Coexister is an interdenominational, secular and non-denominational youth and popular education movement. It is open to all young people aged 15 to 35. Coexister supports neither multiculturalism nor the division of society into different communities. Our aim is not to promote dialogue between communities or institutions, but rather to bring together individuals with different religious, spiritual or philosophical convictions. We don’t dwell on their community allegiances; we want their “differences” to be seen as vectors of commonality and as reasons and driving forces for building a society. On the contrary, we want everyone to have the right to affirm or not to affirm, to discuss or not to discuss their beliefs and the richness of their plural identities. In our advocacy, we also defend all measures aimed at promoting diversity, combating racism and decompartmentalising territories. Coexister is firmly committed to and defends the republican values of liberty, equality and fraternity. Where does the rumour come from? The rumour was shared in various media. Coexister is mistakenly described as an association “that campaigns for an interconvictional project, i.e. a society made up of distinct communities that want to coexist together, contrary to the republican tradition”. Other media, without quoting Coexister directly, mistakenly speak of organisations that “denominationalise youth”. For your information ⇒ Coexister has published a Manifesto for Active Coexistence, available in bookshops, which in 100 pages details our criticism of the models of multiculturalism and assimilationism and emphasises our commitment to Active Coexistence, which is another way of living with diversity in society.
The heart of Coexister’s work is interfaith cooperation (and not dialogue) (i.e. of all “convictions” and not all “religions”). It offers young people who join the association a positive and peaceful experience of diversity, particularly of convictions (religious or not, believers or atheists). People of absolutely all convictions and conceptions of the world are invited to take part in Coexister’s actions, as long as they respect the convictions of others and the principles of Coexister (see point 10).
The aim of Coexister is to facilitate social links between young people of different convictions through joint actions in the public interest. These actions take two forms:
* Advocacy – Coexister’s advocacy work is the external counterpart to what the Coexister method does internally. Drawing on our experience and innovative ideas, we propose solutions that help to resolve societal problems. Coexister defends advocacy and proposals on three themes:○ Freedom of belief and the inclusion of all diversities through the fight against all systemic oppression and discrimination, particularly of a religious or convictional nature; and the recognition and defence of all diversities. ○ Education for peace, individually and collectively, through the acquisition of skills and interpersonal skills, including the ability to work together (through action) and the practice of remembrance (through memory). ○ Involving young people by giving them the means and opportunities to take responsibility and develop their skills (becoming responsible, committed citizens).
* An educational method consisting of a series of activities and a set of values: ○ The Coexister pathway is a cycle between dialogue events (30 meetings on average per year and per local group), solidarity operations (10 actions on average per year and per local group) and awareness-raising workshops (2 awareness-raising sessions on average per day in France in schools). ○ The values that Coexister seeks to develop in the young people who join us are: Cohesion, Lucidity, Integrity, Benevolence, Empathy, Respect, Fraternity.
As a result, dialogue activities account for only a third of our pedagogy for action in the field, and are above all a pretext for meeting people before taking action.
Where does the rumour come from? Probably a misinterpretation of our logo and identity.
For information ⇒ The Coexister method is part of the popular education reference framework. It’s a progressive method whose aim is the individual development of each “Coexistant”. They arrive with their prejudices, their past, their identity, their relationship with others and their stereotypes. Our ambition is to enable them to leave one or two years later with a clear idea of what makes up their identities, of what they believe in, with an empathetic, fraternal and respectful relationship with others, with the conviction that only shared values can enable unity in diversity, with the certainty that citizenship and the general interest bring French men and women together in the diversity of their convictions. Ultimately, all coexisting people have a positive experience of diversity. They experience being themselves by evolving in a plural environment. In a way, Coexister is a school for learning to live positively with diversity and mixing. It complements all other educational, school and extra-curricular structures.
