Laïcité: is state secularism too extreme?

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FRENCH CONNECTIONS – Thurs. 21.07.16: France’s brand of secularism – laïcité – is often the cause of bitter debates, particularly in the wake of last year’s Charlie Hebdo attacks. Critics say it’s too extreme and call for more flexibility and tolerance with respect to religion. But defenders say it’s the glue that keeps French people together in harmony.

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In This Story: Charlie Hebdo

On 7 January 2015 at about 11:30am CET local time, two brothers, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, forced their way into the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Armed with rifles and other weapons, they killed 12 people and injured 11 others. The gunmen identified themselves as belonging to the terrorist group al-Qaeda.

Several related attacks followed in the Île-de-France region on 7–9 January 2015, including the Hypercacher kosher supermarket siege.

Charlie Hebdo is a publication that courted controversy with satirical attacks on political and religious leaders. It published cartoons of Muhammad in 2012, forcing France to temporarily close embassies and schools in more than 20 countries amid fears of reprisals. Its offices were also firebombed in November 2011 after publishing a caricature of Muhammad on its cover.

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