Female imams lead prayers, a first in France

Of note:

Several French Muslim women are trying to lead prayer sessions in France. They face major opposition, but on Saturday two French women who converted to Islam led the country’s first non-segregated prayers where wearing of the veil was not compulsory.

Eva Janadin and Anne-Sophie Monsinay led prayers before a congregation of 60. Men and women kneeled, side by side, in a room in Paris hired for the occasion.

For security reasons the location remained secret: an indication that fundamentalist Muslims are still struggling with the move towards a more “inclusive” expression of Islam in France.

Un temps de prière mixte et progressiste, où le port du voile n’est pas obligatoire. «Nous apportons notre pierre à la construction d’un islam de France adapté aux acquis de la modernité», explique l’imame Eva Janadin

In a report by Le Parisien, Ann-Sophie Monsinay said they had faced opposition but that thankfully “there had been more encouragement than threats”.

Source: Female imams lead prayers, a first in France

Increasing Anti-Semitism: Macron Struggles to Contain Rising Hate Crimes

Worth noting:

He had hoped, said French President Emmanuel Macron with a heavy voice last Wednesday evening, that “this dinner would take place in a cheerful context.” Wearing a dark suit and a serious expression, he stood in front of a podium in the Carrousel du Louvre, an underground shopping mall near the Louvre museum.

CRIF, the umbrella association of Jewish organizations in France, had invited Macron for their annual dinner. It could have been just one event among many for the French president, whose agenda is always packed. But it didn’t turn out that way. Quite the contrary.

That has to do with a situation that is anything but cheerful. Anti-Semitic attacks increased by fully 74 percent in 2018, an unfathomable spike. Last year, 541 incidents were registered, compared to 311 the previous year.

And then there are the recent events: Only a few days before the event near the Louvre, a man shouted at philosopher Alain Finkielkraut on the street, saying that he was a “filthy Jew,” that he belonged to a “filthy race” and that he should “go back to Tel Aviv.” The man who yelled at Finkielkraut was wearing a yellow vest.

Then a Jewish cemetery in Alsace was desecrated as was, though it wasn’t yet known by the time of the dinner, another cemetery near Lyon, where someone wrote “Shoa blabla” on a memorial. Meanwhile, the portrait on the 13th Arrondissement town hall of Simone Veil, the Holocaust survivor and former European Parliament president, was daubed with black swastikas. And someone sprayed “Jews” on the window of a bagel shop.

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In his speech to the members of the Jewish organizations, Emmanuel Macron said: “For the last several years, anti-Semitism has once again been killing people in France.” Then he listed, one after the other, the names of the people who had been murdered in France in recent years because they were Jewish.

Neither anti-Semitism nor anti-Semitic violence are new phenomena in France or in the rest of Europe. Both have a long history, with a few tragic nadirs: In France, these include the Dreyfus Affair in the late 19th century, the desecration of the Jewish cemetery in Carpentras in 1990, the torture-killing of Ilan Halimi in 2006 in a Parisian suburb and the murder of Mireille Knoll, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, about a year ago.

The current displays of anti-Semitism, though, are the crest of an almost all-encompassing wave of hatred and violence crashing over the country. Anti-Semitic attacks can be recognized for what they are; unlike other acts of violence, they can be categorized and geographically pinpointed. As such, the hatred of Jews can be identified even against the backdrop of broadly rising violence.

And here, too, there is a problem specific to France, as the terror attacks of the past few years have shown: The failed integration of younger Muslims and their increasing radicalization.

But a debate has emerged about whether the yellow vests are per se anti-Semitic, whether they are responsible for this new wave of violence. And the likely answer to that question is: They aren’t any more responsible nor are they any more anti-Semitic than the rest of the French. Or, for that matter, than the Germans or the Austrians.

The so-called yellow vests, after all, are not a homogenous collection of people that fall into a specific sociological category. Rather, they are a disparate movement united by only one thing: indignation. And when indignation escalates, hate is ultimately the result.

Rising to the Surface

“I am shocked how much hatred there currently is in our country,” says Denis Peschanski, a historian who researches historical commemoration. In his view, French anti-Semitism is always in the background, but in pushes its way forward in times of crisis. And it thrives, he says, in an environment where conspiracy theories are plentiful.

