“France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic” -Article 1, French Constitution of October 4, 1958
Immigration is often considered a crucial aspect to the continued diversification of a country’s population. Countries all over the world and throughout history have experienced various degrees of foreign influx within their respective borders for numerous reasons; the desire for religious and economic freedom, to escape ethnic conflict or war, to escape poverty and oppression, or to merely reach a safer, more developed and stable area to live and raise future generations. While immigration under these circumstances does not seem like a phenomenon that is cause for concern, history has clearly demonstrated the tension and conflict that can arise from one ethnic population moving into the territory of another. Historically speaking, it is evident that populations of individuals, who are culturally, racially, or religiously different from one another, tend to have a very difficult time accepting these differences to attain mutual positive coexistence.
Specifically speaking, immigration in France is becoming increasingly interesting to study and examine. Historically, and like many other European countries, France has solicited immigrants with the intentions of rebuilding a slowly diminishing population, in addition to strengthening an economic institution weakened by years of war (post World War I and II, post Algerian War). Empowered by their strong sense of French nationalism and cultural identity, France identified and clearly addressed their desire to prevent the possibility of irregular migration and took an aggressive position concerning the integration and assimilation of any would-be immigrants. In 2006, for example, France instituted the French Immigration and Integration Law that specifically addressed the strategy of “selective immigration” and mandatory integration into French society and culture.[i] This move by the French government, arguably fueled by the increasingly large numbers of North African immigrants in recent years, clearly demonstrated that integration was no longer a vague policy goal amongst worried politicians: integration was to become a selection criterion for continued immigration.
Throughout the last decade, the racial tension amongst those who consider themselves “historically and culturally French” or simply “white French”, and the North African immigrant population, has drastically increased, especially in the larger, more urbanized cities in France. The French government has done their job in helping to facilitate these tensions and clashes by refusing to acknowledge that perhaps there must be some compromise on their part in addressing this growing population and aiding in their assimilation into French society. France was founded on the idea of strict governmental secularism or “laïcité,”[ii] an aspect of French society that is arguably incompatible with North African or Arab immigration into France, for the simple reason that these particular immigrant cultures are inextricably wound with a religious dimension – Islam.
This paper will ultimately examine and explain France’s integration and immigration law in conjunction with the North African, Arab and Muslim populations in one of Europe’s most well known cities, Paris, France. The various neighborhoods and banlieues (suburbs) in Paris are particularly remarkable as they host an extremely large, non-assimilated, aggressive population of first, second and third generation Muslim immigrants who have essentially claimed parts of these cities as miniature recreations of the countries from which they came. While looking into the history, culture and demographics of these neighborhoods, this paper will argue that these specific populations of immigrants have not made any clear effort to respect the integration and assimilation policies that the French government has set in place. Enforced secularism, selective immigration and supposed xenophobia within French culture are not the ultimate culprits in this long standing, yet growing international debate.
This paper will address the following issues: why the vast majority of North African and Muslim immigrants have not integrated and assimilated into French society, why the majority of immigrant tension within France comes from second and third generation populations, the role that Islam has to play in creating an even bigger conflict between the immigrants and the secular French government, what the Muslim immigrants in France are ultimately seeking to prove or gain by rebelling against the government and its established immigration policies, and how the “ghetto-ization” of the neighborhoods in Paris and other cities throughout France is only fueling the tension between the Arabs, the French government and the rest of French society.
The issue of Muslims in France and the integration of immigrants and Islam is an extremely important aspect of French and European politics. This issue presupposes that Islamic values and culture brought into France by their immigrant population are inherently incompatible with western ones. France’s future ultimately rests upon whether or not the Arab immigrant population and the French government are ready and willing to compromise on several fronts including that of assimilation and religion, both of which are daunting and seemingly impossible. France’s current state, a country founded upon secular law and secular society, is not compatible with the integration of desired immigration reform. The Muslim culture and way of life as it is now, is not compatible with French society. This paper will ultimately argue that the foundation upon which France was built, one that highlights secularism as a crucial tenet of a successful French society, cannot and must not be compromised. Contrary to the opinion of the Muslim population, laïcité promotes religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence. Understanding the past and current history of these population cultures in France is crucial in working to perhaps find a solution that will establish and maintain the peaceful coexistence of all these groups within France without disrupting or undermining the foundation upon which the French Republic rests.
II. Muslim Immigration to France
A. 2006 Immigration and Integration Law
On May 17, 2006, France enacted the Immigration and Integration Law which contains three distinct components: selective immigration, mandatory integration for potentially long-term residents and co-development. In an address made to fellow government officials in July 2006, Nicolas Sarkozy declared that “selective immigration…is the expression of France’s sovereignty. It is the right of our country, like all great democracies in the world, to choose which foreigners it allows to reside on our territory.”[iii] The first component of the law advocates for the strategy of “l’immigration choisie” or selective immigration. This allows the French government to pick and choose which migrants it allows to enter French borders. Their selection would essentially be based upon the competencies that the individual has to offer the country. In the end, it would facilitate the reception of immigrants that possessed the necessary skills to aid in the future development of France. The families of those accepted individuals, after having resided in France for a specific amount of time under selective immigration, would be granted residence in France through their family reunification policy.
