Secularization in Todays France: Integration or Exclusion of Minorities?

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Secularization in Today’s France: Integration or Exclusion of Minorities? Dina El Shinawy 900-04-0574 Anthropology 309 Professor Abaza Final Paper December 18th 2008 In today’s globalized world, modernity has become affiliated with secularization in mainstream discourse. When secularization started in France, it was seen as “an ethic most frequently seen in the form of virulent anti-clericalism. The philosophes’ opposition to traditional religious authority stressed the need for secular knowledge free of religious orthodoxies” (Hall, 22). On the other hand, religion is now popularly viewed as the antithesis of progress and a real barrier to development and scientific advancement across the board. Despite this, religious piety is resurgent all over the world, especially, and most problematically, in areas that have historically cherished the secular nature of their societies and now feel threatened by the religious identities of “outsider” immigrants that have come to live in their countries since the beginning of the post-colonial period. In France, these immigrants are primarily Muslims from the former colonies of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. In a post-9/11 world these immigrants face opposition and discrimination in all realms of life. As minorities and immigrants attempt to integrate into a new life in France while maintaining their religious and cultural heritage, a confrontation with French nativist secularism is unavoidable. This clash, and the determination of France’s white population to maintain secular values has led to the passage of a number of “secularist” laws in recent years, the most visible being the law banning the wearing of religious symbols on public property, including schools. In the aftermath of this, much debate on the status of secularization in France has ensued, exploring the ways in which “secularism” discriminates (or
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