Coexister has no links whatsoever with the Muslim Brotherhood. Not only is Coexister non-partisan and non-denominational, but the model of society we defend implies the rejection of any theocratic model and the absence of domination and influence of any religion over the State. We defend the full independence of the Republic from all political, religious and cultic ideologies. We also defend the idea that under no circumstances should the indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic allow religious precepts to be imposed on its organisation, either through pressure or violence. Only democracy, respecting human rights, can be the source of our common rules. We take it upon ourselves to defend these ideas to everyone, especially those who do not share them. This is how we see our role as defenders of the values and principles of the Republic.
Where does the rumour come from? The rumour was started by several members of the Printemps républicain organisation (a political force defending a combative idea of secularism). It also stems from the #NousSommesUnis petition that we signed and defended. Some people mistakenly believe that Coexister has a link (other than a simple signature) with some of the signatories. Other media consider that Coexister favours “the entryism of the Muslim brothers in the name of inter-faith dialogue”, which is obviously false and unfounded.
1. → For information: The #NousSommesUnis tribune The #NousSommesUnis tribune, has been signed by 15,000 citizens and 90 personalities including Christine Lazerges former president of the CNCDH, Jean-Paul Delevoye former president of the EESC, Robert Ejnes director of the CRIF, seven MPs, including six Socialists, Erwann Binet (rapporteur for the bill on marriage for all), the presidents of France’s largest associations (ATD Quart Monde, AFEV, Scoutisme Français, CCFD, Secours Catholique, CFDT) and the former Grand Master of the Grand Orient, Jean-Michel Quillardet: ( http://noussommesunis.com/ ). The UOIF (now known as “Les musulmans de France”) did not sign the tribune.
2.→ For information: Coexister has no links with the UOIF. We have participated on a few occasions in the Rencontre Annuelle des Musulmans de France (RAMF) organised by the UOIF. At the time, 170,000 visitors attended the event every year, most of them French Muslims. Coexister went there to promote its activities, the principles of secularism as set out in French law (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fx50d_aqaUo) and its work as an interdenominational youth movement. Like the many researchers and academics who have spoken at this event over the years, our participation gave us the opportunity to debate with influential figures who are sometimes opposed to our educational model and vision.
→ For information: Coexister is also systematically invited and has officially participated for 12 years in the reading of the names of deportees for Yom hashoah at the Shoah Memorial (many coexistants then take turns throughout the night, with other citizens, to read the names of all the French deportees. Remembrance is at the heart of the Coexister project.), at the Jewish meetings at Limoud, at the annual meeting of the Chrétiens en Grandes Écoles (CGE) or the Christian students (Ecclesia Campus). Coexister is also invited to a large number of Republican ceremonies: inaugurations, award ceremonies (e.g. the award of the Legion of Honour to Laurent Schlumberger, former President of the United Protestant Church) and the hosting of foreign delegations by the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs.
3. Another rumour: “Coexister is affiliated to RfP, an NGO close to the Muslim brothers”: Coexister has occasional partnerships with the international NGO “Religions for Peace – RfP” without being affiliated to it. The RfP is a world conference of religious representatives dedicated to promoting peace, and the hundreds of leaders on its international board include members of all religions and beliefs, including members of the Ennahda party (political Islam) in Tunisia. This does not make RfP, an NGO present in 90 countries and enjoying consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), UNESCO and UNICEF, a partisan organisation. It claims full and unchallenged independence from all political movements and parties. The NGO therefore has no direct links with the Muslim Brotherhood, and we have very few links with it. So this is a classic case of taking something out of context to convey a false idea and create controversy.
→ For information: Coexister’s partnerships or involvement in conferences or meetings do not call into question Coexister’s independence and autonomy. We talk to many people with whom we disagree, without sharing their struggle. For example, we were speakers with representatives of the Printemps républicain at the Sorbonne in November 2018, and yet we do not share their approach. On the other hand, we believe that it is necessary to go and defend secularism and good living together everywhere, including with those with whom we disagree, and that this is the basis of any advocacy action. If we only discuss with those who share our ideas, we will never be able to make them known beyond.
