Diego Ibarra Sanchez

Photographer; Educator; Video journalist
   
Faith in French Army
Location: Beirut, Lebanon
Nationality: Spanish
Biography: www.diegoibarra.com Diego Ibarra Sánchez is a documentary photographer, filmmaker , and educator, based in Lebanon, who specializes in in-depth long-form visual stories.   He has been contributing to THE NEW YORK TIMES since 2012,... MORE
Public Story
Faith in French Army
Copyright Diego Ibarra Sánchez 2022
Updated Jun 2021
Location Lebanon
Topics Documentary, Editorial, Essays, Human Rights, Pandemics, Photography, Photojournalism, Poverty, Protests, Reporting, Revolution

In France’s military, Muslims find a tolerance that is elusive elsewhere


For the past two decades, as France’s Muslim population has sought a greater role in the nation, officials have often tried to restrict Islam’s public presence under an increasingly strict interpretation of French secularism, known as laicite.

A law aimed at the Muslim veil in 2004 banned the wearing of religious symbols in public schools and prompted years of anguished debates over France’s treatment of its Muslim population, Europe’s largest. A new law against Islamism by President Emmanuel Macron is expected to strengthen government control over existing mosques and make it harder to build new ones.

But one major institution has gone in the opposite direction: the military.

A law aimed at the Muslim veil in 2004 banned the wearing of religious symbols in public schools and prompted years of anguished debates over France’s treatment of its Muslim population, Europe’s largest. A new law against Islamism by President Emmanuel Macron is expected to strengthen government control over existing mosques and make it harder to build new ones. But one major institution has gone in the opposite direction: the military. The armed forces have carved out a place for Islam equal to France’s more established faiths — by hewing to a more liberal interpretation of laicite. Imams became chaplains in 2005. Mosques have been built on bases in France and across the world, including in Deir Kifa, where about 700 French soldiers help a United Nations force keep peace in southern Lebanon. Halal rations are on offer. Muslim holidays are recognized. Work schedules are adjusted to allow Muslim soldiers to attend Friday Prayer.
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