Marshall in Providence: Sideswiping Religious Freedom in France and Denmark

February 18, 2021

In a recent article published in Providence, Paul Marshall, Director of RFI’s South and Southeast Asia Team and scholar on its FORIS Project, writes on “Sideswiping Religious Freedom in France and Denmark.” In an effort to eradicate radical Islam in their country, Marshall argues, the French government has proposed troubling measures that broadly undermine religious freedom, in both its individual and institutional dimensions. He observes that similar proposals, although “less draconian,” have been advanced by Denmark. 

One common feature of both sets of proposals is that, although the respective governments try to soften the fact that Muslims are their primary focus, and they will certainly affect Muslims, they sideswipe other religious communities. In some cases, they may impinge on them more deeply….

In France, President Macron announced measures that require imams to be trained and certified in France, enhance oversight of foreign funding, outlaw religious organizations that promote ideas “contrary to the laws of the republic,” and ban homeschooling children from the age of three. The government may dissolve religious and other organizations when there is an “affront on personal dignity.

Especially in France, these measures have begun to garner disapproval from various groups, to the extent that, “David Broussard, president of Impact France, has called the moves ‘libérticide’— ‘freedom killer.’” 

In Denmark, “All religions would be required to have their sermons published and put at the disposal of the authorities. If they are in languages other than Danish, they must be translated.” For one, this causes issues for regions that are still under Danish control, but which speak their own native language, such as the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Marshall continues, “Apart from this, the law could be a financial and administrative burden for smaller religious groups.”

While restrictions on religious freedom often stem from ignorance rather than intent, Marshall concludes that the harsh measures discussed cannot be chalked up to “mere ignorance.”

Read the article: Sideswiping Religious Freedom in France and Denmark.