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

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: No vote poses difficult questions – so why rush?

Independent Voices
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside  

Autumn’s subtle charm is greatly enhanced by this Indian summer

Michael McCarthy
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments