Islam in France
|Islam by country|
Due to a law dating from 1872, the French Republic prohibits performing census by making distinction between its citizens regarding their race or their beliefs. However, that law does not concern surveys and polls, which are free to ask those questions if they wish. The law also allows for an exception for public institutions such as the INED or the INSEE whose job it is to collect data on demographics, social trends and other related subjects, on condition that the collection of such data has been authorized by the National Commission for Computer-stocked data and Freedom (CNIL) and the National Council of Statistical Information (CNIS)
Estimations based on declaration 
A study from INED and the INSEE in October 2010 concluded that France has 2.1 million “declared Muslims” including between 70,000 and 110,000 converts to islam.
Estimations based on people’s geographic origin 
As of 2010, according to the French Government which does not have the right to ask direct questions about religion and uses a criterion of people’s geographic origin as a basis for calculation, there are between 5 to 6 million Muslims in metropolitan France. The government counted all those people in France who came here from countries with a dominant Muslim population, or whose parents did. Only 33% of those 5 to 6 million people (2 million) said they were practicing believers. That figure is the same as that obtained by the INED/INSEE study in October 2010.
An Interior ministry source in l'Islam dans la République (Haut Conseil à l'intégration, November 2000, p. 26) published the following estimated distribution of Muslims by affiliated countries:
|remaining Asia (mostly Pakistan and Bangladesh)||100,000|
|illegal immigrants or awaiting regularisation||350,000|
These numbers include people of Muslim affiliation who are not actually observant Muslims. Among Muslims, 36% described themselves as "observant believers", and 20% claimed to go regularly to the mosque for the Friday service. 70% said they "observe Ramadan". This would amount to a number of roughly 1.5 million French Muslims who are "observant believers", another 1.5 million who identify with Islam enough to observe Ramadan, and 1 million citizens of "(Islam observing lineage) Muslim extraction" but with no strong religious or cultural ties to Islam. The number of people of Islam observing lineage who are practicing Roman Catholics is negligible.
According to Michèle Tribalat (fr), a researcher at INED, an acceptance of 5 to 6 million Muslims in France in 1999 was overestimated. Her work has shown that there were 3.7 million people of "possible Muslim faith" in France in 1999 (6.3% of the total population of Metropolitan France). These 3.7 million people whose ancestry is from countries where Islam is the dominant faith may or may not be observant Muslims themselves. In 2009, she estimated that the number of people of "possible Muslim faith" in France was about 4.5 million.
Early history 
During the winter of 1543–1544, after the siege of Nice, Toulon was used as an Ottoman naval base under admiral Barbarossa. The Christian population was evacuated, and the Toulon Cathedral was briefly converted into a mosque, before the city was regained by France.
1960-1970s labour immigration 
Muslim immigration, mostly male, was high in the late 1960s and 1970s. The immigrants came primarily from Algeria and other North African colonies; however, Islam has an older history in France, since the Great Mosque of Paris was built in 1922, as a sign of recognition from the French Republic to the fallen Muslim tirailleurs mainly coming from Algeria, in particular at the battle of Verdun and the take-over of the Douaumont fort.
French Council of the Muslim Faith 
Though the French State does not want to have anything to do with religion, in recent years the government has tried to organize a representation of the French Muslims. In 2002, the then Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy initiated the creation of a "French Council of the Muslim Faith" (Conseil Français du Culte Musulman – CFCM), though wide criticism claimed this would only encourage communitarianism. Though the CFCM is informally recognized by the national government, it is a private nonprofit association with no special legal status. As of 2004[update], it is headed by the rector of the Paris Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur – who harshly criticized the controversial Union of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF) for involving itself in political matters during the 2005 riots. Nicolas Sarkozy's views on laïcité have been widely criticized by left- and right-wing members of parliament; more specifically, he was accused, during the creation of the CFCM, of favoring the more extreme sectors of Muslim representation in the Council, in particular the UOIF.
