France: Debate over the Burqa and National Identity; the Bishops Speak Up

Source: FSSPX News

A few days after the conclusions of the French parliamentary inquiry into the wearing of the full Islamic veil were presented to the National Assembly at Paris (see DICI No. 209), Bishop Michel Santier spoke on February 2 on behalf of the French Bishops’ Conference (CEF). The Bishop of Créteil said in a communiqué that “reason should prevail: since the number of women wearing the full veil is quite limited, the decisions taken must not stigmatize Muslim believers.”

“I am very reserved about the opportuneness of  a law that will not resolve the matter,” he also stated, for “if a statute were adopted, the risk for the Muslim women wearing the full veil is that they will no longer leave their homes and will be still more marginalized. Thus the result could be the opposite of the desired effect and lead, in reaction, to an increase in the number of women wearing this garb.” And to emphasize that French citizens, and among them Catholics, ought not to let themselves be moved by fear and the theory of the clash of civilizations, he added: “It is essential to distinguish between the majority of our Muslim fellow citizens who demand to be able to freely practice their religion and a minority who, while protesting their adherence to Islam, seek to destabilize the democracies.”

“If we wish that Christians in the minority in countries with a Muslim majority may exercise all their rights, we must respect the rights of all believers in the exercise of their religion in our country. Dialogue in truth between believers allows us to overcome mutual distrust. The road will be long and demanding. The way to mutual respect will permit the amelioration of coexistence in our country,” concluded the president of the Counsel for Interreligious Relations of the CEF.

As a side note to the debate over the burqa, Bishop Robert Le Gall, Archbishop of Toulouse, spoke up on the debate over national identity launched in November 2009 by the French government. He notably stated, on February 2, 2010, on the Internet site of the regional daily newspaper La Dépêche du Midi: “Our roots are Christian, but mosques have a right to exist.” More globally, the prelate judged that the debate on national identity “was somewhat rigged from the outset. We are reacting by trying to be positive; national identity must make us think ‘with’ and not ‘against’; adopting a defensive position is never very good. Our country was built on successive and massive integrations; our roots are Christian, but we must learn to get along with other religions, Muslim or Jewish….It is normal that other religions have their living space. I am happy that there is a mosque in Toulouse, but France is not a completely Muslim country. There should be reciprocity, also, for the other religions in Muslim countries.”

(DICI No. 210, Feb. 20, 2010. Sources: apic/