Sarkozy: Faith equals Hope
Since 1905, religion has been relegated strictly to the private realm in France in order to prevent the Roman Catholic Church from wielding its power in the public realm. But President Sarkozy, who describes himself as a ‘cultural Catholic’, is mindful of the desires of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI to resurrect an EU-Christendom with its inherent Catholic values, and hyper-aware of his 5-million-strong Muslim population (the largest in Europe) which is encroaching in few places more than in those car-burning suburbs of France. Le Président is making foreign policy speeches which stress France's own Christian roots and invokes whichever deity he deems necessary in order for France to strut about on the world stage a little more napoleonically than it presently does. He wants to be rid of the pervasive negative church-state separation, and wants to inculcate a positive one which ‘values the hope that faith brings and allows state subsidies for faith-based groups’.
And so when he hails Islam as ‘one of the greatest and most beautiful civilisations the world has known’, nauseatingly describing Saudi leaders as rulers who ‘appeal to the basic values of Islam to combat the fundamentalism that negates them’, he gives succour and hope to France’s Muslims that, while their government is sufficiently secular to ban the hijab, it may become sufficiently Islamic to finance finance mosque building and expand state training for imams.
According to a speech M Sarkozy made in Rome's Basilica of Saint John Lateran, he sees himself as ‘someone who believes is someone who hopes’, and asserted: ‘It is in the republic's interest to have many men and women who hope.’
Hope in what, Monsieur Le Président? Allah or Jehovah? Mohammed or Jesus? There is only one divinity in whom one may find true peace and an enduring hope.
And is it not strange, Cranmer reflects, that at a time when the UK is becoming increasingly secular in expression, with intolerable pressures to disestablish the Church of England and banish Christianity to the private realm, that France is moving in the opposite direction. Alors, l’herbe est toujours plus verte…