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August 2, 2014  |  About the Berkley Center  |  Directions to the Center  |  Subscribe
 
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France

France

France

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French religious policy is based on the concept of laïcité, a strict separation of church and state under which public life is considered completely secular. France was historically regarded as the “eldest daughter” of the Roman Catholic Church. The French Revolution of 1789 saw a radical shift in the status of the Church with the launch of a brutal de-Christianization campaign. After the back and forth of Catholic royal and secular republican governments during the nineteenth century, laïcité was established under the Third Republic and codified with the 1905 Law on the Separation of Church and State. The 1958 constitution of the Fifth Republic 1958 guarantees freedom of religion. Today, most French citizens still identify as Catholics, although church attendance is very low. Through immigration, mainly from North Africa, Muslims have come to comprise an increasing number of the French population. French Muslims have faced problems balancing their religious obligations with laïcité; a 2004 law on conspicuous religious symbols prohibits students and teachers from wearing Muslim headscarves in public schools.


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  • Fadela Amara is a French politician and feminist of Algerian descent who held the post of Secretary of State for Urban Policies. She was born in 1964 to Muslim parents in an emergency housing district in central France inhabited mostly by North African immigrants, and witnessed the repression of women and governmental prejudice. At 16, she became an activist and went on to establish several feminist groups. She was elected a municipal councillor as a member of the Socialist Party in 2001 and...
  • Dalil Boubakeur is a prominent figure in the French Muslim community, and served as the first president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (2002-8). Born in Algeria while it was still a French colony, he and his family moved to France in 1957. He was appointed Rector of the Muslim Institute at the Grand Mosque of Paris in 1992, a post once occupied by his father. Boubaker is considered a moderate advocate of Muslim integration, and has been criticized by both staunch secularists and...
  • Jacques René Chirac served as the 22nd President of France, governing for two full terms stretching from 1995 to 2007. Chirac's political career began in the 1960s, and he served as Prime Minister and Major of Paris before securing the presidency. During his long presidency, Chirac pursued a broad range of policies, including pushes for economic and labor reform and support for European integration. Issues of immigration and religious pluralism also became prominent during his presidency,...
  • Marine Le Pen is a French lawyer, far-right politician, and current president of the National Front (FN). Le Pen was a candidate in the 2012 French presidential elections, finishing third behind Francois Hollande and incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. In April 2011, she was ranked 71 in TIME Magazine's 100’s Most Influential People. Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, is also a prominent French politician and the previous president of the FN, which is the third largest political party in France. Marine Le...
  • Jean-Pierre Raffarin served as the Prime Minister of France from May 6, 2002 to May 31, 2005. Along with Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, he participated in the formation of the conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). His government passed the controversial ban on wearing Muslim headscarves and other prominent religious symbols in schools. He also expressed hesitation regarding Turkey's admissibility to the EU, in part due to its Islamic identity. Raffarin resigned after France...
  • Nicolas Sarkozy was the 23rd President of the French Republic, serving from May 2007 to May 2012. Before becoming president, he occupied various prominent political posts including Minister of Finance and Minister of the Interior. His conservative policies, including his strong emphasis on law and order, made him a divisive figure in French politics. In particular, his blunt condemnation of criminality among urban youth and his treatment of Roma immigrants resulted in both domestic and...
  • Dominique de Villepin has had a long career in French politics, culminating in his appointment as Prime Minister of France from May 2005 to May 2007. Born in Morocco while it was still a French protectorate, he rose through the ranks as a protege of President Chirac and is generally regarded as one of President Sarkozy's main conservative opponents. During his tenure as Foreign Minister (2002-4), he was an vocal critic of American military intervention in Iraq. As Interior Minister (2004-5),...