French thinkers Kouchner, Williame and Benbassa weigh in on Swiss minaret ban

Bernard Kouchner claims to be scandalized by the Swiss vote on minarets, calling it an “expression of intolerance.” Marine Le Pen, the vice-president of the extreme right congratulated the Swiss populace for the vote.

Jean-Paul Willaime, director of the European Institute of Religious Sciences, claims that the Swiss response is more of a secularist response to religion in the public sphere than one counter to Islam. However, he warns that it is the state and public institutions which are secular, however, not civil society. Islam, says Willaime, has become the litmus for European interrogations on identity, particularly because the vestiges of religious heritage and concern for religion still remain despite widespread secularism. Esther Benbassa, director of the Ecole pratique des hautes études (EPHE) suggests that in the era of globalization, fear creates a desire to create oneself against an Other, who today, are Muslims.

The Case of Vincent Geisser, Scholar of Islam in the CNRS, divides the University Community

Written by Esther Benbassa, director of the EPHE (École Pratique des Hautes Études), this article claims that the case of French academic Vincent Geisser, currently under investigation for a “lack of obligatory reserve” is dividing the French university system. Detractors claim Geisser is an Islamicist, apologetic for the extremist positions he studies; his defenders point to the necessity of free speech in the academy.