France battles terrorism

France commemorated those who died in the Nice attack with a moving ceremony on Saturday. Prime Minister Jean Castex once again declared war on radical Islam. The events of recent weeks have also rekindled a debate on French secularism.

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The Irish Times (IE) /

Masks mandatory yet headscarves forbidden?

Although religion is officially a private matter in France the state intervenes heavily in the everyday life of Muslims, The Irish Times criticises:

“French political culture places enormous value on what they term 'laïcisme', a doctrine which affects total blindness as to the theological and metaphysical beliefs of the citizens of their republic. ... Notwithstanding laïcisme, many Muslims believe that French society is not blind to their ethnic origins or religious beliefs. After all, it is hard to believe, in these days of face masks, that the French Republic sought to penalise Muslim women who wore face masks in public or who went bathing in full body attire just a couple of years ago.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Islam marginalised by the state

The French state has a problem with Islam, sociologist Jean-François Bayart writes in Le Monde:

“The fear, disgust and anger [after the two terrorist acts] provide a good breeding ground for ideologists who claim a monopoly on defining the Republic. ... But a state-anchored Islamophobia does, in fact, exist when the police practice clearly illegal but systematic discrimination against a section of the young population that is presumed to have a Muslim background. This state is not 'neutral towards religions'. ... In recent decades, Christianity and Judaism have continually gained prestige as the state developed a so-called 'positive' secularism towards them, while at the same time politically subordinating Islam in order to control it under the pretext of 'enlightening' it.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Secularism must not be sacrosanct

For Deutschlandfunk, the dark side of French secularism is now coming to the fore:

“The French state does not know how to deal with religion with aplomb. Religion is tolerated as a private matter and kept in check in the public sphere above all through bans. But it could be that state-sponsored reflection on religion in the public sphere - for example through religious instruction, teaching theology and training imams at universities - could have a taming effect and encourage the more liberal believers. The thought of such selective cooperation is a sacrilege in a secularist country, and reflection seems ridiculous in the face of brutality. But enlightenment is not an epoch one leaves behind, it is a process. For everyone.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Macron sending the right signals

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung finds the claim that Macron is leading a hate campaign against Islam absurd:

“It can't be denied that many Muslims in France experience discrimination, or that even government representatives have made inappropriate statements. ... But Macron has repeatedly made it clear that he sees Islam as a component of French society. When he presented his strategy against 'Islamist separatism' in early October, he spoke of the importance of implementing it together with French Muslims. And he warned that we should not be lured into the trap of stigmatising all followers of the Muslim faith. In Nice on Thursday, he made a call for unity to all French people, 'whatever their religion'. It is important to stick to this course, especially in difficult times.”

Libération (FR) /

Join forces to prevent division

In response to the attack French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian turned to the Muslim world and said that their culture was an integral part of France and Europe. Promoting social cohesion must be the top priority now, Libération underlines:

“The greatest danger would be for France, where a large Muslim community lives, to become divided on identity and religion, as this would open the door to the extremists. And that is precisely what the Islamists are aiming for. It would be irresponsible to allow the poison of intolerance and hatred to spread in an unstable world. ... Any government that would allow this to happen would bear an enormous responsibility for what comes next. Incidentally, the representatives of the Church and the Muslim community did not hesitate to call for unity after the Nice attack.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Middle ground for Islam in Europe

De Volkskrant defends the French President against accusations that his statements on Muslims are too sweeping:

“Macron wants France to remain a place worth living in for all citizens, based on the rule of law. This is not a bad starting point. ... Like every attack, this one now threatens to fuel polarisation. The political centre in Europe must avoid this. But it must not close its eyes to the emergence of extremist interpretations of Islam that contradict fundamental freedoms. This is why Macron's response is so important. If his search for middle ground fails, Marine Le Pen is waiting in the wings with more radical solutions.”

Denik N (CZ) /

France will not be brought to its knees

When it comes to its core principles, France won't make any compromises, Deník N is convinced:

“France insists on its identity, which is based on human rights, democracy, tolerance and dialogue. The goal of radical Islamism is clear and takes a long view: it seeks to pry France, and other European states with it, out of the democratic structure. It aims to force France to slowly enter into compromises concerning its fundamental values out of fear. The Islamists presume that if France is brought to its knees, then the principles on which all of Europe has rested for two centuries will collapse. But France will not be brought to its knees.”

Webcafé (BG) /

Integration must be obligatory

Europe's societies must be more assertive in their integration policy, Webcafé demands:

“The problem is the passive approach to integration: the expectation that people from other cultures will adapt themselves to the reality of Europe. If a country wants integration, it must make an effort, but it must also make clear that this integration is obligatory and that there is no way around it. Only then can we talk about the positive aspects of diversity. If we leave things as they are now, any caricature that is even slightly controversial could lead to a wave of death and violence.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Defend democracy globally

De Morgen reminds readers that the struggle against religious extremism must not be waged only at home:

“Europe must no longer apply double standards. As long as we export weapons to authoritarian regimes that tolerate preachers of hate if it helps their geopolitical interests, our pleas for a European, enlightened Islam sound hollow. This refers not only to the Saudis, but also to Malaysia and Erdoğan's Turkey. Europe must have the courage to use its democratic freedoms as leverage in foreign trade. However, we can only do that credibly if we ourselves embrace our principle of the the rule of law more than ever. After an attack like yesterday's, our answer can only be dialogue between groups of the population and different religions so that nobody from the outside can exploit alienation and division.”