And this is where the yellow vests play a role, because, no matter how diverse they may be, the movement’s combined force has paved the way, both verbally and physically, for these acts of violence. What is new, though, is the unrestrained nature of the hatred.

There is a hatred of taxes and of tax increases. Hatred for the president, who some would like to see guillotined in the traffic circles in rural France where the yellow vests camp.

And then there’s the lawmaker who threatened Macron by saying the president would end up like Kennedy if he didn’t change his policies. We are essentially witnessing a collective breaking of taboos. “A Clockwork Orange” in French.

These newly blurred boundaries are also palpable within the yellow vest movement. After nurse Ingrid Levavasseur, a kind of figurehead for the movement, wanted to run in the European Parliament elections with her own list of candidates, she was so harshly insulted and threatened that she withdrew her candidacy. “Dirty whore!” one person yelled at her. “Go get raped!”

All constraints seem to have disappeared. Anyone can be whatever they want to be: racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist. Freedom of speech is showing its dark side.

And it isn’t just insults and complaints. The Arc de Triomphe was graffitied. Someone peed on the barrier protecting the French National Assembly. Hatred of the bank on the corner leads to its windows being shattered, and the same happens to the shoe store across the street.

Peschanski, the historian, connects these transgressions to two things: the presidential election in 2017 — which Emmanuel Macron won against all expectations, making him quasi-illegitimate in the eyes of many — and to the populism that has become rampant across Europe.

The more powerful the populists become, the more they spread their ideas, their rhetoric, and their hate. The question is now whether the situation can be reset, and whether this spiral of physical and verbal violence can be ended.

Emmanuel Macron is trying in his own way, by travelling to remote corners of the country and talking to people, whether they are local politicians, students or retirees. He has decreed a “great debate” for the country, which sometimes seems akin to national group therapy. He listens to the complaints, takes down criticisms and then responds to them.

An Attempt at Dialogue

To those who are angry, he argues that politicians are not fundamentally corrupt. To those who are afraid, he declares that democracy can protect them. Most of the time, he cuts quite a good form at such appearances because he tends towards the pedagogical. Having spent the first year of his administration focused on establishing his authority, he is now showing his Montessori qualities.

But Macron can’t be everywhere, and he has no alternative to offer the senseless, those who believe that nothing can be accomplished without violence. Many in France, including people who don’t take part in the yellow vest protests, believe that these weaker elements of France never would have heard from him had the yellow vests not revolted.

French President Emmanuel Macron, center, visiting the Shoah Memorial in Paris.

This is partly Macron’s fault. He didn’t respond until quite late, when the violence had boiled over. Now, he is trying to calm down the situation and to pursue reconciliation.

On Wednesday evening, in his speech to CRIF, he said he wanted to punish hate more decisively. He said this push would include laws that, for example, would keep a closer eye social networks. A form of anti-hate law is to be passed banning openly racist or anti-Semitic groups like Blood & Honour Hexagone and Combat 18. Anti-Zionist views are to be considered a form of anti-Semitism, a position which Macron had resisted until recently.

In his talk at the dinner, he said that he had been “ashamed” when he visited the desecrated Jewish cemetery in Alsace. Anti-Semitism, Macron said, isn’t a problem for the Jews, but a problem for the republic.

When his speech ended, the audience applauded. The group’s chairman, Francis Kalifat, strode on stage to thank him. First, he shook the president’s hand, then suddenly took his arm, grabbed it and held it up, like a boxing champion. It was a gesture of desperation.

Source: Increasing Anti-Semitism: Macron Struggles to Contain Rising Hate Crimes

France declares anti-Zionism a form of antisemitism in crackdown on racism against Jewish people

The challenge, as always, lies in the interpretation of how “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country” is assessed and related definitions, particularly on human rights related issues as well as issues particular to Israel itself and its occupation of the West Bank.

But as a working definition, it is particularly sound in the examples of contemporary antisemitism:

Emmanuel Macron has declared anti-Zionism a form of antisemitism as he ramps up France’s crackdown on racism against Jewish people.

Speaking at the 34th annual dinner of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, Mr Macron said a surge in antisemitic attacks in his country had not been seen since World War Two.

