Islam in France
|Islam by country|
Islam is the second-most widely professed religion in France behind Catholic Christianity by number of worshippers. With an estimated total of 7,5 percent of the national population, France has the largest number of Muslims in Western Europe primarily due to migration from North African and Middle Eastern countries.
The majority of Muslims in France belong to the Sunni denomination. The vast majority of French Muslims are of immigrant origin, while an estimated 100,000 are converts to Islam of indigenous ethnic French background. The French overseas region of Mayotte has a majority Muslim population.
- 1 Statistics
- 2 History
- 3 Integration
- 4 Notable French Muslims
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
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 CNIL and the National Council of Statistical Information (CNIS[fr]).
Estimations based on declaration
A study from INED and the INSEE in October 2010 concluded that France has 2.1 million "declared Muslims" aged 18–50 including between 70,000 and 110,000 converts to Islam.
Estimations based on people's geographic origin
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 were between 5 and 6 million Muslims in metropolitan France in 2010. The government counted all those people in France who migrated 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.
The French polling company IFOP estimated in 2016 that French Muslims number between 3 and 4 millions, and criticised suggestions of a fr:grand remplacement. IFOP claims that they make up 5.6% of those older than 15, and 10% of those younger than 25.
|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, 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.
During the winter of 1543–1544, after the siege of Nice, Toulon was used as an Ottoman naval base under the admiral known as Hayreddin Barbarossa. The Christian population was evacuated, and 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 is secular, 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 mostly 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.).
Some far-right activists claim that about a third of newborns in France have Muslim parents.
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 varying degrees of 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 million 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.
In 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.
The great majority 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 (salat), 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 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). In 2008, there were about 2,125 Muslim places of worship in France.
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, though heavily subsidised) 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 United States 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).
In November 2015 in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, French authorities for the first time closed three mosques with extremist activities and radicalisation being given as the reason. The mosques were located in Lagny-sur-Marne, Lyon and Gennevilliers. Muslim community leaders widely condemned the Paris attacks in public statements and expressed their support for the French government's attempts to oppose islamist extremism. In 2016 French authorities reported that 120 of the 2500 Islamic prayer halls were disseminating salafist ideas and 20 mosques were closed due to findings of hate speech.
Accepted French citizens
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 an example of works revealing this typically French phenomenon. In Paris and the surrounding Île-de-France region where French Muslims tend to be more educated and religious, the vast majority rejects violence and say they are loyal to France according to studies by Euro-Islam, a comparative research network on Islam and Muslims in the West sponsored by GSRL Paris/CNRS France and Harvard University. On the other hand, a 2013 IPSOS survey published by the French daily Le Monde indicated that only 26% of French respondents believed that Islam was compatible with French society (compared to 89% identifying Catholicism as compatible and 75% identifying Judaism as compatible). A thorough survey by the Pew Research Center in Spring 2014 revealed that out of all Europeans, the French view Muslim minorities most favorably with 72% having a favourable opinion.
In 2010, a study entitled Are French Muslims Discriminated Against in Their Own Country? found 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 over the years. On 14 January 2015 it was reported that 26 mosques in France had been subject to attack since the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris.
On 29 June 2017, a man attempted to ram his vehicle into a crowd of worshipers exiting a mosque in Créteil, a suburb of Paris, though no one was injured. Le Parisien claims the suspect, of Armenian origin, wanted to "avenge the Bataclan and Champs-Elysées" attacks.
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, which they believe is 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"
In 2014, an analysis by The Washington Post showed that between 60-70% of the prison population in France are Muslim or come from Muslim backgrounds while Muslims constitute 12% of the population of France.
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 freedom 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 25 January 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, 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 counterparts) is to discuss religious problem with the state, participate in certain public institutions, and organise the religious life of French Muslims. 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.
Notable French Muslims
- Mouloud Achour, journalist, TV presenter
- Fadela Amara, social worker, former government minister
- Nicholas Anelka, football player
- Rachid Arhab, journalist, member of Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel
- Kader Arif, politician, former government minister and current member of the European Parliament
- Ali Baddou, journalist, political sciences professor, TV and radio presenter
- Azouz Begag, researcher in economics and sociology, former government minister
- Hatem Ben Arfa, football player
- Si Kaddour Benghabrit, founder of the Great Mosque of Paris, WW2 resistant
- Leïla Bekhti, Awards-winning film & television actress, L'Oréal ambassador
- Ghaleb Bencheikh, scientist
- Karim Benzema, football player
- Dalil Boubakeur, physician
- Mourad Boudjellal, businessman, president of RC Toulon rugby club
- Rachida Brakni, Awards-winning actress, Comédie française member, wife of Éric Cantona
- Maurice Bucaille, physician and Egyptologist
- Louis du Couret, explorer, military officer, and writer
- Rachida Dati, lawyer, former Minister of Justice
- Jamel Debbouze, Awards-winning actor and stand-up comedian, producer, philanthropist, husband of TV journalist and producer Mélissa Theuriau
- Harlem Désir, politician, former Secretary of State for European Affairs
- Nasreddine Dinet, painter
- Frantz Fanon, philosopher, psychiatrist, writer
- Nabil Fekir, football player
- René Guénon, author and intellectual
- Mounir Mahjoubi, technologist, businessman, current Secretary of State for Digital Affairs
- Hamlaoui Mekachera, Légion d'Honneur recipient war hero, former government minister
- Nagui, long-standing TV and radio presenter and producer, Number 1 French TV host in 2010
- Samir Nasri, football player
- Paul Pogba, football player
- Adil Rami, football player
- Tahar Rahim, Awards-winning actor
- Franck Ribéry, football player
- Mamadou Sakho, football player
- Moussa Sissoko, football player
- Rabah Slimani, rugby player (both loose head and tight head prop) for Stade français and in the French national rugby union team, highest paid French player 
- Omar Sy, Award-winning actor
- Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid coach, former football player
- Demographics of France
- Religion in France
- Islam in Marseille
- Islam in Besançon
- Franco-Ottoman alliance
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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.
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