French senator discusses rise of China and Islam

China and Islam are two major forces influencing world politics today, French senator and former prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin (right) told a distinguished crowd Feb. 20 at Glendon.

In his lecture, New World, New Europe, New Deal?, Raffarin said rapid development in China poses problems but also presents great opportunities for establishing business and trade alliances and building world cooperation and peace. Strong alliances with China also offer the West a chance to address issues of corruption, democratic process and human rights in China, said the French politician.

On Islam, Raffarin said “one billion 200 million Muslims in the world wield enormous power, a power that needs to be channelled into other perspectives than violence.” He said that “France joins the US in wishing to protect the world from violence, although it does not always agree with its methods.”

Touching on the current turmoil over Danish cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad, Raffarin said it would be wiser to limit self-expression on certain sensitive subjects. By comparison, France’s decision to ban head-scarves in the schools was a manifestation of the country’s republican history and an attempt to ensure that all of France’s children are considered equal in school.

Raffarin said Europe, and France in particular, is ideally situated to solve challenges arising from the growing influence of China and Islam. “Europe has the important mission of providing a location where these powers can meet and learn to co-exist in peace,” he said..

“A network between France and Canada could be very useful in creating such a space because Canada has the élan – the youthful energy – needed for this process,” said Raffarin.

“Canada is a country with a conscience and a deep awareness of humanity’s needs,” he said.

The lecture was hosted by Glendon, the Vari Foundation and the Consulate General of France in Toronto.

Glendon Principal Kenneth McRoberts welcomed Raffarin and his wife, Anne-Marie, “two great friends of Canada.” He said they “represent the importance France places on Ontario, where over 100 inter-university agreements are in existence today.”

Helen Vari, president of the Vari Foundation, a major University benefactor, also welcomed Raffarin. The foundation promotes cultural relations between France and Canada, among other things. Vari said Raffarin is “one of the most respected statesmen in the world” and added that “friendship, dialogue and understanding between nations are of primordial importance”.

Raffarin spoke to an audience that included French ambassador Daniel Jouanneau; French consul general Philippe Delacroix; philanthropist George Vari; former federal cabinet minister and Glendon Distinguished Fellow David Collenette; former Ontario finance minister and current MPP Greg Sorbara; Ontario Minister of Culture and Francophone Affairs Madeleine Meilleur; and York University President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna Marsden. Students and faculty members filled Glendon’s elegant Senate Chamber.

This article was submitted to YFile by Marika Kemeny, Glendon communications officer.