The relationship between the French state and France's Muslim minority became major international news last month…A study released over the weekend by the liberal Montaigne Institute may provide one of the best snapshots of an often-overlooked aspect of that tension: what French Muslims themselves think about France's secular laws. The study, conducted by the polling firm IFPO (French Institute of Public Opinion) found that most of those who identify as Muslim in France fit into three broad categories.
The first, who viewed themselves as secular but also said that Islam plays a major role in their life, made up 46 percent of French citizens who identified as Muslim — they are classified as the "silent majority" in French Muslim life. Twenty-five percent defined themselves as "proudly Muslim" but still accepted French law, including a "burqa ban" that went into force in 2011 and prohibited the public wearing of the full-face Islamic veil or the full-body burqa, which is rarely seen in the country. However, 28 percent took a more hardline view of their faith and its relationship with the French state. The report noted that this group tended to be in favor of wearing the full-face niqab and of polygamy. Notably, its members appeared to be significantly younger than those in the other two groups — almost 50 percent were younger than 25 — and the study's authors noted that this may be a generational effect.
This group was described as "mostly young, low-skilled people with low levels of participation in the labor market" who lived on the outskirts of cities and used their conservative Islamic identity to "revolt" against mainstream French society.
The responses to specific questions showed that a minority of French Muslims favored Islamic traditions over French law. For example, 29 percent said sharia, the Islamic legal and moral code, should be more important than French national law. Meanwhile, 24 percent were in favor of wearing the burqa and the niqab, despite the ban. Notably, in this case as in several others, French Muslim women appeared to be more conservative than men, with 28 percent in favor vs. 20 percent of their male peers.
Sixty percent of French Muslims were found to support the right to wear the hijab headscarf in schools and other public institutions, where the garment has been banned since 2004, though only a third of Muslim women said they wore the hijab or would if they could. Eight out of 10 French Muslims argued that school canteens should offer halal options — a controversial demand in some French towns. The survey appears to be one of the most comprehensive analyses of Muslim attitudes attempted in France. It was conducted over phone between April 13 and May 23 among 1,029 people ages 15 or older and of the Muslim faith or culture.
Continue reading at: The Washington Post