We are therefore fully prepared to roll up our sleeves and go out into the field, taking part in numerous meetings with associations and structures with which we disagree on many points (as long as they have not been condemned) to explain what secularism is, what French law is, defend the Republic and defend the values of liberty, equality and fraternity.
N.B: We should also note the inconsistency between the accusations, sometimes even by the same people, of being close to both the Catholic Church and the Muslim brothers… It would be laughable if they weren’t such serious accusations.
FIRM AND ABSOLUTE CONDEMNATION
Coexister firmly and unequivocally condemns all violence, terrorist or otherwise, physical or otherwise, and therefore all remarks or acts of exclusion inspired by an ideology based on radical and violent Islamism. The model of society we defend is the exact opposite of this ideology, which reduces our individual and collective freedoms and hinders the cohesion of French society. We also denounce all violence, all attempts to divide communities and all attacks on our fundamental freedoms by religious, political or philosophical ideologies.
With regard to certain structures or associations presented by others as being indirectly affiliated to a radical or violent ideology, it is not up to Coexister to take the place of the courts to decide which organisation does or does not respect the values and the republican pact, or which is more or less close to a particular ideology. That is a matter for the relevant government departments and courts, in whom we have every confidence.
As well as calling for the intelligence services in charge of the fight against terrorism to be strengthened, we remain convinced that in order to wipe out this ideology and this violence, it is urgent to :
1. Restore the Republican promise and give greater substance to the Republican values of “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité”.
2. Implement active and demanding education for peace and set an example.
Coexister is non-partisan and defends the pluralism of ideas, thoughts and convictions that is possible in a state governed by the rule of law, in this case in France, in a secular, social, indivisible and democratic republic.
Where does the rumour come from? The rumour is very pernicious, because while no one doubts Coexister’s total condemnation of this ideology, some people accuse Coexister of not pointing the finger enough at organisations considered by others to be “Islamist”. We systematically denounce and, above all, take action against all aberrations, speeches or violent actions, without exception. What’s more, in a democracy, it is not our vocation to be either prosecutors or judges. On the other hand, we respect, defend and support all legal decisions relating to this issue.
Statutes of Coexister : The Coexister association is secular, non-denominational and non-partisan”.
Coexister therefore once again proclaims its independence from all political parties and religious communities. Coexister is not affiliated to any political ideology or religious denomination, precisely because Coexister is a neutral space where everyone can come as he or she is with his or her individual conviction, whether religious or philosophical. This independence and ‘laissez être’ allows extremely different young people to come together with respect at a time when too few spaces in France allow this. We are recreating spaces of fraternity for everyone, wherever the public/social space has ceased to be so.
As a reminder, Coexister works to create links between individuals, not between religious institutions or communities.
Where did the rumour come from? The rumour was started by polemicist Caroline Fourest in a political column in Le Monde. She said: “Having said that, Coexister is much closer to the Church than to the CRIF or the Élysée Palace. Samuel Grzybowski appears on all the Catholic media. He has been received by the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Mgr Jean-Louis Tauran, at the Vatican. He was also invited to take part in the Assisi meetings at the invitation of Pope Benedict XVI. He personally met Pope Francis”. Since 2014, Coexister has been received more often at the Élysée than elsewhere (more than six times). Many of the invitations mentioned by the polemicist above are true, but they unfortunately omit all the other meetings with other convictions, including the Masonic lodges with whom we have had rich and regular debates on secularism. These facts in no way imply a preferential or official link with any of these institutions. The meeting with Pope Francis, for example, took place as part of season 1 of the InterFaith Tour programme, along with many other leaders of all convictions.
Coexister has been working to promote secularism since April 2012. Coexister was originally an association for “interfaith dialogue”, i.e. promoting dialogue on religious issues. Although Coexister’s members were of all faiths from the outset, it was not until 2012 that the association consciously took action to add the defence of secularism to its activities. That was 10 years ago! As a reminder, in 2015 Coexister defined itself as an “interconvictional” movement to set in stone a reality that has existed since day one: people with atheist convictions are also fully concerned by the model of society proposed by Coexister and have their rightful place in it.