The second part of the law mandates the integration of immigrants who are seeking to make France their permanent place of residence. After obtaining a series of visas, the individual must then sign a contract of reception and integration (contrat d’accueil et d’integration), demonstrating that they are competent in French and committed to upholding those French laws and values to which they are now committed.[iv] The third and final component of the Immigration and Integration Law seeks to promote the strategy of “co-development”. Essentially, “the law aims to contribute to the education of elites from developing countries, but with a view towards eventual return.” In an address to the National Assembly in 2006, Sarkozy explained the law by saying, “young foreign graduate students who obtain their masters degree in France will be able to enhance their education with a first professional experience in France before their return to their country of origin.”[v] In their article concerning the 2006 French Immigration and Integration Law, Nicolas Baygert and Men-Hsuan Chou conclude that “the recent policy change sought to redress the imbalance in numbers of TCNs entering France on the basis of family reunification…the law specifically targets the failure of previous attempts to integrate migrants…and can be seen as a direct response to the 2005 banlieue riots[vi]…caused by…the failure of migrant integration.”[vii]
B. Population and Birthrates
The vast majority of immigrants residing in France are North African Arabs and their offspring, specifically originating from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia- countries that were all, at one point or another, under French colonial rule. Significant numbers have also originated from other Muslim countries such as Turkey and Senegal. As of 2008, the French National Institute of Statistics, l’Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques (INSEE), responsible for publishing information concerning the French economy and general society, to include the periodic national census, estimated that around 11.8 million foreign-born immigrants and their direct descendants were currently residing in France, accounting for about twenty percent of France’s population. INSEE calculated that around five million of these are of North African or “Maghrebi” origin.[viii]
A demographic study done by the Pew Research Center in 2010 that examined Muslim populations around the world, corroborated the findings of France’s INSEE. France has a population of about 4.7 million Muslims which accounts for about ten percent of the total population, a relatively large number, and the largest in continental Europe.[ix] According to an article in Migration News, only about half of these are legal French citizens. [x] Due to territorial legislation enacted in France known as jus soli, any child born in France to immigrant parents automatically became French citizens provided the parents had resided primarily in France for a minimum of five years.[xi] It is thus through this system that about half of the Muslim population possesses French citizenship. It is estimated that today, about 14 million people of France’s population are citizens under jus soli having a distant relative who was an immigrant to France.[xii] It is important to point out that due to a law dating back to 1872, French Republic cannot legally conduct census regarding the population’s religious or ethnic background; however, this law does not prohibit surveys or polls which derive their statistics from freely answered questions. In addition, this law allows for the exception of public institutions such as INSEE, whose specific purpose is to collect important information regarding demographics, social trends and other relevant data, on the condition that the acquirement of such data is approved by the Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertes (CNL), or the national commission for computer data and freedom.
In his 1997 article for the Middle East Quarterly concerning Islam in France, Michael Gurfinkiel cites that in terms of birth rates in France, Algerian women held the upper hand. In 1981, Algerian women had a fertility rate of 4.4 births per woman which decline to 3.5 births in 1990. Moroccan women went from 5.8 to 3.5, and Tunisian women, from 5.1 to 4.2. Although it is evident that these numbers declined in the nine year time period, it is important to highlight that the birthrate of immigrant Muslims remains three to four times higher than that of non-Muslim French women who, in 1990 were estimated at about 1.3 percent. The overall average fertility rate of women in France in 1992 was 1.8 births per woman, a figure higher than that of other European countries, due primarily to its larger Muslim population and their higher birthrates. [xiii][xiv] Simple extrapolation determines that the Muslim population in France has increased and will continue to increase in France due to this rather large disparity in birthrates between Muslims and non-Muslims. In a study conducted by INSEE in 1991, their complied estimated conclude that if the domestic fertility rate of French women continued to drop, by the year 2000, France would require a minimum of 150,000 immigrants per year in order to maintain the population.[xv]
A possible explanation for the continued population increase of Muslims in France, specifically higher birthrates could be due in part to larger welfare payments in France as opposed to their countries of origin, more freedom in regards to family planning, and most recently, the fact that France offers monetary incentives to their citizens to encourage them to have more children. While this was an effort on the government’s part to increase the non-Muslim population, there are still around one million Muslim citizens who are eligible to benefit from this effort. France has resorted to all sorts of financial incentives such as graduated tax breaks (the more children parents have, the less tax they pay), family passes for museums and swimming pools, “large family cards” which offer reductions on train and metro fares, and a monthly allowance for families with three or more children.[xvi]
C. Religion – Islam
In addition to higher birthrates and the cultural norm of creating large families, North African and Arab immigrants brought with them to France, their religion, Islam. Islam is considered to be the second largest religion in France behind Christianity, namely Catholicism. Stemming largely from isolated incidents in which religious fundamentalists and extremists voice their desire for an entirely Islamic world free of western depravity, the west has negatively stereotyped Islam as a strange and destructive religion. These perceptions often depict Islam as violent, oppressive and unwilling to evolve and compromise with western culture. These widespread misconceptions concerning Islam may have a particular basis in France where perception may be based on reality, as the largely Muslim immigrant population has been the focal point of many aggressive and often violent clashes with the French government.
