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Centers of Excellence

Islam and the French: religion and laïcité in the public sphere

Islam and the French: Religion and laïcité in the Public Sphere


2017 Project submitted by Brown University | Embassy of France support: $ 2000

Project coordinator: Lewis Seifert

Summary of the Project

On February 24, 2017, the Cogut Center for the Humanities at Brown University will host a conference on “Islam and the French: Religion and laïcité in the Public Sphere”. The conference will examine the debates surrounding the place of Islam in French society today. Focusing on the current polemics surrounding laïcité – a unique French phenomenon that differs fundamentally from other forms of secularization in that the State guarantees the private practice of religion while insisting on a strict separation of church and State – participants will investigate the emergence of a new public visibility of Islam in the West and the anxieties it is generating. On the one hand, Islam is seen by some as a fundamentally different religion posing a new, specific threat that makes it incompatible with French identity and modernity. On the other, because it is the religion of immigrants from Muslim countries, its practice is seen as posing particular challenges to French society, as controversies over the headscarf and halal meat testify. In the context of European integration, globalization, and migrations, recent debates over French identity have focused on Islam and are reshaping the intellectual and political landscape.

More information available here.