Three major reforms were enacted in 2012 by the members:
Coexister is no longer an association for dialogue, but a youth movement focused on joint action in the general interest. Coexister has held general interest accreditation since that time (which was subsequently formally re-confirmed by the tax authorities). In practical terms, Coexister’s educational approach is based on three types of activity: dialogue, solidarity and awareness-raising. Since 2012, our motto has been “Diversity of convictions, Unity in action”.
Coexister values and respects all convictional identities with strict equality, whether these identities are religious or not.
Coexister changes its objective from dialogue to living together and social cohesion through action. Dialogue thus becomes a means among others and not an end. The Coexister motto, formerly “the key to dialogue” becomes “the key to living together”.
Where does the rumour come from? The rumour was started by Mohamed Sifaoui and Laurence Marchand Taillade on their petition for the resignation of Jean-Louis Bianco in 2016.
→ Pour information : Coexister promeut un modèle laïque de Coexistence active où chacun·e peut vivre tel qu’il ou elle est, en interaction positive avec les autres, dans un espace commun et dans le respect des règles. Pour nous, la laïcité est le cadre, le socle qui rend possible la Coexistence active comme mode de coopération. Nous ne mélangeons pas les deux. En d’autres termes, la laïcité est le contenant (le cadre légal) dont la Coexistence active est l’un des contenus (une approche de la façon dont on vit avec l’autre), non exclusif.
→ Pour information : sur la question des sciences, Coexister sensibilise les jeunes à l’irréfutabilité de la science et au caractère personnel et intime de la croyance religieuse. Pour cela Coexister s’aligne sur le livret laïcité de l’Éducation Nationale : « Il faut pouvoir [pour les enseignants] éviter la confrontation ou la comparaison du discours religieux et du savoir scientifique. Dans les disciplines scientifique (SVT, physique-chimie, etc.), il est essentiel de refuser d’établir une supériorité de l’un sur l’autre comme de les mettre à égalité ».
Where does the rumour come from? A few weeks after the publication of the 2015 secularism booklet, Laurent Bouvet (co-founder of Printemps républicain) argued that secular education should establish the superiority of science over belief in an article in Le Monde entitled L’enseignement de laïcité doit maintenir la supériorité de la science sur la croyance (Secular education must maintain the superiority of science over belief).
Sharing Laurent Bouvet’s article on Twitter, Samuel Grzybowski, co-founder of Coexister, commented “Why superiority?” asking whether Mr Bouvet was in fact challenging the official production of the French Ministry of Education. As a result, Coexister was accused, through intellectual dishonesty, of defending belief as superior to science, something we have never said and do not defend.
In an article in Libération, Frantz Durupt points out that the secularism booklet does not go back over the distinction between belief and knowledge and argues that the distinction – which rejects both hierarchy and equality – is the only solution. There can be no hierarchy between two parallel domains that do not answer the same questions. Clearly, Coexister believes that the role of schools is to teach science, but also to teach young people to distinguish between scientific truths and individual beliefs.
Coexister defends secularism as it currently exists in French law and refuses to add an adjective to secularism (open, closed, restrictive, etc). Secularism is secularism: a set of legal principles that govern relations between the State and religious denominations, ensure freedom of conscience, guarantee the free exercise of religion and set limits to it, guarantee the equality of all before the law, and reiterate the need for neutrality on the part of the State and its agents. It is also one of the mechanisms designed to promote fraternity in our interactions within society.
Where does the rumour come from? Most of the media covering the subject pit the different approaches to secularism against each other, using contradictory adjectives such as open/closed, inclusive/exclusive, adapted/rigorist.