Passed in 1905, the Law of Separation of State and Churches within France often referred to as “Laïcité”, calls for the complete divorce of religious expression and the public sphere.[xvii] “The word laïcité is used in France to summarize prevailing beliefs regarding the proper relationship between religion and the French state.”[xviii] As in many other western states, “the separation of church and state has long been fundamental to the constitutional structure of the West.”[xix] Ironically, its original intention was to weaken the strong Catholic influence in France by placing all religions on equal footing; there would be no religious minorities as religious belief and practice was confined to the private sphere. Conformity to the law meant confining the expression of religious values to private domains; it was the complete removal of homage in the social, cultural and political realm. The purpose of the law was ultimately to establish and maintain religious equality and thwart any possibility for religious tension amongst different groups residing in France. Upon its implementation, religious majorities in France, specifically Christianity and Judaism, were able to relegate their religious expression to privatized spheres of practice. The arrival of Islam in France has disrupted that religious peace as Islam is inherent to the majority of these North African cultures; there is no society, there is no culture without Islam. Therefore, in an effort to continue adherence to Islam and maintain their culture, religious assertiveness in regards to Islam steadily increased.
“Their ongoing adherence to Islam is still one of their primary bulwarks against assimilation, made all the easier by the thoroughness with which Islam pervades daily life, demanding continuous distinction between haram (forbidden) and halal (permitted), whether through, for example, dietary rules, separation between men and women in public spaces, or establishment of mosques.”[xx]
One of the greatest examples of this lies in the building of mosques throughout France. When the idea of building mosques first arose in 1979, Jean Marie Le Pen, a leader for one of the most nationalist and conservative groups in France, strongly opposed the movement as he claimed that it would “become a breeding ground for extremist activities.” Fueled by this, the French began to fear that their country would become “land to conquer” and that this was just the first step in the complete “Islamification” of France.[xxi]
The 1905 law expressly forbids the official recognition or the state funding of any religious organization. The Muslim population, with the help of some notable political figures including Nicolas Sarkozy,[xxii] have been able to continue building mosques in France with the help of public funding, if the buildings are designated as cultural centers or Islamic institutes, even if they contain prayer rooms. [xxiii]. More recently, France’s most prominent Muslim leader and rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, formerly the elected president of the French Council for Muslims, Dalil Boubakeur, called for a doubling in the amount of mosques in France; a total increase of about 2,000 mosques to 4,000. He strongly believes that increasing the presence of mosques in France will aid in alleviating the “pressure, frustration and the sense of injustice felt by many French Muslims” and will eventually help the French populous to accept the growing religious and cultural diversity within their nation.[xxiv] This suggestion has been met with strong opposition by the French people, as many are not in favor of seeing a minaret towering above towns in the French countryside. Contradictory to this, however, are that many of the French are also unwilling to accept or accommodate the Muslims that pray in the streets as a result of lack of religious prayer space available for their use. Yet, when provided with prayer space by the French government, Muslims continue to demonstrate in the streets and engage in the public call to prayer.[xxv] It is painfully obvious that the non-Muslim French are unwilling to compromise on this issue anytime soon.
D. The Headscarf Affair
Perhaps one of the most notable clashes between the Muslims and the French government took place in 1989, and even today is still a hot-topic issue in French politics. This is the controversy surrounding the wearing of the headscarf and whether or not it is compatible with laïcité in France. The “Headscarf Affair” stems back to 1989, when a high school principal banned three female students from wearing their headscarves in the school building as it was in direct violation with the secularist notion in France that declared public schools to be included in the sphere of laïcité. This caused an outrage amongst the Islamic population for various reasons, many claiming that this was a violation of human rights, however, the French government refused to compromise, in the name of the French pillar of secularism.
In March 2004, the French National Assembly proceeded to enact a law that banned the wearing of “ostentatious signs” of one’s religious beliefs – to include the veil and large crosses.[xxvi][xxvii] Seventy percent of the French public supported this legislative ban.[xxviii] Interestingly, in 2005, the European Court of Human Rights supported this ban and concluded that the ban did not violate the European Convention on Human Rights, Articles 8, 9 (freedom of religion), 10, 14. “The Court further held that states can apply a principle of secularism that permits them to ban any religious manifestation in their state run institutions.” The Stasi Commission, a commission established to review and safeguard the application of laïcité , declared that the expression of an individual's religion in the French state has to comply with the basic rules regarding the secular nature of the state and has to comply with the requirements of equality between the sexes and the safeguarding of the rights of minors.[xxix] Therefore, claims made by French Muslims that the ban was a human rights violation, have no legal standing on the international front.[xxx]
While some argued that the ban specifically targeted Muslims, it did in fact include other religious signs such as necklace crosses worn by some of the Catholic students. Muslims expressed outrage claiming that the scarf was not an “ostentatious sign”, but merely recognition and adherence to their cultural practices. While the wearing of the hijab, which covers the hair but not the face, is still legal within France, in early 2011, the French government formally banned the wearing of the niqab. Again, in an effort to not specifically target Muslims, the law merely bans the covering of the face in public, to include shops and streets as a security measure. While the majority of France sees this as a victory against the spread of Islam and the maintaining of a secular, laic society, Muslims are outraged and see this as another attack on their religion, stigmatizing the women who choose to wear the full veil.[xxxi]
Due to an arguable misinterpretation of religious display or merely the desire to preserve a secularist France, the French have continued to fuel their animosity for Islam by viewing such controversies as evidence for renewed religious fervor and guaranteed extremism. The increase of Islamic visibility within France may have its roots in a refusal to assimilate and become a part of non-Muslim French society; the building of mosques, opening of halal butcher shops and the increased demand for Islamic schools demonstrate that Muslim immigrants are not making the effort to succumb to assimilation within French society. While it is true that there are those Muslim in France who have moved towards a more modern outlook on Islam as it relates to their cultural identity, an international rise in political Islam and the increase in strength of the French Muslim community have served to fuel the tensions between Muslim and non-Muslim French.
