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Laïcité Without Égalité

Can France Be Multicultural?

Blue, white, and red candles at the Place de la Republique in Paris, France, November 16, 2015. Christian Hartmann / Reuters

“Imagine” by John Lennon has become the impromptu French anthem after a pianist’s moving performance in front of the blood-soaked Bataclan concert hall the morning following last week’s attack in Paris. It is not hard to hear strains of “La Marseillaise” in this secular prayer for “a brotherhood of man.” But beyond such fraternité, Lennon also imagines a world without religion, and that is something few French agree on.

French Christians, Muslims, Jews, and others are as angered as everyone else by the “holy war” being waged by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (also known as ISIS). But they do not necessarily subscribe to the idea of a post-religious society, as France sometimes appears to be, any more than they embraced Charlie Hebdo’s brand of satire. They heard “Je suis Charlie” not as a defense of press freedom or a right to offend, but as a barb directed

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