He promised a new law to tackle hate speech on the internet and said France would adopt the definition of antisemitism set by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

The IHRA definition does not use the phrase “anti-Zionism” but does say denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination “e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour,” is antisemitic.

Some critics of Israel, its occupation of territory internationally recognised as Palestinian, and its isolation of the Gaza Strip, say they risk being unfairly branded antisemitic, although the IHRA definition says: “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country” is not.

Mr Macron’s words were well received from the World Jewish Congress which said: “This is just the beginning of a long road ahead. Adopting this definition of anti-Semitism must be followed by concrete steps to encode into law and ensure that this is enforced.”

The IHRA definition is not legally binding but does serve as an international guideline.

Germany and Britain adopted the definition in texts in 2016, though the European Union adopted a softer tone, calling the IHRA definition a “guidance tool” amid concern from some member states that it could make criticism of Israeli policy, particularly with regards to Palestinians, difficult.

Mr Macron said France would not change its laws relating to antisemitism and that recognising the IHRA’s definition must not be seen as a means of preventing people from criticising the Israeli government.

Source: France declares anti-Zionism a form of antisemitism in crackdown on racism against Jewish people

Gilets jaunes: How much anti-Semitism is beneath the yellow vests?

Some replication of the tendency of the far-right to co-opt or otherwise benefit from a movement initially focussed on economic issues as well as here in Canada.

One of my retweets provoked considerable discussion from different perspectives regarding the Canadian anti-carbon tax convoy, ranging from the two solitudes of all racists to all just plain folks protesting, to the more nuanced perspectives noting the challenges that extremists pose to the initial message of protesters:

The French far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, has said she won’t join other political parties in a march against anti-Semitism on Tuesday, accusing France’s leaders of doing nothing to tackle Islamist networks in France and saying she will mark the occasion separately.

It comes days after a prominent French philosopher, Alain Finkielkraut, was verbally attacked for being Jewish as he walked past the weekly “gilets jaunes” (yellow-vest) protests in Paris.

A small group of protesters shouted a barrage of abuse at him as he passed by the demonstration on his way home from lunch on Saturday, calling him a “dirty Zionist” and telling him to “go back to Tel Aviv”.

“I felt an absolute hatred,” Mr Finkielkraut told one French newspaper later that night. “If the police hadn’t been there, I would have been frightened.”

A few days before that, official data suggested there had been a 74% rise in anti-Semitic attacks in France last year.

Now, many here are questioning whether the gilets jaunes movement is providing a new kind of forum for these extremist views, and how central those attitudes are to the movement.

“It’s very serious,” says Vincent Duclert, a specialist in anti-Semitism in France at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences – one of France’s most prestigious colleges.

“The gilets jaunes are not an anti-Semitic movement, but alongside the demonstration each Saturday there’s a lot of anti-Semitic expression by groups of the extreme right or extreme left.”

“You can be on the streets demonstrating every Saturday, shouting your slogans against the Jews,” says Jean-Yves Camus, an expert in French political extremism.

“And as there’s no leadership in the movement and no stewarding of the demonstrations, you can be free to do it. I’m afraid there will be more attacks, because the self-proclaimed leaders simply do not seem to care that much.”

Jason Herbert, a spokesman for the movement, says the incident on Saturday is a scandal, but not representative of the gilets jaunes as a whole.

“It’s the inherent weakness of a movement that lets the people speak,” he explained. “Everyone can come and give his opinion – and some opinions are despicable and illegal. To think someone is inferior because of his or her origins is just not acceptable, and it’s completely unrelated to our demands. Amongst our demands, I’ve never heard ‘we want fewer Jews’.”

The gilets jaunes began life as a protest against fuel tax rises, but have broadened into a loose confederation of different interest groups with no official hierarchy or leadership. Over the past three months, as the movement has appeared more radical, its wider support has dipped.

Vincent Duclert believes that the movement does bear some responsibility for the extremist abuse in its midst, because the violence of the protests – towards the police, state institutions and public property – encourages anti-Semitism by encouraging “transgression”.

And, he says, it’s possible that the gilets jaunes are also offering “a new space for different kinds of anti-Semitism to come together: from the extreme right and extreme left, but also from radical Islamist or anti-Zionist groups, and some types of social conservatives”.