In truth, the only difference in this debate is between those who defend the current law and those who want to change it. We are among those who believe that it already provides a framework for all situations if it is properly applied. But there are those who would have you believe that we consider secularism to be more permissive than it actually is, when in fact none of our productions ever go in that direction. On the other hand, they are among those who would like to toughen the law by amending it, particularly with regard to the wearing of religious symbols at university, in the workplace or in the public space. Still others, in the same vein, evoke concepts that currently have no legal basis, such as the “neutrality of the public space” at the origin of the social construction of religion in the private domain. This distinction between the two areas does not exist in current French law, and only fuels the political and media debate. The only distinction that currently exists is between public authorities (the State, the administration, the civil service), whose neutrality is absolute, and others for whom freedom is the rule, albeit within a framework.
For information ⇒ Nothing Coexister does, down to the smallest detail, contravenes the principle of secularism as laid down in French law and case law. Furthermore, Coexister has a proven track record in promoting, explaining and enhancing secularism among young people. One example is the video “La laïcité en 3 minutes ou presque” (Secularism in 3 minutes or so), which was awarded the French Republic’s secularism prize by the Observatoire de laïcité (Ministry of the Interior). Contrary to what Jean-Pierre Sakoun, President of the Comité Laïcité République (who believes that “Coexister’s line is one of total confusionism. Their sole objective is to make secularism incomprehensible in order to liquidate it more effectively”), we are working to make it clearer so that it can be understood and applied.
We respect the law. As with all public policies, we are in favour of evaluating the 2004 law in order to have objective arguments about its effectiveness.
In accordance with Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, we are opposed to any additional legislation, in particular to extend the principle of neutrality (or the absence of conspicuous religious symbols) to universities, businesses, associations and the public space. Nevertheless, we are now in favour of the 2004 law. As future citizens, pupils take part in the national education system, in which they are as much actors as beneficiaries.
Pour information ⇒ Une bande dessinée réalisée par une revue de Bayard Jeunesse montre des jeunes de Coexister intervenir devant une classe. Deux d’entre eux portent un signe religieux ostensible (un voile et une kippa). Pour rappel, le principe de neutralité ne concerne à ce jour pas les intervenants extérieurs en milieu scolaire à condition qu’il soit bien précisé qu’ils n’interviennent pas en tant qu’enseignants et que cela met en suspens la démarche scolaire au profit d’une démarche de sensibilisation. Outre Coexister, d’autres intervenants portant des signes religieux ostensibles interviennent régulièrement devant les élèves, notamment Latifa Ibn Ziaten, dont le fils Imad, militaire français, a été une victime du terrorisme islamiste (assassiné par M. Merah en 2012). Son témoignage sur la résilience et son engagement dans le cadre de la prévention primaire de la radicalisation auprès des jeunes est reconnu par toutes les institutions y compris l’Éducation Nationale et nous le saluons. La question du port ou non d’un signe pour des intervenants externes lors de sensibilisation n’est donc pas en débat.
Consulted at the time by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government and the UMP on this bill, we said that we were in favour of it, provided that the debate did not focus on Islam, but rather on security issues, in particular all forms of full-face concealment, such as helmets or balaclavas in stadiums.
Where does the rumour come from? In an interview with the magazine Limite, Samuel Grzybowski, co-founder of Coexister, points out that the 2010 law was not officially passed in the name of secularism but in the name of security imperatives. There is no secular justification for uncovering the face in the public space. This notion of a visible face is justified by security and citizenship and has nothing to do with secularism, if only because all types of concealment are prohibited.
For information ⇒ Most academics specialising in secularism dispute the link between the 2010 law and the principle of secularism. However, it has been used to underpin and develop a truncated vision of secularism that would imply the neutralisation of individuals rather than the simple neutrality of the State and its representatives.
Coexister’s message is based on a common foundation of seven principles to which it is necessary to adhere before committing to Coexister:
Building Unity → The purpose of all our action. This unity is one of the fundamental vectors for Peace.
Recognise Diversity → A wealth to be protected. This recognition is not an ideological position, it is simply the observation of a sociological reality.
Affirm Identity → Respect for oneself. This identity is often multiple and potentially changing, and this affirmation is not set in stone.
Open up to Otherness → Respect for others, dialogue and action with those who are different.