E. The Muslim Youth
An interesting phenomenon in that has been taking place amongst the immigrant population in France is the increased Muslim radicalization of the youth population. The vast majority, if not, the totality of these groups are second and third generation North Africans; their parents or grandparents having immigrated to France most likely during the early 1980s. These groups of youths are in fact French citizens, having been born on French soil, yet they seemingly refuse to willingly identify with French society as a whole.
There are a few suggested reasons for this. Due to the high concentration of immigrants in particular areas within French cities, assimilation and integration was rendered virtually useless and non-essential by first generation immigrants. If they were going to be surrounded by other like individuals, then succumbing entirely to the culture of their host nation did not seem necessary. Therefore, Muslim immigrants have attempted (and some argue, succeeded) to create and Islamic identity with local institutional, societal and cultural structures.”[xxxii] These have appeared in the form of “ghettoized” neighborhoods, the erection of mosques throughout France and the public Islamic call to prayer. Over time, these neighborhoods expanded and the cultures of the immigrant nations took over in the form of markets, shops, small businesses, etc. These areas became almost entirely self-sustaining. While this may have been a source of comfort for the inhabitants of these neighborhoods, as reflected in recent events, it merely served to further the divide between Muslims and non-Muslims in France, or immigrants and non-immigrants.
As a result, the second and third generation children of the immigrant population have felt increasingly isolated from the rest of the French population. While they are French citizens, they fail to identify themselves with mainstream French society. In addition, the countries from which their ancestors immigrated, refuse to acknowledge them as displaced countrymen. These young people therefore find themselves in a sort of limbo position within society. One of the ways in which young Muslims group themselves to find acceptance is through strict religious observance as an expression of personal autonomy. “For some, becoming more devout in the practice of their religion is a peaceful anchor…for others, their fundamentalism may lead to radical and dangerous extremism.”[xxxiii]
Social rejection, unemployment, drugs, alcohol, and delinquency are all reasons for which these newly religious young adults turn to the preservation of what they call the “real Islam.” They are achieving this through the dedicated and fervent study of Islam, aided by intellectuals from other Arab countries. While many of them are looking for a collective to which they can belong and identity with, others are more concerned with preserving Islam amongst younger generations who are at risk of actually assimilating within French culture and either finding acceptance or experiencing rejection. “Others who question the value of progress and modernity – especially among the educated and successful – are discovering a sense of belonging they cannot achieve within a society whose schools, political parties, trade unions, and professions have failed to provide a collective sense of common good.”[xxxiv]
“The movement is first of all, a youth underclass uprising from destitute neighborhoods. Rioters are youngsters (and males), between 12 to 25 years old… The riots are geographically and socially very circumscribed: the suburbs, or more precisely a number of destitute neighborhoods known as “cités” or “quartiers difficiles.”… Riots are usually triggered by an incident with the police; whoever is to be blamed, the youth accuses the police for harassment, racism and often for being directly responsible for the death of a local youngster (a typical incident is a youngster being killed while chased by the police)… Many resent the uneven-handedness of the police towards their kids, the merry-go-round of officials making immediately forgotten promises and the demonization of their living environment by the media… Nevertheless there is a sense of belonging to an underclass, despised, excluded and ignored. It is a classic phenomenon in France.”[xxxv]
A recent, yet extremely relevant example of the radicalization of Muslim youths made international headlines in March 2012. Mohamed Merah, a 23 year old French citizen of Muslim descent killed seven people in the French cities of Montauban and Toulouse, claiming inspiration from Al-Qaeda. He had tried to join the French military and the Foreign Legion, yet was not able to. This planted a seed of bitterness within him and he instead turned to Islamic extremism to find acceptance. He claimed ties to Al Qaeda and made numerous trips there, supposedly receiving fundamentalist training. Upon his return to France, he enacted his revenge by specifically targeting French military personnel, representations of those who rejected him. The day he killed the French rabbi and the Jewish children, his original intention was to target and kill a policeman, another symbol of the society that he claimed rejected him. Their murders were out of desperation and convenience, yet represented the ongoing tensions and hatred between the Muslim and Jewish populations in France. According to a conversation Merah had with negotiators before his death, he had “carried out the killings in the southwestern cities of Toulouse and Montauban to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children killed by Israelis; challenge France’s military role in Afghanistan; and protest last year’s law banning Muslim women from wearing full face veils on the street.”[xxxvi] While his case is not the norm, and does not reflect the entirety of the youth Muslim population, he is the perfect example of one of those individuals who suffered rejection from French society, and rather than assimilate, he took a radical turn for the worst.
III. The Ghetto-ization of French Neighborhoods
A. Paris – 2005 Riots in the Banlieues
In 2005 France was declared to be in a state of national emergency due to widespread rioting and overall civil unrest. Although riots, protests and manifestations are a rather common phenomena in France, this particular incident brought to the forefront of politics and citizen discussion, the issues concerning the immigrant population in the banlieues and their social and economic situations, and the tense relationship between the young Arab population and French police officers. In addition to these, the topics of multiculturalism, national identity, the spread of Islam and communotarisme were subsequently brought up and presented as growing threats originating in France’s immigrant suburbs.