Second generation immigrants 
The first generation of Muslim immigrants, who are today retired from the workforce, keep strong ties with their countries, where their families lived. In 1976, the government passed a law allowing families of these immigrants to settle; thus, many children and wives moved to France. Most immigrants, realizing that they couldn't or didn't want to return to their homeland, asked for French nationality before quietly retiring. However, many live alone in housing projects, having now lost their ties with their countries of origin.
The situation was different with the "second generation", born in France, and as such French citizens by jus soli influenced law. As such, they cannot be designated "immigrants", since they were born on national territory. A 1992 reform of the nationality laws delayed obtainment of French nationality until a request at adulthood (where previously it was automatically given). A large number of them are located in housing projects in the suburbs. Unlike in the United States and elsewhere, the French working classes often reside outside large cities, sometimes in villes nouvelles (such as Sarcelles, from which the term sarcellite was derived), for which limited infrastructure other than sleeping dormitories has been planned, partially explaining a general boredom which some have noted contributed to the 2005 Paris suburb riots.
Olivier Roy indicates that for first generation immigrants, the fact that they are Muslims is only one element among others. Their identification with their country of origin is much stronger: they see themselves first through their descent (Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians, etc.).
According to Michel Tribalat, a researcher at INED, people of Maghrebi origin in France represent 82% of the Muslim population (43.2% from Algeria, 27.5% from Morocco and 11.4% from Tunisia). Others are from Sub-saharan Africa (9.3%) and Turkey (8.6%). She estimated that there were 3.5 million people of Maghrebi origin (with at least one grandparent from Algeria, Morocco or Tunisia) living in France in 2005 corresponding to 5.8% of the total French metropolitan population (60.7 millions in 2005). Maghrebis have settled mainly in the industrial regions in France, especially in the Paris region. Many famous French people like Edith Piaf, Isabelle Adjani, Arnaud Montebourg, Alain Bashung, Dany Boon and many others have Maghrebi ancestry.
Below is a table of population of Maghrebi origin in France, numbers are in thousands:
|Country||1999||2005||% 1999/2005||% French population (60.7 millions in 2005)|
|Born in France||1,003||1,186|
|Born in France||482||576|
|Born in France||215||236|
|Immigrants||1 299||1 526||2.5%|
|Born in France||1 700||1 998||3.3%|
In 2005, the percentage of young people under 18 of maghrebi origin (at least one immigrant parent) was about 7% in Metropolitan France, 12% in Greater Paris and above 20% in French département of Seine-Saint-Denis.
As of 2008, the French national institute of statistics INSEE estimated that 11.8 million foreign-born immigrants and their direct descendants (born in France) lived in France representing 19% of the country's population. About 4 million of them are of Maghrebi origin.
According to some non-scientific sources between 5 and 6 million people of Maghrebin origin live in France corresponding to about 7–9% of the total French metropolitan population.
Religious practices 
The bulk of Muslims practice their religion in the French framework of laïcité as religious code of conduct must not infringe the public area. They practice prayer (salah), and most observe the fast of Ramadan and most do not eat pork while many do not drink wine.
Some Muslims (the UOIF for example) request the recognition of an Islamic community in France (which community remains to be built) with an official status.
Two main organisations are recognized by the French Council of Muslim Faith (CFCM): the "Federation of the French Muslims" (Fédération des musulmans de France) with a majority of Moroccan leaders, and the controversial "Union of Islamic Organisations of France" (Union des organisations islamiques de France) (UOIF), influenced by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
Since publicly funded State schools in France must be secular, owing to the 1905 separation of Church and State, Muslim parents who wish their children to be educated at a religious school often choose private (and therefore fee-paying) Catholic schools, of which there are many. Few specifically Muslim schools have been created. There is a Muslim school in La Réunion (a French island to the east of Madagascar), and the first Muslim collège (a school for students aged eleven to fifteen) opened its doors in 2001 in Aubervilliers (a suburb northeast of Paris), with eleven students. Unlike most private schools in the USA and the UK, these religious schools are affordable for most parents since they may be heavily subsidised by the government (teachers' wages in particular are covered by the State).