Maintaining Sincerity → Refusing to convert others or merge identities. The principle of sincerity is expressed, for example, in our educational tools as the refusal of two attitudes: proselytism and syncretism. Anyone who promotes his or her belief as the only true one is invited to reconsider the meaning of his or her commitments. We can debate, criticise, bear witness or question, but we cannot find direct or indirect means of promoting our conviction with the overt or covert aim of getting others to join it.
Promoting Freedom → The right to change one’s beliefs and to believe or not to believe. This promotion linked to our republicanism implies concrete positioning internally as well as in our advocacy.
Applying Secularism → The recognition and application of the neutrality of the State, freedom of conscience and the separation of religions and the State.
Where did this rumour about proselytising come from? No idea.
For your information ⇒ Concerning the wearing of veils: in accordance with human rights and French law, volunteers and all those involved in Coexister are free to wear religious symbols if they wish, without however being able to conceal their faces. On the other hand, we are very concerned about the sharp rise in violent acts in society, particularly against women who choose to wear the veil, or people who wear a kippah in the street. We do not want a society that stigmatises or discriminates because of an authorised religious practice.
The whole message of Coexister is precisely to promote freedom of choice by recognising that when diversity exists, it is better to make it a solution rather than an obstacle to living together. There is nothing to suggest that we are in any way promoting religions.
The only things Coexister promotes are :
Freedom of belief and inclusion of all diversities: this involves defending secularism and fighting against all forms of discrimination.
Education for peace: this involves promoting an educational method within the national education system and developing civil and inclusive remembrance practices so that everyone can be part of a shared history.
Involvement of young people: this involves promoting youth policies that encourage young people to take responsibility and get involved, such as voluntary civic service and the right to vote at 16.
Where did the rumour come from? The local Coexister group in Orléans organised one of its activities on World Veil Day in 2015. The aim of the day was to educate people about the purpose of the veil. The group wanted to show that not all Muslims necessarily wear the veil, that they may wear it for a variety of often very personal reasons, and that not all people who wear a veil or cover their hair are Muslims. The event also sought to introduce the cultural notion of the veil, like any other item of clothing, since every country in the world has its own particular way of wearing it. Finally, this event was an opportunity to remind people that wearing a religious symbol is a right, but that anyone who is forced to do so, particularly a woman by her husband or family, must be protected by the State and be able to find the people to free them from this guardianship. Many similar actions have been organised, including for other faiths. Take, for example, the MPs (LR and UDI) who chose to go to the National Assembly wearing a yarmulke to denounce anti-Semitic acts in 2016.
Coexister knows the CCIF through its work in the field. They are present through a territorial network, mobilised in the fight against racism and discrimination.
However, we have never had an effective partnership with the CCIF, we have not signed an agreement and we have no joint projects. We first became acquainted with the CCIF at national level at the time of the attacks in January and November 2015, when they came to us, along with hundreds of other organisations, to offer their signature to the two texts we had drafted: “Divisions pièges à cons” in January and “Nous Sommes Unis” in November. These have been at the forefront of sharing common positions against division and violence within our nation.
Nb: As a reminder, the #WeAreUnited tribune does not call for the fight against amalgams. Rather, it calls for vigilance against the division programmed by terrorists.
We do not share the CCIF’s position, particularly on the 2010 and 2004 laws. However, we note that many French citizens of Muslim convictions find in the CCIF support against discrimination that they do not find in other organisations. Our disagreements cannot therefore imply a lack of exchange and debate on the issues that concern us.
In the light of the government’s announcements concerning the dissolution of the association, we call on the public authorities to communicate clearly on the elements used to justify this dissolution, in order to avoid any risk of accusations of a witch-hunt or political coup due to simple ideological disagreements typical of democracies.
Polemics aside, whatever the structure, France needs organisations that list and combat Islamophobia in France.
Where does the rumour come from? The fact that the CCIF signed the #NousSommesUnis petition in 2015. As a reminder, Coexister contributed to the drafting of the text and joined the #NousSommesUnis collective, but this is an independent initiative, mainly supported logistically by young people from the signatory organisations, including Coexister, Unis-Cité and AFEV.