According to police investigation reports, on October 27, 2005, in Clichy-sous-Bois (a relatively poor commune on the eastern side of Paris) French police were alerted to a possible break-in at a construction site. According to the statements made by the teenagers themselves, they had been playing soccer in a field near the construction site and when the police arrived they all ran in order to avoid being hassled and questioned, which is often the treatment police give youths in these areas. While the arrested teens were being questioned at the station, a blackout occurred, caused by the electrocution of the boys hiding in the substation. Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore died, while Muhittin Altun suffered serious electroshock injuries. It is said that this specific incident was the immediate trigger of the tumultuous rioting that occurred in the banlieu. There is strong cause to believe, however, that the strained, tense and negative relationship the immigrant and young Arab population have had with the police over decades was the underlying reason for this somewhat sudden explosion.
The riots started immediately following the incident that resulted in the death of the two teenage boys, from the end of October to mid November. Initially, the rioting was confined to the Paris suburbs, spreading throughout L’ile de France and eventually to the less urban and more rural areas. By early November, the rioting had spread to other parts of France, affecting several main cities including Toulouse, Lyon, Marseille and Strasbourg. Results of the acts of violence committed by the rioters were thousands of burnt cars and buses, burnt schools and churches, vandalized day cares, sports centers and other public buildings, and injured police officers. Power stations and electrical transformers throughout France were also sabotaged causing blackouts in certain areas. Overall, there was about 200 million Euros worth of damages. Police officers attempting to control the rioters had rocks and acid thrown at them, in addition to being physically attacked, to which they responded with massive amounts of tear gas; resulting in about 2,900 arrests, 126 injured firefighters and officers and two fatalities. On November 8, 2005, President Jacques Chirac declared France to be in a national state of emergency.[xxxvii]
The government reacted quite predictably at the start of the riots. The Minister of Interior at the time was Nicholas Sarkozy and he declared a “zero tolerance” policy regarding urban violence. He also dispatched numerous riot police companies and mobile police squadrons to be stationed in “dangerous” French neighborhoods. Sarkozy then issued an order stating that any immigrants taking part in the riots were to be deported. Even those who were in France legally with residence visas, were arrested and threatened with deportation. Jean-Marie Le Pen, a right wing extremist politician was quoted as saying that even naturalized French rioters should have their French citizenship revoked. Sarkozy’s reaction and statement concerning his assumption that all the rioters were non-citizens, was highly criticized by the Syndicat de la Magistrature, as the overwhelming majority of the rioters were actually second and third generation immigrants, therefore, French citizens. Later, on November 20, 2005, Dominic de Villepin, Prime Minister at the time, declared tightened laws concerning immigration and residency visas for foreigners in order to assure proper assimilation into French society. This was seen by many human rights and left wing groups as instead facilitating racism and discrimination towards diverse groups of the immigrant populations. De Villepin also called for a five-year plan to promote social cohesion, apprenticeships for students over 14, and the establishment of commissions in charge of improving equal social opportunities.[xxxviii]
Government officials, French citizens and others have come up with many different possible reasons for the riots, attributing them to the rise of immigrant populations, the widespread influence and threat of Islam in France, or merely a revolt of the young Arab population against the authorities with whom they have had a very negative and tense relationship. What is ironic however is that the overwhelming majority of those involved in the riots were French citizens with immigrant ancestry, demanding to be treated as French citizens, not as inferiors. Perhaps this final incident was the tipping point for many of those involved in the riots. It is true that these banlieu neighborhoods tend to be violent and delinquent, and it is also true that police officers do not have an easy job in regulating what happens in the banlieues. While French police officers have long been accused of racism, harassment and excess brutality when interacting with the young people and the immigrant populations, this is not surprising considering the violent and aggressive treatment they themselves receive by these neighborhood inhabitants. The government immediately, yet rightfully linked the riots to their previous assumptions on what exactly was causing such turbulence in French society: illegal immigration, the rise and threat of Islam, and the growing violence of Arab youth populations, organized gangs, polygamy and deficient parenting.
B. Paris – La Goutte d’Or
In the northern part of Paris, located in the 18th arrondissement, is the neighborhood “Goutte d’Or” also known as “Little Africa.” This particular district is known for its markets, festivals and communal activities. What it is best known for, however, is the fact that it is one of the largest immigrant neighborhoods in Paris; an area that remains relatively untouched by French modernization and unvisited by the non-immigrant population. It is essentially, as the name indicates, a small recreation of the North African region from which the majority of the inhabitants came. While this neighborhood specifically isn’t a breeding ground for Islamic extremism by any means, it is a perfect representation of a population of immigrants that has ultimately refused to properly assimilate into French culture, and instead preferred to overtake the area and remain segregated from the rest of Parisian society.
If a non-Muslim, non-immigrant French individual were to step foot into this neighborhood, they would immediately feel like an outsider. Some have even described the feeling as such, “I do not feel like I am in France anymore…I feel as though I am walking the streets of a city in Algeria. This is not what Paris should resemble.”[xxxix] While this sort of miniature country recreation is common in large cities (ie: Chinatown in San Francisco), the French have had a particularly difficult time reconciling themselves with the reality that it is taking place within their borders. Markets in La Goutte d’Or sell all sorts of ethnic foods and halal meats. Butcher shops are all halal as well. The women who frequent the market are all veiled, whether it be with the hijab or the niqab. Interestingly, and in following with their culture and beliefs, some markets in the neighborhood are forbidden to women, and men are the only ones walking those streets. Similarly, the cafes are almost entirely frequented by men; the occasional female customers is almost always a non-Muslim, non-immigrant visitor to the area.