Several studies reveal that France seems to be, among the Western countries, the one where Muslims integrate the best and feel the most for their country. French Muslims also have the most positive opinions about their fellow citizens of different faiths. The study from the Pew Research Center on Integration is a good example of works revealing this typically French phenomenon. A 2013 IPSOS survey published by the French daily Le Monde indicated that only 26% of respondents believed that Islam was compatible with French society (compared to 89% identifying Catholicism as compatible and 75% identifying Judaism as compatible).
In 2010, a study entitled Are French Muslims Discriminated Against in Their Own Country? showed that "Muslims sending out resumes in hopes of a job interview had 2.5 times less chance than Christians" with similar credentials "of a positive response to their applications.".
Other examples of discrimination against Muslims include the desecration of 148 French Muslim graves near Arras. A pig's head was hung from a headstone and profanities insulting Islam and Muslims were daubed on some graves. Destruction and vandalism of Muslim graves in France were seen as Islamophobic by a report of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. A number of mosques have also been vandalized in France.
The 2005 French riots have been controversially interpreted, mostly by the foreign press, as an illustration of the difficulty of integrating Muslims in France, and smaller scale riots have been occurring throughout the 1980s and 1990s, first in Vaulx-en-Velin in 1979, and in Vénissieux in 1981, 1983, 1990 and 1999.
Furthermore, although Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy claimed that most rioters were immigrants and already known to the police, the majority were, in fact, previously unknown to the police.
French residents of the banlieues constantly complain about the stigmatisation of their revolt, falsely over-simplified as a so-called "Muslim riot", especially by the foreign press. French actor Roschdy Zem said in an interview with the French magazine Première given during the promotion of the movie Indigènes about those riots:
"Making of those riots an ethnico-religious affair seemed to me particularly disgusting. When railwaymen are blocking France, nobody goes search further as their demands. Take any Norwegian or Swede, inflict the same life conditions [as those of some French banlieusards] on them and I can assure you that they will end up burning cars too..."
Additionally, Zagreb-born Rada Ivekovic, PhD, philosopher and university professor in Paris stated in her paper "French Suburbia 2005 : The Return of the Political Unrecognized":
"The riots were neither communal nor ethnic, nor organised by leaders; no political project came from the rioters who have no representatives"
Several parties, such as Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National and Bruno Mégret's Mouvement National Républicain, believe that large numbers of immigrants with non-Western European cultural background destabilize France and claim that there is a clear danger with regards to their behavior among the immigrant Muslim population. In the 2004 regional elections, the MNR ran on a "No to Islamization!" platform.
Some have argued that advocating sharia law inherently violates French law and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, so the French government has deported some who openly advocate Sharia law. In a few cases, expulsion warrants on the basis of immigration status had already been issued.
The wearing of hijab in France has been a very controversial issue since 1989. The debate essentially concerns whether Muslim girls who choose to wear hijab may do so in state schools. A secondary issue is how to protect the free choice and other rights of young Muslim women who do not want the veil, but who may face strong pressure from families or traditionalists. Similar issues exist for civil servants and for acceptance of male Muslim medics in medical services.
Many Muslims believe that the Qu'ran instructs women to keep their heads covered (outside of the immediate family) even though some others, including Leila Babes in her book "The Veil Demystified", believe that wearing the veil does not derive from a Muslim religious imperative. Some Muslims argue that it is a form of religious discrimination not to allow head-coverings in school. They believe that the law is an attempt to impose secular values on them. The specific parts of the Qu'ran are interpreted differently by groups of more liberal Muslims; another source for the requirement to keep women's heads covered is in the Hadith.
