Islam in France
Though more than 80 percent of its population calls itself Catholic, and Catholicism permeates its history and culture, France resists the 'majoritarian' impulse with a vigour that has seldom wavered over the past 100 years. With the exception of the pro-Nazi Vichy regime during World War II, successive governments have adhered to the letter and spirit of a 1905 law which erected an impenetrable wall between the state and the church.
Under the provisions of this law the state is expected to maintain strict neutrality vis-a-vis all religious communities. No religious instruction is allowed in state-run schools and no religious signs or symbols are permitted in official buildings. Religion is restricted to the private domain. The 1905 law also expects the state to safegu ard the freedom of conscience of all citizens. Any attempt to violate this freedom, through intimidation, coercion, propaganda, violence or proselytising zeal, invites penal action.
As of now the reformists are on the defensive. Last April the first ever elections were held for the general assembly and the central committee of the French Council for the Muslim Religion which the government has created along the lines of similar bodies for the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish communities. It justified the move on the grounds that a representative body of French Muslims can be persuaded or cajoled to fall in line with the country's republican ethos. This appears to be no more than wishful thinking at present for, to the chagrin of the secular establishment; it is the hardliners, some of them affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, who won the elections to the new body hands down.
Proposal to protect image of Islam
The Prime Minister’s Department has proposed that suspects in cases like rape and incest be barred from wearing religious attire when they are charged in court. It has proposed that the Islamic Advancement Department (Jakim) comes out with guidelines on the matter.
Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said his office had also submitted the idea to the courts and other relevant authorities for consideration. He said this when commenting on the tendency of some people, charged in court for serious criminal offences, to wear turbans, prayer caps and robes, which could tarnish the image of Islam.
Dr Rais said, however, that a thorough study was needed before such guidelines could even be carried out. “We cannot make regimentation purely as a matter of law because it may be challenged in court on the basis that a person's constitutional right is being infringed,” he said here yesterday.
Snippet on the Hausa clans of West Africa
The Hausa clans in West Africa are the largest segment of the Muslims in Africa, and they live a number of West African countries, among them Nigeria, Chad, Mali and Niger.
The word Hausa is the name of the language that is spoken by these tribes, particularly those living in the north of Nigeria, who also have strong bonds of intermarriage with the Fulanis.
West Africa had known economic and commercial prosperity from the 10th to the 15th century of the Gregorian calendar, and the first Hausa state was formed in 999 AD, by King Kano, and by 1500 AD it had become the dominant powers in the region, including the Nuba area.
Some Hausa tribesmen at one time cooperated with Europeans, as soldiers, when the latter wanted to overpower Madagascar, the Congo, Cameroon, and Ghana, and when the British were in the process of colonizing Nigeria in 1863, they were used as police force. Later they were co-opted in to the Ghanaian army, after that country also had been brought under British colonial rule.
Islam spread among the Hausa after it had been introduced to the country by people from North Africa, from Mali and other neighboring countries, and from 1300 Islam began to spread as fast as it was possible at the time. As more and more traders came to the countries populated by the Hausa, the Message of Islam spread further and further.
In the year 1400, Kano’s people, and those in the surrounding areas, embraced Islam, and by 1800 all the Hausa rulers opted to follow this faith, and declared it the state religion in their respective areas.