There are signs over the past year, he says, that levels of anti-Semitism have risen within these different groups, because of changes at home, across Europe and in the Middle East, and that French public opinion has been too tolerant.

Politicians here have been quick to condemn Saturday’s attack on Alain Finkielkraut. President Macron tweeted that it was “the absolute negation of what we are and what makes us a great nation”.

Others tried to blame it on their political rivals.

A member of France’s centre-right opposition, Geoffrey Didier, told reporters that anti-Semitism was growing “because radical Islamism is growing in France”, while Marine Le Pen said it illustrated “how the anti-Semite far-left is trying to infiltrate the gilets jaunes movement”.

Both Ms Le Pen’s party and that of her far-left rival, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, have been trying to win the support of the gilets jaunes ahead of European elections in May.

Jean-Yves Camus believes last week’s attack will help turn public opinion against the movement, saying it has become “a hotbed of radical activity from both sides of the political spectrum and the French do not want that”.

Source: Gilets jaunes: How much anti-Semitism is beneath the yellow vests?

France Has Millions of Muslims. Why Does It Import Imams?

Valid question and reveals some of the straitjackets of French history and policies:

What to do about Islam in France? Considering Islamist terrorist attacks, communalism and the international manipulation of Muslim communities, the matter is pressing. But it’s contentious, because managing Islam seems to go against laïcité, France’s staunch version of state secularism, and a 1905 law that mandates the separation of church and state.

Wouldn’t revising that law be an admission that secularism is bowing to Islamism? On the other hand, if the law isn’t revised, or if the French state cannot find other ways of monitoring and steering Islam, then Islam in France risks falling under the control of foreign states or the influence of radicals. That is already the case, actually: Since laïcité prohibits the French authorities from using public funds to build mosques or train imams, Algeria, Morocco, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have stepped in. According to the newsmagazine L’Express, 70 percent of imams practicing in France are not French.

In an attempt to overcome these paradoxes, President Emmanuel Macron recently convened at the Élysée Palace the country’s various Muslim leaders and then representatives from all religions. The order of the day for the broader meeting, held on Jan. 10, was old emergencies: how to punish radicalism, control the financing of mosques and make Muslim authorities accountable. The news daily Le Monde, which obtained the note that the president handed to attendees, reported that the government was proposing to revise the 1905 law while “confirming” “its principles.”

It was an attempt to square a circle, a malaise, so very French. And the narrower question of what to do about imams — their origins, their trainings, their salaries — summarizes it well.

Here is a first hurdle: It’s virtually impossible to tally imams in France. No one really knows how many there are, partly because the collection of data based on ethnic or religious grounds is prohibited. The last available estimates from the interior ministry — which date back to 2012 — put the number of mosques in France at around 2,500. (A 2016 report by the Senate said it was closer to 3,000.) But those figures are as outdated today as they were imprecise in the first place: What even counts as a “mosque” when so many Muslim believers gather in the basements of low-income building complexes or other improvised prayer halls? And there being 2,500 mosques doesn’t mean there are 2,500 imams: In Sunni Islam, the version of Islam most prevalent in France, anyone can declare oneself an imam and volunteer to lead prayers or the Friday Sermon.

There is no central authority overseeing Islam in France. Anyway, how do you supervise the mosques you don’t fund or imams you can’t pay?

For the time being, France, for lack of its own theological schools, has favored filtered immigration: It brings in imams from abroad, mostly from the home countries of its main immigrant communities, either for long stretches or just for Ramadan. Paradoxically, one of the justifications for this policy — though rarely admittedly publicly — is security: It seems less risky to rely on an official imam from Algeria than to let a self-proclaimed imam emerge in a Paris banlieue, or suburb.

For example, Algerian imams wishing to go to France must first undergo investigations. And as the Algerian government puts it, modestly, the “Algerian expertise” in internal security matters ensures quality vetting. The government has also offered its services to the United States, Belgium and Italy.

In 2018, Algeria sent approximately 100 imams to officiate in France. Morocco and Tunisia contributed about as many each. In 2017, L’Express ran the headline “Morocco, the factory of French imams,” with an article on imam-apprentices, some sent from France, whom the kingdom was training in how to dispense “middle-ground” Islambefore dispatching them abroad. According to the news weekly Le Point, Turkish “consular structures” oversee more than 250 mosques and about 200 official imams seconded by Turkey to France.