The French government, and a large majority of public opinion are opposed to the wearing of a "conspicuous" sign of religious expression (dress or symbol), whatever the religion, as this is incompatible with the French system of laïcité. In December 2003, President Jacques Chirac said that it breaches the separation of church and state and would increase tensions in France's multicultural society, whose Muslim and Jewish populations are both the biggest of their kind in Western Europe.
The issue of Muslim hijabs has sparked controversy after several girls refused to uncover their heads in class, as early as 1989. In October 1989, three Muslim schoolgirls wearing the Islamic headscarf were expelled from the collège Gabriel-Havez in Creil (north of Paris). In November, the First Conseil d'État ruling affirmed that the wearing of the Islamic headscarf, as a symbol of religious expression, in public schools was not incompatible with the French school system and the system of laïcité. In December, a first ministerial circular (circulaire Jospin) was published, stating teachers had to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to ban the wearing of Islamic headscarf.
In January 1990, three schoolgirls were expelled from the collège Pasteur in Noyon, north of Paris. The parents of one expelled schoolgirl filed a defamation action against the principal of the collège Gabriel-Havez in Creil. As a result, the teachers of a collège in Nantua (eastern part of France, just to the west of Geneva, Switzerland) went on strike to protest the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in school. A second ministerial circular was published in October, to restate the need to respect the principle of laïcité in public schools.
In September 1994, a third ministerial circular (circulaire Bayrou) was published, making a distinction between "discreet" symbols to be tolerated in public schools, and "ostentatious" symbols, including the Islamic headscarf, to be banned from public schools. In October, some students demonstrated at the lycée Saint Exupéry in Mantes-la-Jolie (northwest of Paris) to support the freedom to wear Islamic headscarves in school. In November, approximately twenty-four veiled schoolgirls were expelled from the lycée Saint Exupéry in Mantes-la-Jolie and the lycée Faidherbe in Lille.
Since 1994, around 100 girls have been excluded from French state schools for wearing such veils. In half the cases, courts have subsequently overturned the decision.
In December 2003, President Chirac decided that the law should prohibit the wearing of visible religious signs in schools, according to laïcité requirements. The law was approved by parliament in March 2004. Items prohibited by this law include Muslim hijabs, Jewish yarmulkes or large Christian crosses. It is still permissible to wear discreet symbols of faith such as small crosses, Stars of David or Fatima's hands.
Some religious leaders[who?] have showed their opposition. Two French journalists working in Iraq, Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot were taken hostage by the "Islamic Army in Iraq" (an Iraqi resistance militant movement) under accusations of spying. Threats to kill the two journalists if the law on headscarves was not revoked were published on the Internet by groups claiming to be the "Islamic Army in Iraq". The two journalists were later released unharmed.
The arguments have resurfaced when, on 22 June 2009, at the Congrès de Versailles, President Nicolas Sarkozy declared that the Islamic burqa is not welcome in France, claiming that the full-length, body-covering gown was a symbol of subservience that suppresses women's identities and turns them into "prisoners behind a screen." A parliamentary commission of thirty-two deputies and led by André Gerin (PCF), was also formed to study the possibility of banning the public wearing of the burqa or niqab. There is suspicion, however, that Sarkozy is "playing politics in a time of economic unhappiness and social anxiety."
A Muslim group spokesman expressed serious concern over the proposed legislation, noting that “even if they ban the burqa, it will not stop there,” adding that “there is a permanent demand for legislating against Muslims. This could go really bad, and I’m scared of it. I feel like they’re turning the screws on us.”
On January 25, 2010 it was announced that the parliamentary committee, having concluded its study, would recommend that a ban on veils covering the face in public locations such as hospitals and schools be enacted, but not in private buildings or on the street.
