In May 2021, the candidate for the departmental elections, Sara Zemmahi, had her nomination withdrawn from the party La République en Marche, after the publication of an election poster on which she was wearing a hijab. This topic follows years of debate and polemics about the wearing of religious symbols in public spaces, and illustrates how the principle of secularism, a fundamental constitutional value, continues to be a source of controversy in France.
Issues related to religious matters seem to be overwhelming political discourse and news channels. From the Islamic veil to the organization of Muslim worship, to equal marriage for all, they have brought back the question of the articulation between politics and religion, between church and state, into the public debate.
Many tensions have developed around religion. After several series of violent attacks by people claiming to be Muslims, the rejection of certain faiths is increasingly felt. Between polemics on the burkini and on the wearing of the veil in public, the places of worship are also at the heart of the debate. The question of their financing seems particularly delicate and upsetting for some.
The issue of the abrogation of the concordat system, which still exists today in Alsace-Moselle, is a good illustration of this problem. The total cost of the concordat in this region represents a sum of approximately 74 million euros per year for the state, which is paid by all French taxpayers. In 2021, more than two thirds of the French population supported the abolition of the concordat, although the inhabitants of the Alsace-Moselle region were less enthusiastic about it. The tensions surrounding this regional particularity suggest that the debate over the definition of secularism in France is still far from over.
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