by Camille Froidevaux-Metterie, Maître de conférences en science politique (Associate Professor of Political Science) at Universite Paris II Pantheon-Assas
The “veils quarrel”—also known as the “scarf aﬀair”—is a useful point of entry into the problem of laïcité in France today, not only because of its topicality, but also because the issue epitomizes the challenge to which the French State, in its secular form, is confronted. When approaching the problem of some young veiled girls in the public schools, our country must consider the ﬁve million Muslims who live in France, half of whom have obtained French citizenship. Despite the fact that the right to family reuniﬁcation—given to immigrants in 1976—has recently been repealed, and also that President Nicolas Sarkozy wants the process to be restricted, we must keep in mind that its implementation has entailed the permanent settling of hundreds of thousands of families, whose children, whether born in France or not, do not want to go back to the country of origin of their parents. Contrary to what was expected—i.e., that the immigrants, who arrived in the 1950s to participate in the industrial boom would go back home once their work was ﬁnished—there is a strong trend towards permanent settlement.
by Barry A. Kosmin, Research Professor in Public Policy and Law and founding Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College
Secularism and its variants are terms much discussed today, paradoxically as a consequence of religion seeming to have become more pervasive and inﬂuential in public life and society worldwide. This situation poses a number of questions. First, a deﬁnitional one: What are the spheres of secularity and secularism? According to our understanding secularity refers to individuals and their social and psychological characteristics and behavior while secularism refers to the realm of social institutions.
by Nathalie Caron, Maître de conférence(associate professor) in American Civilization in the Department of English and American Studies at the Université de Paris 10-Nanterre
The American notion of “being secular” has no easy translation in the French language and context. Part of the difficulty stems from the ambivalence of the use of the term secular in the United States. Under the influence of politics and culture wars, the words “secular,” “secularist,” and “secularism” are undergoing a semantic shift that tends to narrow and polemicize their meanings. The situation has lately been exacerbated, possibly by the tragedy of 9/11, undoubtedly by the so-called “religion gap” that determined voting patterns in the 2004 elections, as well as by recent controversies over the nature of American identity in a changing social and political environment.