France: A Recent Controversial Debate Questioning the Secularism

France and Secularism

I am not from the Muslim community, so whatever I wrote in this article is as per my knowledge.

France has always had a difficult relationship with religion and religious bodies since 1905 when it put an end to recognized religions.

Can a country be punished for being secular by the blood of its citizens?

Secularism is the identity of many democratic countries including India and France but in France, this identity is being strangled and murdered. State secularism is central to France’s national identity. It’s as important as the concept of “liberty, equality, fraternity” curbing freedom of expression to protect the feelings of one particular community, undermines the country’s unity.

Whether classrooms, workplaces should be free of religion?

On 16th October 2020, In France’s capital Paris, a teacher teaching history and geography named Mr. Samuel Paty was strangled and murdered and the irony is that the only mistake of the teacher was that he showed the cartoon of Prophet Mohammad in a class discussion on freedom of speech and expression.

He was targeted only for showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad to his students. He was killed by an 18-year-old boy named Abdullakh Anzorov and seven people, including two students and a parent of Mr. Samuel Paty’s student, were detained.

Out of seven suspects, six of the suspects had been charged with complicity in terrorist murder and one man was accused of having close contact with the killer and faces the lesser charge of associating with a terrorist.

He became the target of an online hate campaign over his choice of lesson material the same images which unleashed a bloody assault by Islamist gunmen on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.

Depictions of the Prophet Mohammad can cause serious offence to Muslims because Islamic tradition explicitly forbids images of Mohammad and Allah (God).

Muslims and community leaders in France condemned the killing of a teacher in Paris, calling for not associating Islam with such heinous acts.

France was sent into further shock when a knife-wielding Tunisian man killed three people at a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice. That same day, a Saudi man stabbed and lightly wounded a security guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

There was another case also, an attacker wounded a Greek Orthodox priest in a shooting in Lyon.

In the application of the secular principle, the law of 15 March 2004 prohibits all clothing or other attire displaying religious worship to be worn in schools.

Are pictures of Mohammad always been forbidden?

The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has published an issue that commemorates the victim of last month shooting in France using an image of the Prophet Mohammad in the class. Most Muslims say that pictorial depictions of the founder of Islam are forbidden-but has that always been the case in the entire Muslim world?

The Quran does not explicitly forbid images of Mohammad, but there are a few hadith (supplemental teaching) that have explicitly prohibited Muslims from creating visual depictions of figures.[1]

This is uncontroversial in many parts of the Islamic world.

Pictures have no intrinsic value as allowable or forbidden, likeable, or loathsome to Muslims or anyone else. They matter as artefacts and artefacts matter for their symbolic value. There may be no easy answer to the question of how and when one bow to political pressure or religious sensitivity but one thing is sure as long a Muslim identity remains a contested part of regional and global conflicts the battle over images won’t be over.

“The caricatures are not a government project, but emerged from free and independent newspapers that are not affiliated with the government.”– Emmanuel Macron

The French model ran into obstacles when the immigrants were no longer European, white, or Romans. Today about 10% of France population is believed to be Muslim.  

Some French Muslims say that they are a frequent target of racism and discrimination because of their faith and issue that has long caused tension in the country.

People were often led to believe that caricatures were a creation of the French states.

What is the French definition of Secularism ?

France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic, guaranteeing that all citizens regardless of their origin, race or religion are treated as equal before the law and respecting all religious beliefs. The “freedom to practice religion” has been recognized since 1905 when the Law on the separation of the Church and State came into effect.

The French State does not favor any one religion and guarantees their peaceful co-existence with respect to the laws and principles of the Republic.

France is a secular country in that it claims it is officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor the absence of it as well as not having a state religion.

What is the main objective of a terrorist organization ?

It’s to make lose values such as:-

  • Rule of law
  • Judicial institutions
  • Separation of power
  • Freedom of expression
  • Presumption of innocence, all these values are under the threat of being violated.

Some critics say the government’s measures to handle the situation are disproportionate and dangerous.

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The government also ordered a mosque in the northeast Paris of Pantin to close for six months.

Imam Hassen Chaloghoumi says, “Muslims are the first victims of radical Islam and calls on the French government to act. Clean up Islamist vermin, the poison of Islam. Islamism threatens us too. I’m also threatened. I said and I repeat to our president and to all European leaders act now! Protect our children.”[2]

French President Emmanuel Macron has said his country is fighting “Islamist separatism” never Islam.

Which countries were in favor and against France in this difficult time ?

“I stand with France, India officially comes out in full support of France& president Emmanuel Macron.”

The brutal terrorist attack that took the life of a French teacher in a gruesome manner that has shocked the world.

India said that there is no justification for terrorism for any reason or under any circumstances and backed French President Emmanuel Macron saying “Personal attacks” on him is in violation of the most basic standard of international discourse.

As Anti-France and Anti-Macron wave is spreading in Islamic Nation, India has firmly backed it allies France and President Emmanuel Macron whom Pakistan, Turkey and many other have targeted for upholding the French people right to freedom of expression.

More than 80% of the victims of terrorism are Muslims and this is a problem for all of us.

Macron heightened tensions between the French government and the Muslim world over the cartoons which Muslims consider to be blasphemous.

Today in the world there are people who distort Islam and in the name of this religion that they claim to defend, they kill, they slaughter. Today there is violence practiced by some extremist movements and individuals in the name of Islam.

Around ten thousand people across the Muslim world from Pakistan to Bangladesh to the Palestinian territories to join anti-France protests. A number of Islamic countries have declared they will boycott French goods. A decision by Turkish consumers to boycott French-made products could have a significant effect and both countries would be affected.

Europe stands shoulder-to-shoulder against a number of countries in the Muslim world over cultural and religious issues and interpretations of these issues.

The speech and Macron’s pronouncements after the killing of Mr. Samuel Paty have infuriated many Islamic countries with Turkey and Pakistan taking the lead in denouncing the French President of Islamophobia.

Some Kuwaiti stores removed French products.

There were also calls for the Bangladeshi government to order the French ambassador back to Paris and threats to tear down the French embassy building.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has accused Mr. Macron of being divisive and encouraging Islamophobia.

Pakistan’s Imran Khan and turkey’s Pecep Tayyip Erdogan have attacked Macron over the publication of Charlie Hebdo cartoon which was derogatory in nature.

France has sought EU action against Turkey.

International Aspect

This act in France is a “crime against Humanity”, another fact that cannot be ignored about France is that not just Islam, Paris had run into tension with Jews, Christians, Sikhs, and other as well.

Crime against Humanity is certain acts that are purposely committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilians in time of war or peace.

Terrorists directly attack civilians of France which violates the rules of the Geneva Convention i.e. protection of civilians person in the time of war or peace.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a permanent court established to investigate, prosecute and try individuals accused of committing the most serious crimes such as crime against Humanity.

Accordingly, France must handover the case to the ICC, so that criminals could be punished as they violate the rules of International Law.

Civilians should not be targeted and there is a responsibility of the state to protect their civilians from being harm by the terrorist.

Terrorist now attacks Austria in which seven people have died and 15 got injured.

The majority of illegal and asylum seekers settled in Europe are from the Muslim community came from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, etc. once they came to Europe they want to establish the same set of conditions and values from which they escaped to come to Europe such as Sharia law, the Islamic veil, etc. One cannot understand why in the first place they came to Europe if they want the Sharia law which they had in their own countries.

France and Secularism

Also Read: International Law Coupled with Rule of Law


[1] What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam, John L. Esposito- 2011 p.

[2] French opinion divided over government response to Islamic terrorism; https://euronews.com 

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