Dr Sudhir Hazareesingh writes on why 'hardline secularism will not solve France’s problems'

Sudhir Hazareesingh has published an article in the Financial Times (28 January) on the importance of Laïcité (broadly translated as 'secularism') in French culture.

Sudhir writes, "Laïcité was originally intended as a neutral principle.  By withdrawing state funding from all religious faiths, it placed them on an equal footing, enabling citizens to exercise their religious beliefs without interference."  He adds, "Since the 1980s, successive governments have presented it as integral to the republican ideal — a kind of Asterix-style magic potion capable not only of guaranteeing order and social cohesion, but also of promoting tolerance between communities, ensuring an open-minded atmosphere in the classroom and upholding the principle of equality.

In a characteristically French paradox, it has now become a kind of civil religion, sanctified by the political and intellectual elites, and codified in official texts such as the 2013 charter of laïcité for schools."

The full article is available to read here: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/912ac3ba-c519-11e5-808f-8231cd71622e.html#axzz3yvMxxx6w

Dr Sudhir Hazareesingh is CUF Lecturer in Politics and Tutorial Fellow in Politics, Balliol College