The filtered import of foreign imams may look like a good practical solution; in fact, it’s an ideological trap. These imams, even if acting in good faith, can only reinforce communalism in France and work against integration, because they are not French. In the name of laïcité, France is dangerously delegating its Islam to other states.

Those states benefit. For the Algerian government, the export of imams seems to confirm the country’s return to stability. Saudi Arabia sees proselytizing as a form of soft power. So does Turkey, which appears invested in maintaining a religious lobby abroad.

The stakes are high, apparently. When last year the Austrian government expelled about 60 Turkish preachers to counter, it said, the creation of “parallel societies” and “political Islam,” Turkey called the move “racist” and “Islamophobic.” When the French government said it wanted to create a distinct “Islam of France,” Algeria — speaking indirectly, via an expert’s op-ed in state media — accused it of “arrogance tinted with ignorance.”

The import of imams, the foreign financing of mosques — these delegations of power by the French authorities are a dead end: They won’t do enough to stem radicalism in France, and they will do even less to nurture the emergence of, precisely, an Islam of France.

The president’s office seems to want to overcome all this. But some of the participants in that first meeting convened by Mr. Macron at the beginning of the year reacted with calculated anger before accepting the invitation. Members of the French Council of the Muslim Faith decried the “colonial administration of Islam.” It’s a clever conflation: By invoking colonialism, they can leverage guilt as a bargaining chip while maintaining Islam’s communal valence. Why do that? For fear of losing power if France develops a sui generis form of Islam. Harping on Muslims’ status as a once-colonized group is a way of highlighting their ties to their countries of origin, over those to their host country.

Past attempts to create Muslim councils — the Great Mosque of Paris, the Federation of French Muslims, the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (also known as Muslims of France) — that could effectively represent France’s various Muslim communities have failed. One reason is the rivalry among the groups’ leaders, different confessional strands and foreign governments with ties to immigrant communities.Algeria competes with Morocco, and both of them compete with Turkey and Saudi Arabia: As the journalist Henri Tincq has pointed out on Slate.fr, the Paris Mosque is “loyal to Algeria,” the Federation of French Muslims has “ties to the Muslim World League and Morocco” and the Union of Islamic Organizations in France is “close to the Muslim Brotherhood.”

It’s difficult to separate Islam from its community and the community from its country of origin without being accused of interference. Whenever the French government tries to manage Islam in France, Algeria says it’s meddling, when in saying so, it is Algeria that is meddling in France’s affairs.

So what can be done? One solution has been put forward by Hakim El Karoui, an international consultant close to Mr. Macron and the author of the recent report “The Islamist Factory” and, in 2016, of “A French Islam Is Possible.”

First, he recommends strictly supervising external financing or informal funds collected in mosques, neighborhoods or local associations. He also suggests creating an independent fund for training imams by taxing halal businesses, money collected through the Muslim alms known as zakat and commerce around the pilgrimage to Mecca. Those are good ideas for trying to keep state and church, or cult, separate while integrating French Muslims into France.

But just what should be uniting is proving divisive: Mr. El Karoui’s proposals are controversial, notably for the French Council of the Muslim Faith. One of the organization’s vice-presidents called them an “insult” to Islam and accused Mr. El Karoui of conflating Islam and Islamism. That reaction sums up well the endless-seeming debate between those who want to maintain a monopoly over Islam in France and those who wish to develop an Islam of France.

François Legault veut davantage d’immigrants français

I wonder whether he realizes that some of these may well be of other ethnicities than French (e.g., from Magreb, where issues around laicité could emerge):

Alors qu’il amorçait sa première visite officielle en France, le premier ministre du Québec a déclaré que, même s’il avait l’intention de réduire les quotas d’immigration, il souhaitait attirer encore plus d’immigrants français au Québec. François Legault a fait cette déclaration au Devoir au premier jour de sa visite en France à l’occasion de laquelle il rencontrera lundi le président, Emmanuel Macron, et le premier ministre, Édouard Philippe.