C. Street Prayer
One of the most common practices in the neighborhoods that are encompassed in La Goutte d’Or and other banlieu neighborhoods is street prayer, perhaps the most alarming aspect of the religious culture of Islam to any non-Muslim French citizen. While prayer is conducted every day, a large reason for the overflow of worshipers into the streets is lack of prayer space within the neighborhood buildings. The most well known street where this practice is observed by hundreds of men, is la Rue Myrha. Every Friday, the entire area surrounding the street is blocked off and a few hundred men gather with their prayer rugs to observe the call to prayer. Not only is street prayer a relatively surprising scene to the average outsider, it clearly reflects some of the aspects of Islamic culture that are incompatible with French ones. For example, one will not see a woman walking through, much less praying in the streets where the street prayer is conducted. While it is not openly declared and enforced, the women are not permitted to “interrupt” or merely pass through the call to prayer service. In addition, this daily practice requires the closure of streets that are essential to the smooth flow of traffic. As it so happens, traffic in these particular neighborhoods tends to be much worse than in other areas in France as between the markets and the call to prayer, streets are often blocked off by the hundreds of pedestrians and religiously observant men.
While this particular practice has further outraged the French and fueled their animosity towards the Muslim immigrant population, the government only recently enacted a ban on street prayer, affecting thousands of Muslim worshipers in Paris and other large cities. Government officials directed the Muslims in Paris to temporary prayer spaces made available by local communities, and warned that if not adhered to, the police would not refrain from using force to prevent the event of street prayers. While this is merely another effort on the part of the French government to control the disruptive activity within these immigrant neighborhoods and enforce the secularist tradition of the country itself, Muslims in France were furious with the ban and viewed it as another attack on Islam by the French government. The French Interior Minister declared that “Praying in the street is not dignified for religious practice and violates the principles of secularism.”[xl] On September 16, 2011, an hour before the first prayer was set to begin, dozens of young Muslim men with banners gathered on the famous Rue Myrha and discouraged the hundreds of worshipers from moving into the provided buildings and new worship site to pray and instead remain in the streets in direct violation of the ban. According to French journalist Nicholas Vinocur, a young male supporter shouted, “No system in the universe can control us aside from Allah. There is more dignity praying in the grass than in a false mosque.”[xli]
This paper has thoroughly addressed several issues relating to the ever rising tensions in France surrounding the Muslim immigrant population and the rise of Islam. The immigration history and current population statistics provide more than enough evidence to show that Muslim population numbers in France are on the rise, whether it be from continued immigration or high birthrates brought on by cultural norms or financial incentives. This paper went on to discuss how the religion of Islam, introduced in France by the North African immigrant population has created tension within France for the last few decades. Ultimately, I concluded that Islam and French secularism as they currently stand are not compatible. The French government has made repeated efforts to provide places of worship and prayer, and dissuade the wearing of fully covering veils, yet they have been met with nothing but rage and contradiction, forcing them to enact laws and other various bans in an effort to protect the tradition of laïcité. As Jean-Louis Debre, President of the National Assembly stated, “secularism guarantees the freedom of religion… France respects all religions but we ask that those who want to live their faith, do so within the boundaries of the Republic.”[xlii] In a December 2003 speech, former French President, Jacques Chirac declared,
“Laïcité is inscribed in our traditions…it is a principle to which citizens should be faithful…Laïcité is a pillar of the French Constitution…it is a doctrine that protects the basic rights of belief: Laïcité guarantees freedom of conscience. It protects the freedom to believe or not to believe. France is a land of diversity in which laïcité promotes tolerance. It is a crucial element of social peace and national cohesion. We can never permit it to weaken.”[xliii]
Rebelling against the French government through the wearing of the headscarf, public calls to prayer and overall non assimilation, attack the French notion of laïcité. Self-isolated, non-assimilated neighborhoods in Paris, specifically, have done nothing more than create a further divide within French society separating immigrant families from generationally French ones. This attitude of non-assimilation is ultimately responsible for creating embittered and disgruntled second and third generation Muslim citizens who are coming together whether it be violent or peaceful to turn towards a return to the “real Islam,” or a radicalization of the dormant Muslim population in France. These sentiments are exemplified through the numerous clashes with police and other law enforcement, the riots of 2005, the most recent shootings in Toulouse, and the call for a return to devout Islam. Based upon the research presented, I strongly believe that the majority of the immigrant Muslim population in France does not desire complete assimilation and integration into French culture. In addition, Muslim culture is therefore inherently incompatible with secular French law and society. This claim is supported by the movement against the ban on street prayer, the outrage and direct disobedience of the ban on the veil, and the expansion of immigrant neighborhoods such as La Goutte d’Or and the ghetto-ized banlieues.
