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French Secularism, Christian History and Modern Islam

In France, separation of church and state means the state must control religion, because French history has dramatic episodes of religion-inspired war between Protestants and Catholics, and most French citizens do not think one can be French and a believer because being religious means losing one’s freedom and rationality. Consequently, the spiritual vitality of the French Muslim community is foreign to French culture and creates a new kind of tension. With twice as many Muslims living in France as in the United States, the French government has recently clamped down on the public expression of religion, raising the ire of observant Muslims. In a 10-minute news report for Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, correspondent Deborah Potter explores the unique religious story of French Muslims playing out in the French public square. Jocelyne Cesari, a French political scientist who specializes in Islamic studies, explains the origins of French regulation of religion and offers extended commentary on the tension between religion and secularism in France, especially among Muslims.

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