Beheading in France could bolster president’s claim that Islam is in ‘crisis’ – but so is French secularism

October 26, 2020

In an article published recently in The Conversation, Ahmet T. Kuru, RFI FORIS Scholar, discusses the implications of a high-profile violent incident in France that appears to have been motivated by religious extremism:

A French high school teacher who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad to his class was beheaded on Oct. 16 by an 18-year-old Muslim refugee in what France’s President Emmanuel Macron characterized as an “Islamist terrorist attack.”

The killing is the latest high-profile attack by a Muslim extremist in France, coming after the 2015 massacre at Charlie Hebdo magazine and the 2016 truck attack in Nice. It also occurred two weeks after Macron gave a controversial speech defining Islam as “a religion that is in crisis today all over the world.”

Kuru also turns to French President Emmanuel Macron’s comments earlier this month, highlighting the institutional dimension of current religious freedom questions in France:

Macron’s Oct. 2 speech outlined a legislative proposal to fight “Islamist separatism.” If passed in Parliament, it would essentially ban home-schooling of all children aged 3 and up and prevent foreign-trained imams from leading French mosques. The goal, said the president, is “to build an Islam in France that can be compatible with the Enlightenment.”

He then addresses French secularism generally, and its inadequacy for the current moment:

French secularism, which is embraced by both the progressive left and the Islamophobic right, goes well beyond the American democratic concept of separating religion and state. Called “laïcité,” it essentially excludes religious symbols from public institutions. France has banned Muslim women’s headscarves in schools and outlawed religious face coverings everywhere.

“Too often,” Kuru contends, “laïcité translates into an unwillingness to accommodate the religiously based demands of Muslims.”

Read the full article (republished in The National Interest, Yahoo! News, and

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