Monday, September 25, 2006

French Islam.

The French Muslims have just begun celebrating the Ramadan. This offers a good opportunity to deal once again with the issue of where the Muslims stand in French society.

John Thornhill editor of the FT's ­European edition wrote a great piece [available on MSNBC] about the integration of French Muslims. He actually reviews a book written by a French historian and an American political scientist, called “Integrating Islam: Political And Religious Challenges in Contemporary France”, published last month. The book is a comprehensive study of the state of Muslim integration into French society.

According to Thornill the writers debunk the myths entertained by rightwing commentators in the US that Europe's 15m Muslims are the potential enemy who are slowly but steadily turning Europe into Eurabia

Among other things, the book shows that France's Muslim population is extremely diverse with a strong attachment to France and a profound desire to integrate.

This is supported by different polls that have recently come out (see our post here), including the most recent one made in France (read this article in French).

According to this latest poll:

  • 88% of French Muslims say they practice the Ramadan
  • 17% say the go to the Mosque at least once a week.
  • 73% are in favor of the separation between state and religion (21% are opposed and 6% have no opinion)
  • 91% of French Muslims polled are in favor of equality between men and women
  • 79% are opposed to polygamy in Muslim countries.

Interestingly enough, while the authors acknowledge the serious problems and challenges that exist, they see the emergence of a religion and a population that feel at home in, and at peace with, French society - a "French Islam" to replace "Islam in France."

2 Comments:

At 01:55, Anonymous Abrisbus said...

I understand Thornill's point of view and I'm not far from thinking the same about "French Islam"...
However, I don't believe the poll given into example clearly reflects the fact that muslims are attached to France and their desire to integrate : Is it enough to declare that they are in favor of the separation between state and religion or to be in favor of equality between sexes to conclude they profoundly desire to integrate (France). I don't think so. In fact, I think that a poll will never be able to analyse the attachment of Franch muslims to France as their answer will be skewed on this kind of subject...

 
At 19:47, Blogger Joker & Thief said...

You're probably right. It is not enough to declare that they are in favor of the separation between state and religion or to be in favor of equality between sexes to conclude they profoundly desire to integrate (France). However, if you consider that secularism is a distinct feature of the French identity (even within Europe, France is unique that way), it means at least that those people have, willingly or not, integrated that particular feature of Frenchness. (read this article http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/12/19/news/secular.php)
Also you may remember that there was a rally-round-the-flag attitude of French Muslims when the Iraqi kidnappers demanded that the fench law on religious symbols in schools be abolished in order for the French hostages (French journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot ) to be liberated. Many Muslims demonstrated in the streets to defend their own right to have their own French Islam.
Another illustration, if you read this post of ours (http://jokertothethief.blogspot.com/2006/06/perception-of-muslims.html), you'll see that that France is the only country where a large percentage (74%) of both the general public and the Muslim minority population feel there is no conflict in being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.
Finally, if you think of how the headscarf controversy started, it did not bring a lot of problems and the whole thing went pretty quiet in the end. Most Muslims accepted and embraced it.
This may not be enough yet. And indeed, when asked whether they consider themselves as a national citizen first or as a Muslim first, French Muslims split relatively evenly (42% vs. 46%) on the issue BUT this is very different from Muslims elsewhere in Europe (fully 81% of British Muslims self-identify with their religion rather than their nationality, for example) and it is not so different from the responses given by Americans when asked whether they identify first as national citizens or as Christians (48% vs. 42%).
It is clear that if you go and spend time (like I did when I worked there), in the "ghettos" around Paris, you sometimes feel like things are very foreign to you, but if you look beyond the surface, a lot of the Muslims there want to be more part of France. The major problem is not Islam, it is the ghetto culture - which is actually very similar to the ghetto culture in the US or Britain.
I think it is important to see the ghetto culture for what it is and not mix it with a desire for Muslims to be kept apart because of their religious beliefs.

 

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