The Louvre’s Islamic Art Wing in France
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We would not be what we are today without the immense contribution made by artists, intellectuals and creators from the Arab and Muslim world to our cultural heritage, who also contribute to the universal French melting pot. Ludovic Pouille
At a time when France has once again been struck by terrorism and targeted by a hateful online campaign instigated by those claiming the country is Islamophobic, it is necessary to reiterate some facts.
France has the utmost respect for Islam, a religion with which it has deep historical and cultural ties. France does not, and will never, confuse Islam with terrorism. On the one hand, we must all fight together to defeat terrorism in all its forms. On the other, we must fight extremist tendencies and radical ideologies. This is a battle we must fight alongside Muslims, who are the primary victims of terrorism.
Islam is France’s second-largest religion. As reaffirmed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the millions of Muslims in France rightfully belong to our national community. This should never be questioned. Muslims in France benefit, within the free exercise of their religion, from a protective framework that we enforce in a spirit of equality among all religious denominations.
Here are the facts. In France today, there are 3,000 places of worship for Muslims, state television broadcasts an Islam-related show every week as part of an evening devoted to religions and there are Muslim chaplains in the army and in hospitals.
Public authorities maintain a close dialogue with representatives of all religions, including Muslim organizations that regularly reiterate the importance of all citizens respecting the laws of the Republic, regardless of their religion. This is what constitutes the foundation of the French nation.
Ludovic Pouille, French Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
With this in mind, we want imams who preach in France to be trained in France. In addition to religious studies, fluency in French and knowledge of the Republic’s fundamental principles should be part of this training.
As for foreign funding, we want it to be transparent in order for us to make sure that it is not the driver of a radical ideology or divisions within French society.
Freedom, equality and fraternity are universal values. They are not the property of a state; it is up to each and every one of us to protect and promote them. We must foster dialogue to strengthen mutual respect.
Those are the principles upon which the democratic and secular model of our republic is built. By not pitting communities against one another, the French model seeks to be neutral and impartial and that is how it protects all of them. France has included equality in its motto and strives to ensure everyone’s differences are respected.
We are and will remain vigilant in the face of any hate speech or racism. While there may sometimes be tensions, our duty is to ease them. Discrimination and hate speech go against our values. Our duty is to sanction them and this is what we are doing.
Beyond the protective legal framework, I would like to recall some facts that I consider equally as fundamental.
France would not be France without Muslims. France’s cultural history would not have been the same without this centuries-old interaction with the Orient, which has always fascinated and inspired our authors, painters, scientists and architects.
We would not be what we are today without the immense contribution made by artists, intellectuals and creators from the Arab and Muslim world to our cultural heritage, who also contribute to the universal French melting pot.
As the French ambassador to Saudi Arabia, I will continue to strongly promote intercultural dialogue between our two societies, between the youth of both countries in particular, in an environment characterized by mutual respect and a constant desire to understand one another because it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to follow the path of dialogue and tolerance.