Young and disaffected Muslims will view French securality schools charter as simply the status quo

It’s true that challenges to secular religion come mostly from intolerant strains of Islam

Share
Related Topics

Britain’s sense of identity is based on the Queen, the flag and a vague pride in our ill-defined democratic traditions and institutions. David Cameron would add “our” sports and our pop icons.

France’s sense of identity – and not just on the left – is rooted in the secular state itself. The “Republican values” of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity were, in effect, installed as the official religion by a law separating Church and State 108 years ago.

Throughout the 19th century, there had been a battle in France between religious and secular values, for control of the State and especially for control of education. In 1905 it was agreed that the State, not the Catholic Church, should be the dominant power in the land.

The State would guarantee freedom of worship to all religions. Private faith-schools would be allowed. But the public education system would inculcate the secular values of the state religion.   

The “secularity charter” introduced in schools yesterday is a restatement of this central fact of French life. But why, one century later, does it need to be pasted on the walls of every school in the land, from nurseries to lycées?

Vincent Peillon, the Education Minister, rejects accusations that his charter is anti-Muslim. It is undeniable that the 21st-century challenges to France’s secular religion, especially in schools, come mostly from the more intolerant strains of Islam.

But Mr Peillon believes that France’s five million-strong Muslim community – largely moderate or non-practising – have the most to lose from an erosion of state-enforced religious and ethnic tolerance.

He is right. But his argument would work better if the State also pursued the Republican values of Equality and Fraternity in its dealings with the poor, multi-racial suburbs of French cities.

Eight years after the riots of 2005, the prospects for young people in the banlieues – not all of them Muslims – are as bleak as ever. Under these circumstances, many disaffected young Muslims will dismiss the “secularity charter” as just another title for the status quo.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links