Debating Islam In France

A growing number of religious leaders in France are concerned about plans to hold a debate in the French government that would focus on the role of Muslims in society. Top representatives of France’s Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Christians, Jews, Bhuddists and Muslims published a joint statement that argues holding such a debate would add “to the confusion in the troubled period we are traversing.” Muslim leaders are worried the debate would only add to those forces in European society which seek to stigmatize people of their faith as not being loyal members of their nations.

In theory, the April 5 debate supposedly deals with discussing France’s secular heritage and how the nation can accomodate those of the Muslim religion in terms of differing customs and beliefs. As one religious leader noted,”do we need, in the current context, a debate on secularism?” Of course, one could also pose if it is the right of political parties to discuss religions and their belief system?

Jean -Francois Cope, leader of the UMP, has been champion for the need to create a new “Code Of Secularity” that spells out how to maintain secularism in France. What exactly is the problem? In which ways does the fact about 10% of Muslim women wear a chador impact the lives of French people? Or, does the fact about 2,000 of the three million Muslim women in France wear a niqab threaten the foundation of secularism?