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France profonde

Secular France takes on Islam

By Tim King   July 2003

When I was at school in England we were taught that France was a Catholic country. Repeating that here I have been greeted with derision. “France is a secular nation,” crows the Catholic magazine La Vie. “The most secular in Europe, if not the world.” The legal separation of church from state happened in 1905 and is something French schoolchildren are taught to be proud of: “La France est une r?blique, indivisible et la?e,” says the constitution.

Just at the moment, however, that la?e (secular) part is causing problems. In April, Nicolas Sarkozy, the minister of the interior and a…

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