Pour le premier ministre, il est clair que la réduction des quotas d’immigration ne doit pas nuire à l’immigration en provenance de la France. Au contraire, dit-il. « Actuellement, il y a beaucoup trop d’immigrants au Québec qui ne sont pas qualifiés ou qui ne parlent pas français, dit le premier ministre. Donc, des Français, on en prendrait plus. De même que des Européens. »

François Legault rappelle son « inquiétude » de constater que, l’an dernier, 53 % des immigrants accueillis au Québec ne parlaient pas français. Avec l’immigration française, dit-il, il n’y a généralement ni problème de qualification ni problème de langue. C’est aussi pour recruter du personnel qualifié que l’Union des municipalités du Québec participait la semaine dernière au grand Salon du travail et de la mobilité professionnelle à la grande halle de La Villette à Paris.

On l’aura compris, c’est une visite surtout économique qu’entend mener le premier ministre québécois en France, durant laquelle il doit d’ailleurs rencontrer une douzaine de dirigeants de grandes entreprises françaises afin de les convaincre d’accroître leurs investissements au Québec. Le premier ministre est d’ailleurs accompagné du ministre de l’Économie et de l’Innovation, Pierre Fitzgibbon, ainsi que de la ministre des Relations internationales Nadine Girault.

« Ma priorité est économique, dit-il. Je ne veux rien soustraire [dans la relation France-Québec]. Mais je pense qu’on peut en faire plus en économie en augmentant les exportations. […] Je veux aussi augmenter les investissements des entreprises françaises au Québec, même si je comprends que M. Macron veut le contraire. »

François Legault n’hésite pas à qualifier de « ridicule » le chiffre des exportations québécoises en France, qui ne représente que « trois jours sur une année » comparativement aux exportations en direction des États-Unis. Il dit vouloir « doubler » les échanges économiques. « Il est plus que temps que l’on diversifie nos exportations, dit-il. Nos entreprises n’ont pas le réflexe d’exporter en Europe. Il va falloir changer ça. » Le premier ministre entend notamment augmenter le nombre d’agents commerciaux de la Délégation générale du Québec à Paris. Il compte aussi, en réorganisant Investissement Québec, mieux arrimer le travail de cette agence à celui de la Caisse de dépôt et des délégations à l’étranger.

Entre Matignon et l’Élysée, François Legault se rendra au siège de L’Oréal rencontrer son p.-d.g., Jean-Paul Agon. La multinationale des produits de beauté compte déjà 1474 employés au Québec et une usine à Saint-Laurent. Immédiatement après, il s’entretiendra avec le p.-d.g. du groupe agroalimentaire Fleury Michon, Régis Lebrun, qui emploie 350 personnes à Rigaud. Lundi soir, il mangera avec une demi-douzaine de dirigeants d’entreprises inscrites à la Bourse de Paris, dont David Layani, fondateur du groupe Onepoint, spécialiste de la transformation numérique des entreprises, et Jean-Laurent Bonnafé, directeur général de la grande banque BNP-Paribas.

Le volet politique de cette première visite à l’étranger sera pour sa part plus classique. Lundi midi, François Legault aura un repas privé avec le président Emmanuel Macron. Pour le reste, il rencontrera le premier ministre, Édouard Philippe, et les présidents du Sénat, Gérard Larcher, et de l’Assemblée nationale, Richard Ferrand. Il n’y aura ni conférence de presse commune avec le premier ministre français, ni signature d’ententes, ni non plus de rencontre avec les leaders des partis politiques, comme avaient l’habitude de le faire certains de ses prédécesseurs. « C’est déjà beau que, dans le contexte des gilets jaunes, on nous accorde tout ce temps », dit-on dans l’entourage du premier ministre.

What I can tell you about the nerve-wracking French citizenship interview

The most interesting part of this article were the questions (which are reasonable):

What I can tell you about the nerve-wracking French citizenship interview The Local France Briton Joanna York has just had her crucial interview as she undergoes the lengthy and paperwork heavy process of gaining French citizenship.