We also signed a tribune alongside a hundred or so European organisations and academics in October 2020, expressing our alarm at the rise in repressive mechanisms against anti-racist and anti-discrimination associations (including Coexister) and calling for the suspension of the dissolution of the CCIF in the absence of tangible elements at the date the said tribune was signed (since then the dissolution decree has given more information).
For information ⇒ Our partnership policy is very clearly defined:
We speak out to all those who speak out back to us, provided they have never been convicted, particularly of racism, anti-Semitism or incitement to racial hatred.
We work with all those who share our mission of general interest and apply our seven fundamental principles (see point 10)
We do not share many of their values. For example, we seek to promote gender equality, republican secularism and democratic transparency. Although we heard Barakacity’s arguments following their appearance on Le Supplément on Canal+ in January 2016, like many French people we did not accept the attitude of its president on the set. Similarly, the violence used by social networks, particularly against Muslim feminist associations, prevents us from projecting any support. In any case, we have no reason to support a structure based in part on the principles of fundamentalist Islam, which may be non-violent, but is in any case literalist.
Where does the rumour come from? In 2014, Barakacity was a much less well-known NGO than it is today, including in terms of its political stance, but it was a strong pool of volunteers. When the CIC closed their accounts without giving any justification, Samuel Grzybowski, co-founder of Coexister, expressed his solidarity with them via Twitter, explaining that Coexister also wanted to leave the CIC, albeit for other reasons (desire to migrate to a cooperative and ethical bank). This support was given several years before the legitimately contested intervention of its founding chairman on the subject of Daesh. Samuel Grzybowski subsequently announced that he was withdrawing his support on the same social network. Newspapers such as Valeurs Actuelle, which in 2020 claimed that the Coexister association had supported the Barakacity association, are therefore using disinformation methods that fall within the realm of lies.
Coexister defends full and unrestricted freedom of expression, subject only to the law. It recognises the right to freely express an opinion, a view or criticism through writing, drawings, words or caricatures. This freedom is a fundamental right, and no one may be attacked with violence for expressing an opinion. The main limits on freedom of expression in France fall into two categories: defamation and insult, on the one hand; and hate speech, which includes apology for crimes against humanity and anti-Semitic, racist or homophobic comments, on the other.
The notion of “blasphemy” is a personal and individual concept that only has meaning for people who have a belief in which this concept exists. There would therefore be no republican sense or general interest in banning blasphemy in France. Secularism allows us to believe or not to believe, to choose a belief or to change it, and guarantees freedom of worship for all citizens. It also allows us to criticise a religion or belief, to caricature it and to oppose it, within the limits set out above. Coexister campaigned for the repeal of the offence of blasphemy in Alsace and Moselle, regions under the concordat regime in France, and we welcomed its repeal in 2016.
For information ⇒ On the concordat: Coexister defends the sole application of the 1905 law, nothing but the law, the whole law, without compromise or concession on French territory. In the interests of equality, we are therefore not in favour of maintaining the concordat sine die in Alsace and Moselle, even though we welcome the efforts made by citizens and local authorities to implement social cohesion within the concordat framework. The people of Alsace and Moselle are overwhelmingly in favour of maintaining the Concordat (in a survey carried out for the Institut du Droit Local in 2005 and sent to the Observatoire de laïcité by Professor Francis Messner, 92% of those questioned said they were “in favour of the possibility of religious education in schools”, 90% “in favour of the maintenance of religious buildings by the communes” and 92% “in favour of the remuneration of priests, pastors and rabbis by the State”. ), the legality of which was reaffirmed by the Constitutional Council in 2011 and 2013.
On 7 January 2015, some of the staff of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo were murdered by terrorists inspired by the deadly ideology of radical Islam. Coexister was obviously horrified by this attack and what it meant for freedom of expression. Coexister offered its deepest support to the victims and their families and its wish for the strongest possible condemnation of the perpetrators and accomplices of this massacre. France has a long history of satire and caricature, of which Charlie Hebdo is definitely a part. It is unacceptable for death threats and acts of violence to be made against the Charlie Hebdo staff, who have been forced to live under police protection as a result. The same goes for Mila, Hugo and any other person threatened because of their opinions or beliefs.
