In France, freedom of expression is perceived as a sort of liberté matricielle, a matrix of other fundamental freedoms. As such, it is reflected in many constitutional provisions, including those referring to religion. In addition, the practical exercise of freedom of expression remains strictly linked with the principle of laïcité – a principle that is part of the institutional, legal and intellectual history of the French Republic and, as such, has even taken on the role of the basis of its funding “values.” All of this, though, also implies an accentuation of individual freedom of expression, which normally takes precedence over the protection of religions, sometimes justifying caricature of divinities, rules, rites and symbols. The legal cases related to the right to satirical expression are examples of this. The article underlines the role of freedom of expression in the light of the principle of laïcité, which normally rejects the communitarian dimension of religious rights, which may explain some important aspects of the evolution of legislation regarding both hate speech and blasphemy within French liberal constitutionalism, on the one hand, and the relationship between freedom of expression and the secular state, on the other. This approach offers a possibility of better evaluating existing French law in relation to some religious nomoi groups, specifically, Islamic organizations. In particular, these issues are analysed from two different perspectives: the right to criticize or challenge religions and the right to satirize. This analysis makes it possible to identify the legal limits of freedom of expression before and after the 2015 Charlie Hebdo tragedy, highlighting at the same time the difficulties faced by the so-called laïcité à la française in dealing with today’s multicultural societies. The need emerges for a proper balance to be struck between religious diversity and protection of human rights – not only the rights of groups to be different, but also the rights of persons within these groups, which also involves the efforts of religious denominations to articulate their claims in order to make them more compatible with constitutional rights, including those referring to freedom of expression.

Freedom of Expression, Laïcité, and Islam in France: The Tension between Two Different (Universal) Perspectives

ALICINO, FRANCESCO
2015

Abstract

In France, freedom of expression is perceived as a sort of liberté matricielle, a matrix of other fundamental freedoms. As such, it is reflected in many constitutional provisions, including those referring to religion. In addition, the practical exercise of freedom of expression remains strictly linked with the principle of laïcité – a principle that is part of the institutional, legal and intellectual history of the French Republic and, as such, has even taken on the role of the basis of its funding “values.” All of this, though, also implies an accentuation of individual freedom of expression, which normally takes precedence over the protection of religions, sometimes justifying caricature of divinities, rules, rites and symbols. The legal cases related to the right to satirical expression are examples of this. The article underlines the role of freedom of expression in the light of the principle of laïcité, which normally rejects the communitarian dimension of religious rights, which may explain some important aspects of the evolution of legislation regarding both hate speech and blasphemy within French liberal constitutionalism, on the one hand, and the relationship between freedom of expression and the secular state, on the other. This approach offers a possibility of better evaluating existing French law in relation to some religious nomoi groups, specifically, Islamic organizations. In particular, these issues are analysed from two different perspectives: the right to criticize or challenge religions and the right to satirize. This analysis makes it possible to identify the legal limits of freedom of expression before and after the 2015 Charlie Hebdo tragedy, highlighting at the same time the difficulties faced by the so-called laïcité à la française in dealing with today’s multicultural societies. The need emerges for a proper balance to be struck between religious diversity and protection of human rights – not only the rights of groups to be different, but also the rights of persons within these groups, which also involves the efforts of religious denominations to articulate their claims in order to make them more compatible with constitutional rights, including those referring to freedom of expression.
Religion; Liberty; Expression
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12572/701
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