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February 9, 2010
Posted: 1635 GMT

Bonjour from the French capital!

What does being French mean? Can you define "frenchness?"

That is what the conservative government of French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been asking in committees and debates for the last four months. After a ministerial meeting on the topic Monday, the country's prime minister, François Fillon, said new citizens would soon be asked to sign a "declaration of values" to pledge their allegance to a certain definition of "Frenchness."

Other measures include the obligatory raising of French flags in all public schools starting next year and making children sing the national anthem at least once a year.

But the debate has its critics. A journalist in the Globe and Mail writing from Paris reported that the debate "quickly evolved into a nasty quarrel over whether immigrants, and particularly Muslim immigrants, are French enough."

Quite a "patate chaude" issue that has descended into accusations of excluding the immigrant contirbution to French national wealth from the debate to trying to divert attention from France's real problems, like unemployment, ahead of regional elections this month.

We will cover the latest and speak to a Patrick Weil, author of "How To Be French" and member of high level commissions on the issue.

We will also cover all the day's top stories, as we continue to anchor IDesk from Paris all week.

We are live in Lagos, Nigeria for the latest on the Nigerian Parliament voting to make the country's VP the acting President. The President has been out of the country for months receiving medical treatment. What does this mean for the oil-rich African nation?

We will take you live to Kiev for the latest on the final vote count in an election that dramatically reversed the so-called "Orange Revolution."

Plus, more weather woes in store for parts of the Northeast United States. We have a report from Washington, D.C. and Guillermo will join us with your global forecast.

Plus, today, the IDesk turn one! We're celebrating the milestone on the show with a special story and (hopefully) a slice of cake or two.

See you on the air!

Hala

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Filed under: Today At The I-Desk


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Pol Henrotte   February 9th, 2010 6:08 pm ET

You all deserve more than one slice of cake-a whole cake wouldn't be enough 🙂

Mona Kristine Sanden   February 9th, 2010 6:15 pm ET

I love everything French.That means the language,the chansons,the operas,the food ,the nature,the wine,the mentality/temperament,the architecture- and Paris,Paris,Paris!!!!II do not think immigrants from other parts of the world can be French in this way.They will stick to their culture from the Homeland.Maybe the next generation will be more French.But singing the National anthem will not help much.
A large population as that in France can live with other cultures inside their borders.They have always done and it means no danger.A big nation should have this diversity and be enriched by it!!

Juliana Alexandria   February 9th, 2010 8:53 pm ET

I can't believe that french children don't sing the national anthen and that there are no french flags in schools. I've always tought that every country had that.

In Brazil every public school has the brazilian, the state and the city's flag raised. And we sing the national anthen in school and in every match of every sport. I must say is kida boring, but you know, it's a necessary evil. Otherwise we would never learn it.

This is one of the negative sides of globalization. We can find the same things everywhere, so we need to know what belongs to our culture and what does not. This is not a problem now, but it might be in the future.

Thot   February 12th, 2010 12:11 am ET

Seems that in periods of difficult economy and high unemployment, nationalism and the defence of national identity always ends up surfacing.
But, since France is part of the EU and, because of that, has no physical boarders, how can a country defend their identity if has their “doors” are opened to other countries and cultures?
France is a plural society, with a plural heritage, just like Portugal.
How can we, as Portuguese’s, establish a Portuguese identity when our country foundation is based by centuries of interconnections with other countries? Romans, Arabs, Africa, Asia, South America… Our history, culture and habits are a based on a mix of influences (miscisgenação) of those countries and cultures, that directly or indirectly helped establish us as a Portuguese nation, with a certain identity. That testimony is in our language, art, architecture heritage, in our daily habits, from clothes to food… and will be, through further centuries, kept being influenced by other cultures. Because a nation identity evolves with life just like peoples identity evolves as they grow.
Sometimes is not quite a question of identity but of appreciation, gratitude with.
Ask most emigrants in France who have turned to French citizens if they identify with being French or if they “feel” French?
Not had been born Portuguese, took me some years to “feel” Portuguese, and although I recognize most common Portuguese culture values and habits, I don’t identify myself with most of them, but yet I still feel Portuguese.
All this French discussion of identity and Burqa ban, can lead to an extreme nationalism that will affect in the future more directly emigrants, and may turn into violence.

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