Where does the rumour come from? At the end of 2012, Coexister voluntarily and ethically asked the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques to review its status so that it could produce tax receipts for the donations it received. On 18 January 2013, its general interest status was withdrawn on the grounds that “the Coexister association cannot claim to be educational in nature”.
Coexister asserted its right to take legal action, and after an appeal to the Paris Administrative Court, a rejected application for interim relief, and an appeal to the Conseil d’Etat, the Directorate General of Public Finances reversed its decision on 24 July 13. After carrying out an in-depth inspection, it now states that “the Coexister association, in addition to its educational, social and cultural activities, is generally of a philanthropic nature”.
For information ⇒ On 25 March 2019, Coexister was approved by the Ministry of National Education as a youth and popular education association.
The general interest nature of Coexister has also been recognised and praised by numerous reports and awards:
- winner of the Elysée’s La France S’engage programme
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to finance part of the InterFaith Tour project and the Council of Europe to give it its patronage
the “best positive influencer” award for #WeAreUnited from Twitter
- the Facebook Grand Prize “against hate speech
as well as the Prix du Partage Citoyen, the Golden Rule Award, the Trophée du Vivre Ensemble, an award from Microsoft, the Prix Émile Boutmy for our political commitment to secularism and living together, and many others.
Several opinion articles have been published in recent weeks about Coexister by Valeurs Actuelles, Causeur and Le Point. Noting the large amount of erroneous information contained in these 3 articles, the National Office of Coexister has requested the publication of rights of reply.
For information ⇒ Below are the 3 articles which will shortly be accompanied by 3 rights of reply from Coexister.
- Valeurs Actuelles, Quand l’association Coexister soutenait l’organisation islamiste Barakacity, 30/10/2020.
- CAUSEUR Magazine n°83, Coexister : Les bonnes affaires du vivre-ensemble, October 2020.
- Le Point, Coexister, une association dans le collimateur du gouvernement, 25/11/2020 These 3 articles are more disinformation than information about Coexister. The factual information is either false or refers to old facts that have since been clarified or statements taken out of context. Furthermore, these articles wrongly take the form of a field survey, whereas it is clear that the aim of the authors of these 3 articles is to express their personal opinions on Coexister. We encourage you to reread these articles in the light of the information provided by the government in its Guide to combating fake news.Of course, Coexister is committed to freedom of the press and freedom of opinion. The debate of ideas is one of the foundations of our democracy. However, we regret that these articles, by spreading unfounded accusations, tarnish Coexister’s reputation.
For information ⇒ Other press articles testify to Coexister’s action after in-depth reporting or exchanges between journalists and Coexister members:
- PositivR, https://positivr.fr/laicite-education-interview-coexister/, 27/11/2020
- LeMonde, Dans les écoles, l’association Coexister rappelle, entre autres, qu’on peut être “musulman et laïque”, 23/02/2020
- Brut, Coexister l’association qui lutte contre les préjugés sur les religions, 04/12/2018
- Brut, Avec Coexister, des jeunes de convictions différentes prôent le vivre-ensemble, 24/03/2018
- RCF, Enseigner le fait religieux à l’école: le défi de laïcité?, 06/11/2020
- France Inter, Around the world for peace, 20/03/2019
- BFM, ” L’antisémitisme tue et c’est le moment de se rassembler “: l’appel à manifester de la présidente de Coexister, 19/02/2019
- Le Parisien, Eloquentia, Coexister… ces associations qui œuvrent pour le vivre-ensemble, 06/02/2020
- La Croix, ” Déconstruire les préjugés sur les religions “, 01/12/2021
- Ouest France, Saint-Malo. Avec l’association Coexister, les jeunes s’interrogent sur l’engagement, 20/07/2019