When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Penguins of the Lasta-Rica circus, which had to cancel all its events during the COVID-19 pandemic, pay a visit to the Bryansk Regional Art Museum, in Russia
Penguins of the Lasta-Rica circus, which had to cancel all its events during the COVID-19 pandemic, pay a visit to the Bryansk Regional Art Museum, in Russia

Welcome to Friday, where the Biden Administration launches its first military air strike, Israel says it has vaccinated half its population and an Italian politician makes an epic literary error. We also check in around the world for social media alternatives to the mega Silicon Valley platforms.


Islam became a "problem" in France when Muslims became French

Writing in Le Monde, French sociologist Hicham Benaissa questions what has become central issue to President Emmanuel Macron: fighting so-called "separatism" within the Muslim community in France:

There is a new bill before the French National Assembly that calls for "reinforcing the respect of the principles of the Republic," and fight against Islamist "separatism." We already know that among the key aims of current amendments would be to restrict — in the name of secularism — the expression of religious affiliation within different sectors of social life. It may apply to those who work in public services, hospitals and universities, and could impose the principle of religious neutrality on all public sector employees.

The strategy of combining laïcité (a strict French concept of secularism) with France's principle of neutrality is not new. However, the current bill could make people think that the more religious convictions are neutralized, the better one can defend the original 1905 law establishing the separation of Church and State.

A 2004 report by center-right politician François Baroin, entitled "For a new secularism," contributed significantly to establishing the consensus on which the major political views of the future will have been based ever since. Baroin did this by specifically favoring an expansive vision of the principle of neutrality from the 1905 law. This came well before the terrorist attacks that have struck France in recent years. The consensus that has been established is as follows: Secularism would overcome a new problem due to the "new" presence in France of an Islam asserting itself in different areas of social life.

But let's ask ourselves: Is the question of religious expression practiced by a certain number of Muslims in France really "new"? No. We know, for example, that in the 1970s, companies such as Renault or Peugeot set up places of worship for Muslim workers because they saw them as a strong element of social regulation.

As for politicians, Paul Dijoud, secretary of state for immigrant workers from 1974 to 1976, said: "Companies will be invited to set up places where prayer can be practiced and timetables corresponding to the schedule of these prayers. During the Ramadan fast, companies should, as some already do, arrange working conditions compatible with the physical condition of Muslim workers. Finally, company managers must be attentive to the need for cafeterias to allow the Koranic rules involving food to be respected."

If it seems obvious that this kind of talk would cause a scandal today, the question should be: Why has that which did not seem to be a "problem" at the time become one today? In other words, what is really new about the current situation?

The political decisions that characterize the fate of Muslims in France throughout the 1960s and 1970s is that of the myth of return. A "collective lie," said the great Franco-Algerian sociologist Abdelmalek Sayad. This lie consists of believing and making people believe that the presence of Muslims on French soil is temporary, that their fate could only lead them to return to take their rightful place in their homeland.

The myth of return was so strongly inscribed in the minds of the time that a whole series of political initiatives were created: the Teachings of Language and Culture of Origin (ELCO) and aid for return, with the allocation in 1977 of a stipend to do so. There was even the forced return of North African workers to their native land, as unsuccessfully envisioned by former President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.

Here is what we must therefore keep in mind: If allocating prayer rooms or arranging working conditions was not a problem then, it was because the presence of Islam on French soil was perceived as temporary. Let's put it another way: If the religious expressions of Muslim men and women are perceived as problematic today, it is because we know that they are here to stay. Islam gradually became a "problem" as Islam became French.

(The full essay is here in French, soon to be published in English on Worldcrunch)

Hicham Benaissa / Le Monde

Keep reading... Show less
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

AMLO Power Grab: Mexico's Electoral Reform Would Make Machiavelli Proud

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, aka AMLO, says his plans to reform the electoral system are a way to save taxpayer money. A closer look tells a different story.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico votes

Luis Rubio

OpEd-

MEXICO CITY — For supporters of Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) the goal is clear: to keep power beyond the 2024 general election, at any price. Finally, the engineers of the much-touted Fourth Transformation, ALMO's 2018 campaign promise to do away with the privileged abuses that have plagued Mexican politics for decades, are showing their colors.

Current electoral laws date back to the 1990s, when unending electoral disputes were a constant of every voting round and impeded effective governance in numerous states and districts. The National Electoral Institute (INE) and its predecessor, the IFE, were created to solve once and for all those endemic disputes.

Their promoters hoped Mexico could expect a more honest future, with the electoral question resolved. The 2006 presidential elections, which included AMLO as a recalcitrant loser, showed this was hoping for too much. That election is also, remotely, at the source of the president's new electoral initiative.

Keep reading... Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch Video Show less
MOST READ