Islam is increasing its presence in Europe and France is having a particularly hard time accepting this due to the notion of laïcité and the fear of Muslim takeover. While some may argue that the French government has done little to ease the tension and pressure to assimilate that is put on this population, it is important to ask whether or not it is their job to do so. The establishment of immigration and integration policies and other various bans was done in the best interest of France, to preserve the separation of church and state and maintain the traditions of the secularist nation. The non-assimilation of these populations is the root of the problem in France. Staying confined to immigrant neighborhoods and refusing to compromise on cultural controversies, is the cause for many of their qualms with the French government. At the same time, due to the inherent incompatibility of Islam and secularist French society, assimilation has been increasingly difficult. The immigrants in France are ultimately going to have to compromise on the issues of public religious demonstration if they wish to continue living in France under peaceful conditions and societal acceptance, all of which are possible if the compromise is met. “France’s future as a nation depends on young Muslims, both male and female, who will work to support a nation that still hopes to embody the French slogan: liberte, egalite, fraternite – liberty, equality, fraternity.”[xliv]
“The State being sovereign, no subject matter escapes its power. Thus, influence over religion falls within the competence of the State, even the most secular once or even the State that apparently submits to religious law. The importance of that particular power is revealed by the hierarchical level of the rules that regulate religion…they can be changed only by the only authority to be truly sovereign, the constituent power.”[xlv]
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Gunn, T. Jeremy. "Religious Freedom and Laicite: A Comparison of the United States and France." Brigham Young University Law Review. (2004): 420-502.
Troper, Michel. "Sovereignty and Laicite ." Cardozo Law Review. 30. no. 6 (2009): 2574.
de Lusignan, Guy. "Global Migration and European Integration." Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies. 2. no. 179 (1994): 184.
“Islam in France: The Shaping of a Religious Minority,” in Yvonne Haddad-Yazbek (ed.) Muslims in the West, from Sojourners to Citizens, 2002, Oxford University Press, p 36-51
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[i] Assemblée Nationale (2006c). Projet de Loi relatif à l’immigration et à l’intégration, présenté au nom de M. Dominique de Villepin, Primier ministre, par M. Nicolas Sarkozy, ministre d’État, ministre de l’intérieur et de l’aménagement du territoire enregistré à la Présidence de l’Assemblée nationale le 29 mars 2006. Paris, Assemblée Nationale. I will discuss this law in further detail later on in Section II of this research paper.
[ii] I will discuss the exact meaning of these terms and their implications in Section II, C.
[iii] Murphy, Kara. "France's New Law: Control Immigration Flows, Court the Highly Skilled." Migration Policy Institute. (2006): 1-2.
[iv] Chou, Meng-Hsuan, and Nicolas Baygert. "The 2006 French Immigration and Integration Law: Europeanisation or Nicolas Sarkoz'ys Presidential Keystone?." ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society. 07. no. 45 (2007): 1-31.
[v] Assemblee Nationale (2006b). Compte Rendu Analytique Officiel, 2eme séance due mardi 2 mai 2006, Séance de 15 heures, 86eme jour de séance, 202eme séance, Presidence de M. Jean Louis Debre. Paris, Assemblee Nationale
[vi] These will be specifically addressed in Section III A.
[vii] Chou, Meng-Hsuan and Nicolas Baygert. (2007)
[viii] Catherine Borrel et Bertrand Lhommeau , “Être né en France d’un parent immigré,” Insee Première, n°1287, (2010): 1-2.
[ix] "Muslim Population by Country". The Future of the Global Muslim Population. Pew Research Center.
[x] Borst, Barbara. "Muslim Immigrants in France." Migration News. 02. no. 4 (1995): 1-2.
[xi] de Lusignan, Guy. "Global Migration and European Integration." Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies. 2. no. 179 (1994): 184.
[xii] Ibid pg 184; In notes taken from de Lusignan’s article, each year, about 100,00 foreigners obtain French nationality through naturalization.
[xiii] Gurfinkiel, Michael. "Islam in France: The French Way of Life is in Danger." The Middle East Quarterly. IV. no. 1 (1997): 19-29.
[xiv] Y. Courbage, "Demographic Transition in the Maghreb Peoples of North Africa and among the Emigrant Community," in Peter Ludlow, ed., Europe and the Mediterranean (London: Brassey's, 1994).
[xv] De Lusignan, pg 186 ; ECONOMIE ET STATISTIQUE, July 1991 (Report of the French Institut National De La Statistique et des Etudes Economiques).
[xvi] Schultz, Gudrun. "France Boosts Birth Rate With Incentives for Parents." LifeSiteNews, March 30,, 2006. http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/france-boosts-birth-rate-with-incentives-for-parents (accessed April 3, 2012). These financial incentives are only available to legal French citizens, which further highlights the probability that the French government is seeking to increase the “white French” population to counter the growing immigrant and Muslim population.
[xvii] Troper, Michel. "Sovereignty and Laicite ." Cardozo Law Review. 30. no. 6 (2009): 2563. “Laicite cannot be completely defined by the usual idea of an absence of influence of religion on the State…” “…French law will show that a strong influence of the State on religions is considered compatible with laicite.”
[xviii] Gunn, T. Jeremy. "Religious Freedom and Laicite: A Comparison of the United States and France." Brigham Young University Law Review. (2004): 420-421.
[xix] R Adhar and I Leigh, “Religious Freedom in the Liberal State” . Oxford University Press, (2005): 13-15, 34-36.
[xx] Yvonne Haddad-Yazbek. “Islam in France: The Shaping of a Religious Minority,”. Muslims in the West, from Sojourners to Citizens, (2002): p 36-51
[xxi] Tlemcani, Rachid. "Islam in France: The French Have Themselves to Blame." Middle East Quarterly. 4. no. 1 (1997): 31-38.
[xxii] Nicolas Sarkozy proposed the idea that the 1905 law of Separation of Church and state needed to be updated in order to meet the modern challenges that arose in France and Europe, ie: the aggressive arrival of Islam. He strongly supported the idea that building a mosque in every large city throughout France would help in countering the growing suspicions of extremist activity perpetrated by imams holding prayer services in the streets, abandoned buildings, basements and garages. Many notable and fundamentally conservative groups in France have accused Sarkozy of allowing the 1905 law to be circumvented in order to achieve his goal of the widespread establishment of mosques in France.
