Thursday, 17 December 2009

France's War Against Religious Liberty; Targeting of Muslims Just Another Element of Ongoing Government Discrimination of Religious Minorities

In yet another statement targeting religious minorities, the French government has demonstrated its lack of commitment to religious liberty and its targeting of religious minorities.

On December 16, Eric Besson, France's immigration minister, announced that he wants the wearing of Muslim veils that cover the face and body to be grounds for denying citizenship and long-term residence. Minister Besson insisted that he intends to take "concrete measures" regarding such veils, which are worn by a small minority of women in France but have become the object of a parliamentary inquiry into whether a ban should be imposed.

"France has a tragic modern history of religious discrimination," stated Joseph K. Grieboski, Founder and President of THE INSTITUTE on Religion and Public Policy.  "From the recent raiding of Catholic Churches by French government agents to the establishment of secret anti-sect lists to the ongoing functioning of an anti-religion agency housed in the office of the Prime Minister, France continues to violate fundamental rights, fails to uphold its political commitments to institutions such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe, and serves as a negative model to other countries around the globe."

Last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent mixed messages on the place of Islam in France, calling on native French citizens to be tolerant while warning Muslim immigrants "that in our country, where Christian civilization has left such a deep trace, where republican values are an integral part of our national identity, everything that could be taken as a challenge to this heritage and its values would condemn to failure the necessary inauguration of a French Islam."

"French Evangelicals remove the word 'evangelical' from the titles of their churches for fear of being raided or targeted as 'sectarian', while violent acts or threats against French Jews in the first half of this year outnumbered all similar incidents in 2008," commented Mr. Grieboski.  "The Government of France has created an atmosphere of discrimination against religious minorities and has used its resources to restrict religious rights across the religious spectrum."

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