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February 12, 2021 30 min

“Laïcité,” or secularism, the principle that separates religion from the state in France, has long provoked heated dispute in the country. It has intensified recently, when a teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded after showing his class caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

We look at the roots of secularism and ask whether it works in modern, multicultural France.

Guest: Constant Méheut, a reporter for The New York Times in France.

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Background reading: 

  • For generations, public schools assimilated immigrant children into French society by instilling the nation’s ideals. The beheading of a teacher raised doubts about whether that model still worked.
  • For more information on today’s episode, visit 

    nytimes.com/thedaily.

     Transcripts of each episode will be made available by the next workday.

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