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Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Religion and the law in France

Hypocrite that I am, I renegged on my promise not to write to the Times anymore.  This letter was published on 9 January 2012

Mr Edward Carey (letter, 6 January) criticises France’s integration policy, and offers the burka ban as example of its flaws. It might be said that the problem in France is not the policy as such, but the failure to implement it. A glance at the ethnic ghettos in France and lack of minority representation amongst the French great and the good suggests that France might demand that immigrants become French but too often declines to treat them as such.

The burka ban was implemented not simply as part of a policy towards the immigrant community but rather the French concept of laïcité, or separation of church and state. I do not think the ban was a necessary consequence of laïcité, but nonetheless that concept if implemented consistently would apply equally to immigrants and indigenous alike, and would have avoided many of the disputes in Britain of the past few years about religious exemptions for minorities.

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