The Phileas Club 75 – French Burkinis and Secularism


On this episode we talk about:

  • Burkini debate in France
  • Immigration issues in Sweden
  • Hoarding in Germany
  • Hacking in UAE (and privacy in Saudi Arabia)

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  1. StephSinalco says:

    Hello everyone ! First of all, thank you very much for this issue of the Phileas club : I was really looking for your inputs and opinions on this very touchy subject and, as always, you managed to talk about it in a very polite, yet passionate, way.

    I just wanted to react on something you mentioned, something I see quite a lot in French medias and on French social networks, because it really angers me : Secularism is NOT the absence of religion or the ban of visible religious signs/outfits. It’s actually the opposite ! By enforcing the separation of the church and the state, secularism ensures that every religious beliefs can coexist, without being oppressed by a theocratic government. Hence, saying “France is a secular country, the burkini goes against our values” kinda is a non-sense… It might seem a futile distinction, but for years now, secularism has been used as an excuse to justify islamophobia (“A new mosque ? No way ! We’re a secular country.”, “Pork-free meal ? This is a public, secular school !”, etc.) and bending a noble, important concept like this one is something that goes against MY values 😉

    You might argue that France is suspicious against every religions, but that would be anticlericalism more than secularism, in my opinion. And even then, I’m pretty sure the current French anticlericalism is very biased, if you know what I mean :-s

    • Hey Steph, and thanks for the comment!
      I kind of disagree though, as in my opinion the secularism we have in France DOES put limits on religion, especially in public / official spaces. You might not have an issue with the burkini, but I keep coming back to the idea of separate days for men and women in pools. This type of segregation based on religion would not be accepted in France I feel, because of our tradition of laïcité.
      I won’t repeat what I said on the show here, but I did make it very clear that religions are very welcome in the country, and that we do not have issues with things like a cross necklace, a kippa or even an head veil. I’m not saying we don’t accept religion at all, but if you’re trying to say one should accept any religious “demand” (from *any* religion) for fear of being branded a racist, I fear you’re taking the opposite route, which is (almost) equally damaging. There are some things that are accepted in other countries, but not here. One exemple is the president of the US being sworn in on the Bible. We have nothing against the Bible, but if some Christian groups tried to push that kind of demand in France, we would be outraged and would shut it down with the strongest possible force…

      • StephSinalco says:

        Obviously, I’m not suggesting we should accept *all* requests that are more or less linked to religions, but the boundaries should in my opinion not be defined by “values” (a very vague concept, though. But that’s not the issue here.) or moral, but by law. And the decision should be based on the potential risks or nuisances induced, not the fact that the demand has some religious background. By the way, as you quite rightly mentioned several times during the episode, that’s exactly what happened : the CE, basing its decision on French laws, broke the mayors’ decrees. So, in the end, the system works… I’m just afraid this massive turmoil will have profound impacts in the months to come and French politicians aren’t really trying to soothe things down.

        By the way, I wasn’t trying to imply that refusing a specific religious request made one a racist. I was just mentioning that racists were using this alibi to legitimize their claim. Sorry if I wasn’t clear enough, English is not my first language 🙁 (Trust me, I’m really not the type of guy who insults anyone disagreeing with me 🙂 )

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