French Secularism: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

By Dorien Julia Rijkens

Laïcité, the well-loved term referring to secularism in France, has been under excruciating pressure after the recent string of attacks in France, including the brutal beheading of schoolteacher Samuel Paty, performed by a handful of fundamentalist members of the Muslim community. French President Emmanuel Macron declared Paty’s murder to be “a typical Islamist terrorist attack” and claimed the need for France, and the rest of the world, to “fight Islamist separatism,” as Islam is an ideology which claims that “its own law should be superior to those of the Republic.” Macron’s rhetoric and actions stirred outrage all over the Islamic World, from Turkey to Tunisia, from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia, as these statements, justified by French secularism according to Macron, are positioned on the fine line between secularism and islamophobia. In this article, I will argue that President Macron’s rhetoric and actions cannot be justified solely on the basis of secularism because they challenge the established relationship between the “West” and the “East.”

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