Faith, hope and love, Sarko style

January 11, 2008

Carla Bruni and Nicolas SarkozyNicolas Sarkozy is the president of faith, hope and love. The French elected him in May in the hope of change, which he doesn’t just call le changement (“change”) but la rupture (a “break” with the past). Love? Just take a look at the latest Parisian soap opera starring “President Bling-Bling,” pouting ex-wife Cécilia and new flame Carla Bruni. As for faith, we’ve been reporting and blogging about his plans to remodel laïcité, France’s trademark separation of church and state, and expect more to come this year.

Back to the blog — first impressions after a break

January 7, 2008

Returning to news reporting after two weeks off feels like you’ve been away for two weeks. Returning to blogging after a holiday break feels like you’ve been away for an eternity. So much going on! My colleague Ed Stoddard in Dallas was minding the shop, but he was unexpectedly sent off to report the news from the campaign trail. That gave FaithWorld a very American accent, which was a timely twist given the role of religion in the Iowa vote. It’s back to the view from Paris now — here are some inital comments on recent events concerning religion around the world:

When being called “Bagdad” is a handicap

December 18, 2007

There’s a story unfolding in France that isn’t about religion, but says a lot about the hurdles that residents with a Muslim background here can face. When youths in the poor suburbs complain about discrimination (discussed here in a post about the riots last month), they mention stories like this one to highlight their point.

Poll shows how the French see their problems

December 7, 2007

The Eiffel Tower in ParisSince the purported role of Islam in the recent French riots seems particularly important to some readers outside of France, the results of a new poll just published in the French Catholic weekly La Vie are quite interesting for this blog. The survey is about whether France is losing its national identity. This is a persistent question in a country worried that its international influence and the prestige of its culture and language are fading while globalisation, immigration and Islam are playing a larger role in French life. The survey was conducted on November 28-29, only days after the rioting in a Paris suburb that some readers say should be called “Muslim riots.”

Why we don’t call them “Muslim riots” in Paris suburbs

November 29, 2007

A burning car in Villiers-le Bel, 28 Nob 2007As soon as a riot starts in one of the poor suburbs around Paris, we get emails from readers and see comments on blogs accusing the media of hiding the supposedly key fact about the unrest. That fact, they tell us without providing any proof, is Islam. Why don’t we call this violence “Muslim riots?” they ask. What are we trying to hide by not identifying the rioters as Muslims? Do the MSM have a hidden agenda? Don’t we have the courage to “tell the truth?”

Bioethical dilemmas know no boundaries

November 5, 2007

Bioethical dilemmas know no boundaries. France found that out this weekend when the daily Libération revealed that a French couple that had used a surrogate mother in the United States had won a long legal battle to be recognised as the parents of the twin girls who resulted from the arrangement. Surrogacy is illegal in France. French officials refused to register the twins as the couple’s daughters, leaving them in a legal limbo for seven years. But an appeals court finally granted their wish, arguing it was in the children’s best interests to recognise the U.S. birth certificates that listed Dominique and Sylvie (their surname was not published) as the parents.

Smoke without fire – there was no “Paris intifada” in 2005

October 19, 2007

Car burns during riots in Paris suburb Aulnay-sous-Bois, Nov 3, 2005One of the most persistent canards about Islam in France is that Muslim groups played a key role in stoking the three weeks of rioting in the suburbs of Paris and other French cities in late 2005. Stories still regularly pop up on the Internet talking about “Muslim riots” or mentioning that cries of Allah-o-akbar were heard amid all the burning and trashing that went on. These cries, reported in the French press at the time, were taken as a sign the Islamists were behind the unrest. Bloggers coined the term “Paris intifada.” Some talked about “Baghdad-on-the-Seine.” Others were frustrated because the media did not make clear what role religion played in the unrest.

French mosque fund starts work after political delays

October 17, 2007

President Nicolas Sarkozy at a Paris Grand Mosque iftar dinnerBuilding mosques has become a hot topic this year in several European countries. One of the issues is whether foreign funds, mostly coming in from Middle Eastern states without any official supervision, might be used secretly to build or finance mosques preaching radical Islam.

Fact and fiction mix in Paris Pope John Paul II spectacular

October 16, 2007

If a novelist twists historical facts to fit a plot, we can accept it as poetic license. When Dan Brown has the dashing “symbologist” Robert Langdon race to the American Embassy in the wrong part of Paris, we might shrug and say it’s a mistake but The Da Vinci Code is a thriller anyway. But what should we say when a major theatre production mixes fact and fiction in the life of the late Pope John Paul II so much that it misrepresents history? Is that just a little white lie? Or maybe something more?