Is French secularism feeding Islamophobia?

We discuss France’s use of emergency powers, and debate if the country has a secular double standard on Islam.

In this week’s UpFront we speak to the French Ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud, who defends France’s security crackdown and the country’s foreign policy.

And in the Arena, we debate whether France’s secular laws have a double standard when it comes to one religion in particular.

Headliner – Does France’s foreign policy make it a target?

France has been in a state of emergency since the bloody Paris attacks that left 130 dead last November.

Critics say the emergency powers are being abused, but the French government claims they are necessary to help protect the country from attacks.

Mehdi Hasan questions Gerard Araud on the effectiveness of the emergency laws, pointing out that the Nice attack happened with the state of emergency in place.

Araud is also asked whether France’s foreign policy of intervention in the Middle East and North Africa made the country more vulnerable to attacks.

“Most of the French Muslims are from Arab origin, which means that they are very sensitive to what is happening in the Middle East,” says Araud.

When asked about President Hollande’s comment that “there is a problem with Islam”, Araud clarifies that it was a question of integration.

“We are facing a challenge how to accommodate our Muslim citizens in a society which was basically built on Christian or Judeo-Christian roots.”

In this week’s Headliner, Araud defends France’s foreign policy and the continued state of emergency.

Arena – France, secularism and double standards on Islam

Is there a conflict between Islam and the way French secularism is applied, or are the laws being used unfairly to single out French Muslims?

In this week’s Arena, French Senator Nathalie Goulet, Benjamin Haddad, a research fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC, and Yasser Louati, a civil rights activist, debate whether France’s strict secularism laws are being used to target French Muslims.

“How come every single time we speak about Muslims it is either under the lens of terrorism, security measures, threat to identity, threat to French culture?” asks Louati, a former spokesman for the Collective Against Islamophobia in France.

“When we have attacks and we have to face terrorism, you have to react. And the way to react was maybe not the right one,” says Goulet. “But at the same time, you cannot show France as an Islamophobic country. I mean, that is not fair.”

“France is one of the countries in Europe where you have the lowest level of rejection of Muslims,” Haddad says. “The question of identity and integration are very central to our societies … we’re trying to adapt principles to the emergence of Islam in French society.”

For more from this interview, please visit here.

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