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.

Marine Le Pen Claims that “Positive” Laïcité has Benefited Islam

National Front vice-president Marine Le Pen has offered her reflections on what President Nicholas Sarkozy has termed “positive secularism.” On the occasion of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to France, Le Pen noted, “I have battled against positive secularism, but for reasons other than those I have seen in the newspapers in the last few days.” Le Pen adds that Sarkozy has sought to place Islam on equal footing with Islam, but that “Islam is not on par for historic reasons, it has been given a lot of attention because of the massive immigration to France in the last 30 years.” Le Pen believes that this interpretation of secularism works to bolster Islam in France to the detriment of others.

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