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Soundoff: Parisian prayer ban

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Friday Sept. 2, in France, praying in the streets became illegal. Many think that this law is racist, unfair and ethically questionable. Others believe it simply enforces the secularism of the French state. The Chronicle's Jack Mercola spoke with the Duke community on this issue.

"I'm not sure if I am able to fully develop an opinion. The issue seems to be between two interpretations of the term 'secular state.' One side wants a secular state to be one that disallows no religious practices; the other wants a secular state to be one that displays no religious practices. A definition of 'secular state' must be decided on before any further action is taken."

Alec Higgins, sophomore

“Interior Minister Claude Gueant's statement was ‘prayers in the street are unacceptable, a direct attack on the principle of secularism.’ It’s so troubling that it’s not a separation between church and state, but rather a domination of church by state…. If the American government were to ban something that I perceive as a basic human right from the church or from American Jews, etc., I think the appropriate response would be civil disobedience.”

—Drew Tucker, Lutheran Campus Minister

“I lived in France for eight years, so I am familiar with the dynamics behind the cultural clashes France tends to have with Muslims. Parisians are used to seeing many [types] of cultures and customs, like many who live in an urban setting. If we all accept our differences and respect each other, there are rarely any problems…. Religion is viewed as a private matter. [Muslims] were aware of France being a secular state when they moved to France, the ban of the burqa has been very visible in the news, for instance. They know that they will have to adapt to the country and slightly change their customs, as we all do when we are in a foreign country. By definition, religion cannot go above law in a secular state. Since France is secular, I feel that the ban of public prayer is fair and logical.”

—Bernadette Leblond, freshman and French citizen

“If the Muslim population in Paris continues to grow the way it is, perhaps the Parisian officials—working for the Mairie de Paris—should consider building a second mosque or place of worship to allocate all these people. Muslims are not second-class citizens. They are an integral part of the city and deserve to be treated fairly. If France really wants to boast tolerance, it should be prepared to make changes. Paris is such a multi-cultural and cosmopolitan city. They have to make life convenient for everyone regardless of their religion.”

—Sophia Durand, freshman and French citizen

“This issue was raised by the Front National which is a radical section of the right in France—equivalent of republicans in the United States. This section is [as] close to being racist as can be heard from the declarations of several members…. The secularism which is part of French history [is at stake]—the inheritance of France as being the nation of human rights. This is choosing between a society based on the multiculturalism or a society based on a false identity and forgetting about its beautiful inheritance.”

—Tarek Akiri, postdoctoral associate, French citizen and Muslim

"In my opinion, this law is completely unfair. It inhibits the practice of Islam in a public sphere. Unless the Friday prayers in the streets are actually standing in the way of every day life of other French citizens and blocking traffic in the streets, there is no legitimate reason to ban the open practice of one's religion. The basic human right to practice one's own religion freely is being prevented in France, with an emphasis on Islam. The French government is slowly taking steps to banning anything representing Islam that can be seen in a public space. First, they put a ban on the veils that some Muslim women choose to wear. The veil is completely harmless and should be the personal choice of anyone regardless of their race or religion. What say does the government have in the clothing styles and choices of it's everyday citizens? There should not be any! The French government's constant claims on banning all these Islamic ideals and practices because of a need to achieve a secular state and image is just a cover up for their fear and intolerance of Islam."

—Ayan Salah, junior and Muslim

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