By Cidney Dutton
Laïcité, the French term for the separation of church and state, is a relatively new concept for a country whose history is far longer than America’s. Although passed only a century ago, the law of secularism was incorporated into the First Article of the Constitution of the French Fifth Republic. Some might say that France has taken this concept too far, with the 2004 law banning religious symbols, such as the hijab, Christian cross and Star of David, in school.
Many see religious discretion as a necessity of being French, an especially important element for a country preoccupied with its threatened nationalism brought on by increasing globalization and the haunting menace of americanisme.
However, a current French study, as pointed out by Los Angeles Times staff writer Sebastian Rotella, details the rise of fundamentalism in the workplace, “ranging from proselytizing to pressure tactics to criminal activities.” It is no surprise that extremism is rising in France. This point was central to the news coverage of the recent riots in France, whether reporters saw the riots as religiously or economically based.
Although this study was released before the riots, it wasn’t until afterward that a reporter for an American newspaper picked up on its significance. What Rotella fails to mention, though, is that extremism in France has been rising for years. Certainly, the growth of the Front National party, France’s far-right party, which is highly xenophobic, would offend the largest Muslim community in Europe, mostly made up of North African Arab immigrants.
And with an increasing governmental agenda to ensure the strictest interpretation of laïcité, it’s no wonder that Islamic extremism is rising in the workplace, with clandestine prayer rooms at Euro Disney and proselytizing among Charles de Gaulle Airport employees. If not in the public sector, then why not in the private sector? Where else is there to go?