Formal as well as informal Muslim organisations help the new French citizens to integrate. There are no Islam-based political parties, but a number of cultural organisations. Their most frequent activities are homework help and language classes in Arabic, but ping pong, Muslim discussion groups etc. are also common. However, most important associations active in assisting with the immigration process are either secular (GISTI, for example) or ecumenist (such as the protestant-founded Cimade).
The most important national institution is the CFCM (Conseil Français du Culte Musulman) this institution was designed on the model of the "Consistoire Juif de France" and of the "consistoire Protestant de France" both Napoleonic creation. The aim of the CFCM (like its Jewish and protestant conterparts) is to discuss religious problem with the state, participate in certain public institutions,and organise the religious life of French Muslims, in other words to be an interlocutor and an organisator of the cult. The CFCM is elected by the French Muslims through local election.It is the only official instance of the French Muslims.
There were for organisations represented in the CFCM elected in 2003 GMP UOIF FNMF CCMTF. In 2008 a new council was elected. The winner was RMF with a large majority of the votes,followed by the UOIF and the CCMTF. It is a very broad and young organisation and there is a beginning of consensus on major issues.
Two more organizations are PCM (Muslim Participation and Spirituality), which combine political mobilization (against racism, sexism etc.) and spiritual retreats and parties. The other is CMF (well known as "the organization close to Tariq Ramadan", though he is not their leader). Both of these organizations put a lot of emphasis on the need to get involved in French society – by joining organizations, registering to vote, working with your children's schools etc. They do not have clear-cut political positions as such, but push for active citizenship. They are vaguely on the Left in practice.
The government has yet to formulate an official policy towards making integration easier. As mentioned above, it is difficult to determine in France who may be called a Muslim. Some Muslims in France describe themselves as "non-practicing". Most simply observe Ramadan and other basic rules, but are otherwise secular.
Islamist movements 
Islamism (Islamisme in French), Islamiste (when referring to a person of extremist opinions), islamique (for a qualifier, the "hijab" cloth veil, or foulard islamique, or barbe islamique, the traditional Arab beard; this does not have the connotation of extremism, and are merely public displays of faith), mouvement islamique (to refer to a political movement), mouvement intégriste or mouvement extrémiste (to refer to a fundamentalist group), mouvement terroriste (for a terrorist group).
In countries with Muslim majorities, Islamist movements are essentially political. Olivier Roy calls Islamists those which see in Islam a political ideology, in the modern sense of the term. In other words a theory which presumes to entirely understand the social side of a society, in political terms.
Islamists want to influence the laws of the state. When using the term Islamist, Muslims refer almost exclusively to those whose program is to establish an Islamic state. There are many more movements to establish such states than are recognized as Islamist by the West, thus the use is not very uniform.
This is not to say that Islamist groups advocate violent takeover in every political environment, they might simply advocate Sharia Law. Because influence in French politics is possible without resorting to violence, the use of violence in that context is considered counterproductive toward achieving their goal of guiding the political system according to the principles of Islam.
The political aim of Islamists is ultimately the formal establishment of Sharia law, with or without modern adaptations. Fundamentalism and traditionalism, of themselves, do not have this specific political connotation at all. Islamists are deemed such according to their adherence to the political goal of an Islamic state, rather than by features of their religious observance.
Islamists characterize their movement as:
- A recall to tradition, which in Arabic is called "Salaf". This is a doctrine from the end of the 19th century called "la Salafia" (Salafism). It may be found in many Islamist movements, and in particular in Algeria, in one of the GIA groups involved in the Algerian Civil War. (There are several different doctrines in Islamism, and given the variety of the movements, and their varying goals, it is almost always advisable when referring to a specific political movement, to avoid generalizations and refer to it by its name.)
- A return to following the laws outlined in the Qur'an ("Coran" in French). Islamists support a revolutionary and political reading of the Qur'an, they criticize the anti-Islamic times, also known as a return of the ignorance before the Prophet Mohammed. ("jahhiliyya" – Arabic for ignorance).
