a bill aimed at strengthening the principles of the secular state To fight Islamism.

Led by Mrs. Schiappa – the high-ranking minister who has taken a tough view on secularism – the debate comes at a time when President Emmanuel Macron comes Trying to fend off A growing threat from the right and far right ahead of next year’s presidential election.

While Mr. Macron attempts to polish his credentials as an advocate of a strict vision of secularism, he has moved on, too To seize another issue important to right-wing voters: crime.

After months of paying attention to the government’s vaccination campaign against the struggling coronavirus, Macron pledged Monday to be tough on crime, cracking down on recreational drugs and recruiting an additional 10,000 police by the end of his current five-year term. The promises were made in a long and difficult talk Interview I give to the conservative newspaper, Le Figaro, that other one Publishing It was described as reminiscent of the fighter Rudolph Giuliani Former Mayor of New York.

On Monday, Macron visited drug trafficking sites in the southern city of Montpellier, spoke to police officers and took a police car. Even as Ms. Schiappa opened the debate on secularism, Macron’s prime minister and justice minister visited an under-construction prison in eastern France to announce details of the government’s expansion of the prison system.

The French, across their political spectrum, adhere to the concepts of secularism stipulated in the law in 1905. However, there have been deep disagreements over how to apply the law, especially since the emergence of Islam in recent decades as the second largest religion in France after Roman Catholicism.

While Mr. Macron expressed a liberal view of secularism early in his tenure, he gradually came closer to supporters of a strict view of secularism.

The government recently announced the dissolution of the House of Representatives Secularism Observatory, A government watchdog that has long been criticized by strict secularists as soft. The government’s anti-Islamism bill also aims to enforce the principles of secularism in the country by controlling more Islamic and other religious organizations, and restricting home and private education.

Ms. Schiappa appeared inside a church that has been converted into a government building, and spoke of the need for a “quiet” discussion about secularism. But the heated nature of the debate can be seen because some of the six invited thinkers – four supporters of strict secularism and two against it – hardly took subtle swipes to each other.

Conservative thinkers have argued that secularism is a universal principle and a useful tool for fighting Islamism and the fragmentation of society out of identity motivation.

Philosopher Raphael Enthoven criticized those who, in the name of tolerance of religions, preferred a liberal version of secularism, saying it was in the interest of Islamists. “Secularism is the subject of prosecution and the despicable propaganda that it is presented almost as racist,” said Mr Einthoven.

Philip Godin, also a philosopher, has said that the debate about secularism must take into account a changing world in which more people, including young people, hold religious beliefs. He said, “If we do not want to understand the world in which we find ourselves, we will not be able to explain our political options, especially with regard to secularism.”

Ms. Schiappa said that during the month of July, groups across the country will work to connect secularism with issues such as freedom of expression and women’s rights. About 50,000 young people will be asked how secularism affects their daily lives on an online platform launched Tuesday.

Even before Tuesday’s meeting, some experts and organizations were dismissing the debate as a propaganda ploy.

Patrick Weil, a historian and secular expert who teaches at the Pantheon-Sorbonne University in Paris and Yale, said that in the past, large public debates called “public estate” preceded the work of lawmakers to enrich the debate.

“Public real estate has a long history in France – one that preceded the revolution,” said Mr. Weil in an interview. “They have a lot of power. But here’s the opposite. It’s very strange.”

Others were more critical, accusing Mr. Macron’s government of political theater in an attempt to win the oath.

In response to Ms. Schiappa’s invitation to participate in the debate, Frederic Seif, National Secretary of one of France’s largest unions, said, French Democratic Union of Labor, He said it was a bad idea to initiate these discussions while the Secession bill had not yet become law.

“We must stop making secularism a permanent subject of media agitation,” he said He said In a tweet.

Mr Macron’s two-pronged effort on secularism and crime this week comes as polls show he is fickle with Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Rally, in next year’s presidential election. With voters moving to the right and left-leaning parties in France in disarray, Mr. Macron’s electoral strategy relies on winning over right-leaning voters who may be inclined to migrate to the far-right.

Polls show that while Macron’s support has generally remained steady, he has lost support among right-wing voters over the past four months. While 48 percent of conservative voters and 20 percent of far-right supporters said they were satisfied with it in December, according to The IFOP studyThat percentage dropped to 30 percent and 13 percent in April, according to the same thing Survey company.

Mr Macron has also come under pressure from the right-wing-controlled Senate, which last week passed a toughened version of his anti-Islamists bill, adding a series of amendments that critics said risked discrimination against Muslims.

Many of the new measures stem from the controversy over the wearing of the Islamic headscarf. It includes banning religious symbols or ostentatious clothing For minors in public places And the In sports tournamentsAs well as for Parents who accompany children on school outings. It also enables local authorities to Banning full-body swimwear Some Muslim women wear it in swimming pools and mayors enable foreign flags to be banned in and around City Hall buildings during wedding celebrations.

The bill, which was approved by the National Assembly earlier, will now be examined by a multi-party parliamentary committee. If the commission fails to reach an agreement, the National Assembly, controlled by Mr Macron’s party, will have the final say. The Constitutional Council can also cancel some new procedures.

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