22 October, 2009 HANEDA Masashi, KANAHARA Noriko, Secularization, Religion, State

On October 19, 2009, the eleventh session of the seminar “Secularization, Religion, and State” was held.

In this session, we discussed the texts “Sécularisation et laïcisation,” “La laïcité en France: Histoire et défis actuels,” and “Présentation De la Déclaration universelle sur la laïcité au XXIe siècle” by Jean Baubérot (2009), as well as Yoko Kudo’s work, Laïcite and France: Historical and Contemporary Issues (2009). The former three articles were presented at the University of Tokyo Center for Philosophy’s (UTCP) conference last year. Noriko Kanahara (UTCP Research Assistant) led the discussion.
In “Sécularisation et laïcisation,” Baubérot argues for the importance of distinguishing between “sécularisation” and “laïcisation” for a precise analysis of secularization. According to Baubérot, “secularization” in the wider sense of the term means “weakening of the religious influence in a society as a result of modernization and improvement of technology.” However, this definition is too broad and vague that it lacks efficiency and precision when applied to a sociological analysis. If “sécularisation” was defined as “the weakening of religious influence on societal order at large” and “lacïzation” as “the process by which social and political institutions become independent from religion,” the two separate phenomena could be analyzed each on its own.
“La laïcité en France: Histoire et défis actuels” provides an outline of the history of French laïcité. Baubérot thinks of the process of laïcization as consisting of three stages. The first stage begins with Bonaparte’s Concordat of 1801 when the Catholic Church became the majority church. The Church was under strict control of the state, but the state paid the clerical salaries. The second stage begins with the issue of the 1905 law which ended the Concordat and made the sate systematically independent from the Church. The third stage began between the 1960s to late 1980s when several events took place that challenged the concept of laïcité and the republic..1989 saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, “the Rushdie Affair,” and the debate around Muslim women’s scarf-wearing in public schools in France. Because of these events, “Islamism” and “communautarisme,” namely the idea of “communities” demanding their cultural and religious rights, began to be seen as threats to the republic and to laïcité. As a result, in 2004 a law prohibiting the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols at public schools was passed.
In “Présentation De la Déclaration universelle sur la laïcité au XXIe siècle” Baubérot discusses the declaration that he co-authored with two other scholars. The declaration states the universality of laïcité is based on the following three core concepts. 1. The need for a state to guarantee the freedom of religious faith and practices of individuals and groups, within the limits of democracy and social order. 2. The independence of religion and philosophical beliefs from the state. 3. Equality in practices of these rights. Baubérot concludes that laïcité is a flexible concept that can be adapted to various societies, and that it is distinct from the recent nationalist movement in France.
In Laïcité and France: Historical and Contemporary Issues, Kudo (2009) analyzes “laïcité” in the Stasi Commission’s report that led to the French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools in 2004, and compares it with the analysis of “interculturalism” in a report written by Quebec’s Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences (CCAPRCD). Through this comparison Kudo addresses the cultural exclusivity of laïcité in France. President Jacques Chirac set up the Stasi Commission in 2004. The report by the Commission argues that laïcité as the basis of the republican compact is threatened by the communitarian demands of “certain groups.” Here Kudo writes that the term “groups” indirectly refers to Muslims. One of the core issues of the report is the “headscarf affair” and the “gender inequality of Muslims” linked with it. Kudo criticizes the fact that the report does not address the systematic flaws of French society, nor does it include the voices of young Muslim women. She concludes by saying that perhaps France can learn from Quebec’s “interculturalism” which emphasizes interactions between people, in order to come up with solutions for conflicts based on “cultural differences.”
The seminar discussion focused on the question of the universality of laïcité. The reporter argued that Baubérot’s argument could not be universal, because it was based on a concept of laïcité that is particular to French national history and understanding of “religion.” One of the participants pointed out that the term “laïcité” in the declaration was probably a political ideology rather than an analytical concept. In response to this, there was a question on whether writing the world history of laïcité or arguing for its universality would amount to mere support of Baubérot’s political ideology. In addition, it was pointed out that the use of “stages” in Baubérot’s theory of laïcization was problematic, because it reminded the reader of the idea of the evolutionary development of civilizations that leads to the “modern West.” It was said that had he used another methodology or terminology to talk about the universality of laïcité, he would have gained more support for the declaration. As for Kudo’s work, there was a question about what she meant by referring to herself as a “citizen” when commenting on the Muslim women’s headscarf-wearing at public schools. Kudo will come to the class next week for further discussion.

(Report by Noriko Kanahara)

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