- Islam as religion and State. This position has been adopted, for example, by the djazarist faction of the G.I.A. This group argues that the State itself should ultimately be Muslim in nature.
Islamists often present themselves as a revival movement, a call to Muslims to renew their adherence to fundamental Islamic religious principles and laws, which initially apply only to Muslims.
According to Pascal Mailhos, chief of the Renseignements Généraux (RG), out of 1700 known places of worship, 75 had been subject to attempts of destabilisation by radical elements, half of them resisting the attempts. 31 radical activists have been expelled from French territory, and a dozen have been monitored by the French police.
Islam in France is subject to strong foreign influences. Statistically, only a third of the imams in France have a good command of the French language, another third an average command, and the last third a poor command. This is because there exists no imam training school in France, the 1905 law of laïcité preventing the state from sponsoring religious establishments; in this case, any mosques or 'imam schools'. A low number of salafist elements can be found in some regions of France. The RG estimates that about 200,000 Muslims regularly practice their religion, and that there are about 5,000 salafists, of whom one quarter are involved in radical Islamism. However, its reports on security issues have often been criticized, for example by Le Monde Diplomatique or Le Canard Enchaîné.
See also 
- Demographics of France
- Religion in France
- Islam in Marseille
- Islam in Besançon
- Ni Putes Ni Soumises
- Beurgeois- affluent French Muslims of North African descent
||Constructs such as ibid., loc. cit. and idem are discouraged by Wikipedia's style guide for footnotes, as they are easily broken. Please improve this article by replacing them with named references (quick guide), or an abbreviated title. (October 2011)|
- How does France count its Muslim population?, Le Figaro, April 2011
- Background Note: France, U.S. Department of State, December 10, 2009. See also "There are an estimated 5 million to 6 million Muslims (8 to 10 percent of the population), although estimates of how many of these are practicing vary widely." in 2008 Report on International Religious Freedom, U.S. Department of State, September 2008; Noble, Thomas F. X.; Strauss, Barry; Osheim, Duane J.; Neuschel, Kristen B.; Accampo, Elinor A.; Roberts, David D.; Cohen, William B. (2009). Western Civilization: Beyond Boundaries (6th ed.). Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. p. ?. ISBN 978-0-495-90072-6.
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- The Future of the Global Muslim Population
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- O., M.; Ennaharonline (13 December 2009). "Desecration of a mosque in France". Ennahar Online English (Hydra – Alger: El Athir For the Press). Retrieved 16 December 2009.
- "The Nature of the French Riots". Olivier Roy, Social Science Research Council. November 2005. Retrieved 19 June 2011. "The bulk of the rioters are second generation migrants, but, if we consider the names of the arrested people, it is more ethnically mixed than one could have expected (beyond the second generation with a Muslim background—mainly North Africans, plus some Turks and Africans—there are also many non-Muslim Africans as well as people with French, Spanish or Portuguese names). The rioters are French citizens (only around 7% of the arrested people are foreigners, usually residents). [...]the religious dimension is conspicuously absent from the riots. This is not a revolt of the Muslims."
- Les magistrats constatent après trois semaines de violences que les auteurs interpellés sont très majoritairement des primo-délinquants., nouvelobs.com, 2005-11-19
- Sarkozy démenti par les faits un an après, liberation.fr, 2006-10-24
- in French Première of September 2006, N° 355, cover story entitled "Their day of glory has come [at last]", page 72
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- "France". Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Retrieved 2011-12-14. See drop-down essay on "Contemporary Affairs"
- UNESCO Welcomes Release of French Journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot
- Du voile à l'école au port de la burqa dans l'espace public, le débat a changé
- Burqa Furor Scrambles French Politics
- L'antiterrorisme, selon le patron des RG
- French Muslims, Government Grapple With Integration Pains
- France Tries to Soften Local Style of Islam
- Fighting Terrorism: Lessons From France
- France's burka bill – background, Radio France Internationale in English