Here’s exactly what they asked:
What are the values of the French Republic?
How is liberty exercised in everyday life in France?
How is equality exercised in everyday life in France?
Can you define the concept of secularism in France?
Do you agree with secularism?
What does the national holiday on the 14th July commemorate?
When did the French Revolution happen?
Who was the king at the time?
Which republic are we in now?
Who was the first president of this republic?
How long is a presidential term in France?
How does voting work in France?
Why is the 11th November a national holiday?
When did the First World War begin and end?
How many countries are in the European Union?
Was France one of the founding countries?
Have you visited many places in France?
Which famous French sites have you seen?
Can you name some of France’s major rivers?

Source: What I can tell you about the nerve-wracking French citizenship interview

France’s ban on full-body Islamic veil violates human rights: UN rights panel

Not surprising but still find their reasoning regarding its impact on “attaining the goal of ‘living together’ in society” as whatever the individual reasons for wearing a niqab, it is a symbol of separation, not integration:

The U.N. Human Rights Committee said on Tuesday that France’s ban on the niqab, the full-body Islamic veil, was a violation of human rights and called on it to review the legislation.

France had failed to make the case for its ban, the committee said, giving Paris 180 days to report back to say what actions it had taken. The panel’s findings are not legally binding but could influence French courts.

“In particular, the Committee was not persuaded by France’s claim that a ban on face covering was necessary and proportionate from a security standpoint or for attaining the goal of ‘living together’ in society,” it said.

The panel of 18 independent experts oversees compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Implementation of its decisions is not mandatory, but under an optional protocol of the treaty, France has an international legal obligation to comply “in good faith”.

There was no immediate reaction from French authorities.

The same committee came to similar conclusions on the 2008 case of a woman sacked by a creche for wearing a veil. In September, a top French judge was quoted by newspaper Le Monde as saying that while not binding, the panel’s decisions might still influence French case law.

RISK OF MARGINALIZATION

In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights, whose rulings are binding, upheld France’s ban on full-face veils in public, saying it did not violate religious freedom.

But the U.N. Human Rights Committee disagreed with this in its statement on Tuesday, saying the ban disproportionately harmed the right of women to manifest their religious beliefs and could lead to them being confined at home and marginalized.

The committee’s findings come after complaints by two French women convicted in 2012 under a 2010 law stipulating that “No one may, in a public space, wear any article of clothing intended to conceal the face.”

In its findings the panel said the ban had violated the two women’s human rights and called on France to pay them compensation.

Under the ban, anyone wearing the full-face veil in public is liable to a fine of 150 euros or lessons in French citizenship.

The committee’s chair Yuval Shany said that he and several others on the 18-member panel considered it a form of oppression.

Several countries in Europe have introduced legislation on Islamic dress. Denmark’s parliament enacted a ban on wearing of face veils in public in May. Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and the German state of Bavaria have also imposed some restrictions on full-face veils in public places.

France has the largest Muslim minority in Europe, estimated at 5 million or more out of a population of 67 million. The place of religion and religious symbols worn in public can be a matter of controversy in the staunchly secular country.

According to French media Metronews, some 223 fines were handed out in 2015 for wearing a full veil in public.

Source: France’s ban on full-body Islamic veil violates human rights: UN rights panel

France tells Italy to stop ‘posturing’ on immigration and find a solution

All governments posture to a certain extent. The question lies more how they posture and for what purpose and in this case, the French critique is correct:
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe urged far-right Italian leader Matteo Salvini on Monday to drop his “posturing” on immigration and help find a European response to the issue.

Salvini, Italy’s powerful interior minister and deputy premier, has singled out French President Emmanuel Macron for criticism in recent weeks, as well as other EU leaders he considers too soft on immigration.

Philippe promised to be “direct” in his conversation with the 45-year-old Italian, head of the far-right League party, over dinner on Monday night in the French city of Lyon where the two men, along with ministers from Britain, Germany, Spain, Poland and Morocco, met for talks on immigration.

“I rarely use the same words or the same vocabulary (as Salvini) but that doesn’t stop me being direct as well. I hope we’ll have a frank and direct exchange,” Philippe said.

“Beyond the posturing, the issue of immigration cannot be solved with a national response. It requires coordination. It’s a complex issue of common interest.

“I think you have to tackle it with conviction, with respect for national interests, but also with the desire to build a common position that is the only way to find a solution.”

