Are francophones intolerant?

by PhilippeChassé on September 13, 2013 - 10:33pm

According to an article published the Sixth of August, 2013 in the Globe and Mail, France is debating on extending the ban around the Muslim headscarf to its universities. In fact, complete veiling of the face is already forbidden in public places in France since 2010. The ban is also applicable to Muslim headscarf in the public schools of the country since 2004 in order not to influence young children. One of the main goal of  François Hollande's socialist government is to affirm the secularism of the state: France frames a lot its legislation on the separation of the state and the religion. The proposal to improve the law to universities is made by the High Council of Integration in response to several Islamic students’ demands over special menus and spaces. This association will send its proposal to the Observatory on the Laïcité: a commission of inquiry implemented by Hollande in order to improve the current law 1905 on separation of state and church. The debate will then take place. However, the Islamic community of France is already scared of the result. Many Islamic groups strongly disagree to this new proposal. The fact of the matter, most of them were also against the bans of 2004 and 2010. They feel attacked and not respected by the French population even if they do represent about 8% of the total population (5 million out of 65 million). French would be more in favour of this add to the law. Actually, according to a survey made by Ifop published in Le Figaro on Ninth of August, 2013, 4 out of 5 French would be against the wear of the Muslim headscarf in universities. In 2004, Nicolas Sarkozy’s government decided not to extend the ban to universities due to the fact that those students are adults and “supposed” to be able to make their own choices. For now, the debate is still going on.

        Are French intolerant? I’d ask myself: Are francophones intolerant? In my opinion, this article of the Globe and Mail is really interesting for one main reason: it shows similarities between Quebecers and their ancestors. While reading, I felt like doing it on the Charter of Quebec’s Values proposed by the Parti Québécois. People around me seem to share the same goal than the French: the secularism of the state at any price, often by attacking minorities. Honestly, I don’t think this charter represents us: that’s not Quebec. It can’t be. At least, that’s not me. As you may have noticed, I completely disagree with this charter that I fondly name: The Charter of Shame. I am totally against those measures in France also. In my point of view, freedom of religion is one of the main bases for a healthy society. Multiculturalism as advocated by former Canada’s Prime Minister Pierre Elliott-Trudeau is, in my sense, the best base for our society. Why? EXCHANGE OF IDEAS. It is, in my way, the best way to evolve as a society: taking ideas of each other to go forward. We can’t do that if we are all alike! That is what makes Canada one of the best place to live in the world. Secularism is as important, but it doesn’t mean people can’t dress like they want to in public. I think France and Quebec are doing a bad move: since when a society wants to have less freedom for a situation where problems are (in my sense) minimal? As we say in French, France and Quebec “se tirent dans le pied”at immigration. In conclusion, I think that those issues could be solved easily by stopping intolerance to difference and by advocating multiculturalism.


When I read this it article it was very interesting to me. I think the French is not making a rational law because the Muslims should respect the French’s laws. If they are going into their country if they have specific laws they should follow them like we should follow other countries laws. One of my relatives is a pilot and was in a different country and he saw a phone charger that was abandoned. He picked it up to take it to a desk, but there was a law that said he stole it so he had received a fine.

hey, i've read your summary and I agree with you. I think that multiculturalism is good for societies such as Québec or France. I think that the laws like the proposal in France or the charter of values in Québec will only create a conflict between the immigrants and the natives. However, I agree that state should be separated of religion to avoid to put a religion above the others. I think that religions, whatever one, should be something personnal to the person and people should be allowed to have religious accessory (scarf, cross...) as long as he keeps his religion for himself. I think that nobody should impose his religion to others if we want to live in harmony in a multicultural society.
Thank you

The article was very informative, well thought out, and brings up many good points. I liked that you concluded results of a survey to further prove your point. I agree with your opinion on France’s view point. I think it is wrong for the French universities to ban the Muslim head scarf. The Muslims should be able to display their culture and be comfortable in class. For example, in my French cultural class, we are learning that France is very protective of their culture and any outside influence can make them fear losing their identity. Overall great article and keep up the good work.

