August 31, 2004
The French La´citÚ is being held hostage

In the news: France refuses to remove their ban on conspicuous religious symbols in schools (such as the Muslim hijab) despite demands from Islamist extremists holding two French hostages in Iraq.

The French idea of la´citÚ is a fundament of the modern democratic republic of France:

In France and some other French-speaking countries, La´citÚ [...] is a prevailing conception of the separation of church and state and the absence of religious interference into government affairs (and conversely). The concept is related to secularism, but does not imply hostility towards religious beliefs.

The term "la´citÚ", in its current sense, implies free exercise of religion, but no special status for religion: religious activities should submit to about the same set of laws as other activities and are not considered above the law. The government refrains from taking positions on religious doctrine and only considers religious subjects from their practical consequences on the inhabitants' lives. [...]

Today the term is a core concept in the French constitution and many see being discreet with one's religion a necessity of being French. This has led to frequent divisions with non-Christian immigrants, especially with France's large Muslim population. The most recent debate has been over whether ostentatious religious displays, such as the hijab, the Star of David, and conspicuous Christian crosses should be banned from public schools. See French law to ban notable religious symbols.

Wikipedia: La´citÚ

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