Philippe’s statement came amid open conflict between the new populist Italian government, led by Salvini and the head of the Five Star movement, Luigi Di Maio, and Macron’s centrist administration in Paris.

Last week, an aide to the French president accused Salvini of “living off the migrant crisis” and blocking attempts to forge a common EU migration policy.

Leaving the dinner, Salvini made no attempt to disguise his differences with the Paris government — just hours after meeting French far-right leader Marine Le Pen in Rome, whom Macron defeated in last year’s presidential election.

“I had the pleasure of seeing Marine Le Pen this morning and talking with her about Europe, the future of young people, trade and work,” he said.

“I need to work with everyone, but I feel closer to the views of Marine Le Pen,” he said.

The talks in Lyon were an attempt to bridge differences between hardline anti-immigration EU member states such as Poland and Italy and others like France and Germany that are in favour of accepting refugees.

The gathering, which continues for a second day on Tuesday focused on efforts to combat terrorism, precedes a larger meeting of European interior ministers in Luxembourg on Friday.

Morocco’s interior minister, Abdelouafi Laftit, was also invited to the talks amid rising concern in Europe about the increasing number of migrants heading to Spanish territory via Morocco.

Spain has become the biggest port of entry for illegal migration into Europe.

The issue of returning Moroccan migrants to their home country, particularly thousands of unaccompanied minors in Spain and France, was discussed on Monday night.

“It’s in the process of being resolved,” Laftit told reporters.

Macron Wants to Create ‘French Islam’ to Align Muslims With Secular Society

Ongoing French struggles with integration approaches. While there are obviously serious problems of Islamist extremism, France also needs to deal with failures of economic integration and ongoing discrimination:

French President Emmanuel Macron will review a new report that lays out proposals to reform Muslim society in France and create a “French Islam.”

The report’s author, Hakim El Karoui, who is the nephew of former Tunisian Prime Minister Hamed Karoui, has called for “a system with men, money and financing to combat [radicalization],” Politico reported. He proposes funding this regulatory system by taxing halal foods, while also restricting religious financing from abroad.

“There are activists on one side and nobody across to say something else. [The Islamists] have an influence that goes well beyond their number of followers,” El Karoui told Europe 1 Radio on Monday.

Speaking to BFM TV, the report’s author also warned that young French Muslims often learned about Islam via social media, where extremists often had a strong presence. He further raised concerns about preachers and mosques funded by religiously conservative foreign nations, such as Saudi Arabia.

In France, many politicians and analysts have long drawn attention to the “parallel society” arising within the country’s Muslim population. At the same time, France’s strict laws separating religion from the state prevent the government from interfering directly to oversee what is presented in mosques. Some politicians, such as far-right leader Marine Le Pen, have capitalized on a wave of terror attacks and anti-Semitic murders to urge the government to police mosques and crack down on extremist clerics.

A public call was made by several leading political figures in April to strike verses in Islam’s holy book, the Koran, that call for punishing and killing Jews, Christians and nonbelievers, The Atlantic reported. While the manifesto did not specifically say the verses should be removed from the text, many Muslims saw the open letter as an attempt to alter their sacred text, which led to significant backlash.

El Karoui also emphasized this week that only a small fraction of France’s Muslim population turned to extremism.

“There are many Muslims who are going to eat halal, women who are going to be veiled, but who are not Islamists in the sense that they do not think that the ideological political project of the Islamists is better or more important than that of the Republic,” he said, according to France 24.

Earlier this year, Macron indicated a plan to address the tensions arising in the country and to create an “Islam of France.” French Muslim leaders had also called for reforms, but efforts made by previous governments had proved unsuccessful. Under the leadership of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, France tried to create a central Islamic religious authority recognized by the state, as was done with France’s Jewish population during the time of Napoleon Bonaparte, according to Politico. But the representative council failed to maintain popular support, primarily because of significant differences among Muslims hailing from many different countries.

It remains to be seen whether or not the new report will lead to government action. Some politicians have already criticized the proposals.

Bruno Retailleau, a senator for the right-leaning Les Républicains party said that creating “an Islam of France” would “not protect the French from radical Islam,” Politico reported. He also argued that it could weaken the devoutly secular nation’s “republican pact.”

Source: Macron Wants to Create ‘French Islam’ to Align Muslims With Secular Society