Having been to France last summer, I did witness the “ethnic tensions” that exist in this country, and this is why I feel concerned by your article and this whole situation – as well as why I’m interested in the current debate surrounding our own “Charter of Values”, which you talked about. The fact is I’ve got mixed feelings about this. Let me explain myself...

Although I will always be pleading in favor of what we may call, at large, “human rights” – a great example of this is my own article –, I would argue that there’s an important line to draw here between these concepts and those of “tolerance” and “respect”.

Without condemning or advocating the French “full”-ban of the Muslim headscarf in universities (and, while we’re at it, the legislation of 2010 regarding public places), I admit that this is certainly a excellent path towards tensions and confrontations. However, I would also strongly argue that we must remember that this decision, years ago, to observe the secularism of the French State, has been a collective (or at least, democratic) decision, in a democratic country… Thus, it has some legitimacy.

Therefore, what I would certainly advocate would be the ban of all – not only Muslim – religious signs for Universities’ employees and teachers… without necessarily applying it to students. Indeed, these employees are representing the state – which is a personal choice, and in my opinion, a privilege –, whereas students do not.

To answer your question: I don’t believe that Francophones – French or Quebecers – are intolerant. I think it’s only a question of mutual respect. As columnist Pierre Foglia wrote this week (about the debate we’re living here, in Quebec) – I’ll roughly translate: “We must love our traditions and culture enough to tell immigrants ‘O.K., make yourself at home, but remember that this house is also ours” (La Presse).

Link to Mr. Foglia’s column:

I appreciate your response and willingness to inform about this topic. It is absolutely appalling that denying a person their personal right to religious dress is even being considered. I like how you describe that this consideration is not representative of all French views. I completely agree that freedom of religion and separation of church and state is essential to a society. Everyone’s views should be respected.
Cultural diffusion is important because people are able to see different perspectives and learn from others.

Your response was very informative about what is going on in France and Quebec. I agree with you, disagree with the intolerance. While I live in a place where all religions are tolerated and freedom of expression is encouraged, it is crazy to see that now, in the modern day, there is such religious intolerance going on, not in a strict country, but in France. It is understood that their government is based on secularism, however if different religious groups aren't causing a disruption or hurting anyone, there shouldn't be a problem. Living in the world today, I think it is extremely important for people. children especially, to be exposed to different cultures and religions other than their own. Otherwise these people may be completely ignorant to the world around them.

I completely agree with your response. Even though I have an understanding towards the French and the Québécois feeling threatened, I would say I am against the new 'Chart of Values'. How could it even be called a chart of VALUES, when 'values' are forbidden of being practiced... To me this chart is embarrassing the Quebec population immensely. It just seems like a useless draft, that Madamme Marois forgot to go over. I see it as a draft because of the numerous contradictions, the amount of consequences that weren't overthought, and the idiotic arguments that come along with it. If France and Canada allow immigration and support multi-culture, why not let the people practice their religion? They immigrate to another country in order to have a better lifestyle and to be ACCEPTED... yet in France the level of racism is humungous. According to the law, one is allowed to practice their culture as long as it doesn't put the society in danger... how is something as simple as a veil a threat to the society?

This is an amazing article! However, there is something that bugs me. After reading your article, I clicked on the link “Survey” in order to get more information about the stats you gave and found out that the survey asked questions to only a couple of thousand people. For example, at the end of the article on “”, they asked “Are you favorable to the wearing of the veil or the Islamic headscarf?”. In total, 78% of them were opposed to the wearing of the veil or the Islamic headscarf in universities. The problem in this is that only 952 people answered the survey and with this you concluded that 4 out of 5 French would be against the wear of the Muslim headscarf in universities. How can 952 people represent 65 000 000 people? According to me, the size of the sample is too small. We can’t draw a conclusion based on 1/1000% of the population’s opinion. Perhaps, this could be a biased statistic since the questioned population could be coming from areas where there are tensions with Muslims? If this is the case, wouldn’t it be incorrect to say that the majority of francophones are intolerant to difference and multiculturalism?

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