The terrorist murder of French professor Samuel Paty in the Paris suburb in autumn 2020 has re-opened a debate concerning the liberty of teaching, freedom of expression and the role of secularism in a pluralist society. What is the specific nature of French laïcité? To what extent is there a growing confrontation with a part of the Muslim world? Why has this provoked a diplomatic incident between France and Turkey, and more broadly the boycott of French products in many Muslim countries? The on-going ideological debate concerning the role of religion in a secular society, has shown both its local and international implications, where many different actors use it for various strategic purposes. This dossier on the one hand will discuss the boundaries, the origins and the contemporary effects of freedom of expression and laïcité comparing the French, the Western and the Muslim contexts. On the other hand, it will analyse the geopolitical, local and international stakes of this debate.
- France, and what it represents, appears in many respects to be a priority target for political Islam in general, and for its extremist avatars in particular. This not a coincidence, since France embodies a singular conception of freedom of expression inherent to laïcité, which it has historically elevated to the rank of a cardinal republican value. “France is an indivisible, laïque, democratic and social Republic. It ensures the equality before the law of all citizens without distinction of origin, race or religion. It respects all beliefs.” It is precisely this respect for all religious beliefs that has been called into question and manipulated for largely political purposes by neo-Ottoman Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan amid the controversy generated by the republication, on September 2, 2020, of the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed by the Charlie Hebdo weekly newspaper.
- The political consequences of increasingly divergent feelings, beliefs, lifestyles. A lesson from Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”.
- 2019 will be remembered as a peculiar and unpredictable year in the bilateral relations between Italy and France. Last February, French Ambassador Christian Masset was recalled from Rome to Paris after months of tensions. Quai d’Orsay officials defined the crisis as “unprecedented”, a rupture on a scale not seen since the Second World War.
- The CFA franc is linked to a history of extreme colonial violence and should by now be part of the past, and therefore of numismatics, and lie in a memorabilia museum like the one on the apartheid era of comic actor and fervent activist Pieter-Dirk Uys.
- Nativism informs the way in which far-right organizations identify the members of the national community and those who challenge or threaten it.
- Although, in many ways, the reasons for which many recently converted young men decide or have so far decided to go and fight with “God’s fanatics” in Syria and Iraq remain mysterious, those same choices made by girls born and raised in a ‘western’ environment in Europe “totally bewilders us”, admits the sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar in his interview with Reset.
- After the 2016 terrorist attacks in France 30 mayors of coastal towns banned the “burkini” from public beaches calling it a provocation against the authority of French secularism as one of the constituent principles of the French state.