[xxiii] Gurfinkiel, Michael (1997)
[xxiv] Randall, Colin. "France's top Muslim leader seeks doubling of country’s mosques to 4,000." The National, July 3,, 2010. http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/europe/frances-top-muslim-leader-seeks-doubling-of-countrys-mosques-to-4-000 (accessed April 3, 2012).
[xxv] I will further discuss the issue of street prayer in Part III, C of this paper. In addition, it is important to point out that the French government has made an effort to compromise on this issue by allowing the construction of mosques provided they include cultural centers, and have also provided vacant buildings for public use in order to avoid the problem of public call to prayer.
[xxvi] Wing, Adrien Katherine, and Monica Nigh Smith. "Critical Race Feminism Lifts the Veil?: Muslim Women, France and the Headscarf Ban." The University of California, Davis Law Review. 39. no. 743 (2006): 757.
[xxvii] Law No. 2004-22 of Mar. 15, 2004, Journal Officiel de la République Française [J.O.]
[Official Gazette of France], Mar. 17, 2004, p. 5190 (“Dans les écoles, les collèges et les lycées publics, le port de signes ou tenues par lesquels les élèves manifestent ostensiblement une appartenance religieuse est interdit.”).
[xxviii] Le Sénat Francais Adopte le Projet de Loi sur les Signes Religieux à l’école, LE MONDE (Fr.), Mar. 3, 2004, available at http://www.lemonde.fr/web/recherche_articleweb/1,13-0,36-355392,0.html.
[xxix] La Commission Stasi ; http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/12/rapports/r1275-t2.asp
[xxx] Wing, Adrien, Monica Smith, pg 776; Sahin II, App. No. 44774/98 at paras. 123, 162, 166; see Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, opened for signature, Nov. 4, 1950, 213 U.N.T.S. 222.; App. No. 44774/98 at paras. 114-16 (citing Sahin I, App. No. 44774/98 at paras. 107-09).
[xxxi] Erlanger, Steven. "France Enforces Ban on Full Face Veils in Public." The New York Times, April 11, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/12/world/europe/12france.html (accessed April 3, 2012).
[xxxii] Wing, Adrien, Monica Smith, pg 753; Emran Qureshi & Michael A. Sells, Introduction to THE NEW CRUSADES:CONSTRUCTING THE MUSLIM ENEMY 23 (Emran Qureshi & Michael A. Sells eds., 2003).
[xxxiii] Wing, Adrien, Monica Smith, pg 753; Nilüfer Göle, The Islamist Identity, QUANTARA.DE, Oct. 21, 2003; Bronwyn Winter, Fundamental Misunderstandings: Issues in Feminist Approaches to Islamism, 13 J. WOMEN’S HIST. 9, 27 (Spring 2001).
[xxxiv] Cesari, Jocelyn. "Islam in France: The Shaping of a Religious Minority." Muslims in the West: From Soujourners to Citizens. (2002): 36-51.
[xxxv]Roy, Oliver. "The Nature of the French Riots." SSRC, November 18, 2005. http://riotsfrance.ssrc.org/Roy/ (accessed April 3, 2012)..
[xxxvi] Cody, Edward. "Mohamed Merah, Toulouse killing spree suspect, killed by police in shootout." The Washington Post, March 22, 2012. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/mohammed-merah-shooting-suspect-wants-to-die-fighting-official-says/2012/03/22/gIQAJkYCTS_story.html (accessed April 3, 2012).
[xxxvii] Lerougetel, Antoine. "Paris hit by anti-police riots." World Socialist Web Site, November 2, 2005. http://www.wsws.org/articles/2005/nov2005/pari-n02.shtml (accessed April 3, 2012).
[xxxviii] Wihtol deWenden, Catherine. "Reflections: A "Chaud" on the French Suburban Crisis ." SSRC, November 28, 2005. http://riotsfrance.ssrc.org/Wihtol_de_Wenden/ (accessed April 3, 2012).
[xxxix] This is a quotation taken from a conversation with my aunt who currently resides in Paris in the 20th arrondisement.
[xl] Uknown, . "France Bans Muslim Street Prayers." OnIslam, September 16, 2011. http://www.onislam.net/english/news/europe/453937-france-bans-muslim-street-prayers.html (accessed April 3, 2012).
[xli] Vinocur, Nicolas. "France Bans Street Prayers." Reuters, September 16, 2011. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/16/us-france-muslims-idUSTRE78F4CC20110916 (accessed April 3, 2012).
[xlii] Wing, Adrien Katherine, and Monica Smith, pp 755; Sophie Huet, Debre — “Je préfère le mot visible a ostensîble,” LE FIGARO (Fr.), Jan. 9, 2004, at 7, available at 2004 WL 57302308 (“Nous respectons toutes les religions, mais nous demandons que ceux qui veulent vivre leur foi le fassent dans le cadre de la République.”).
[xliii] Gunn, T. Jeremy pg 428; Jaques Chirac, Speech from the Elysée Palace (Dec. 17, 2003) [hereinafter Chirac, Elysée Palace Speech],
[xliv] Wing, Adrien Katherine, and Monica Smith, pp 790.
[xlv] Troper, Michel. "Sovereignty and Laicite ." Cardozo Law Review. 30. no. 6 (2009): 2574.