Post 8 : Islam in France

 It is really interesting for me to give a “non-bias” point of view on this subject since I’m a French born citizen. My mother’s family is Muslim and my father’s family is Catholic. I personally consider myself as Atheist and I wasn’t raised in any religion even though I went to a catholic religious class when I was little. Because I took my Dad’s last name which is Italian, most people have no idea that I’m 50% Algerian when they look at me.

When I refer in this post as “we” it will be me and the French people since I consider myself French.

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  1. How do Zemni and Parker explain the “failure of integration” of Muslims in Europe? Why is the way Europeans think about integration and multiculturalism problematic in the discourse surrounding Islam and Muslims in Europe? Explain and give examples.

We can talk about a failure of integration in Europe because Muslim people did not assimilate the values and way of living of their host countries, over the years. They count as a community inside the country instead of being fully integrated and referred to as French. However, Hunter wrote that half of the immigrants from Algeria have the French nationality. Sami Zemni and Christopher Parker explain the “failure of integration” of Muslims in Europe in chapter 13 of their book, Islam, Europe’s Second Religion. Zemni and Parkers implies that people usually point negative facts or actions from the Muslim communities and don’t talk enough about the positive actions and facts happening between Muslim people and people of other faiths or nationality. By pointing only, the negative aspects, people have then a bad image of Muslims people and therefore categorize them as bad. People then put every Muslim in the same “bag” whether they do bad or good things for the country. Like I wrote in my previous post, Muslims are perceived as “others”, they are seen as different people with different life views, cultural norms, religious outlooks, etc. All these reasons gave the negative connotation that Muslims cannot and should not be accepted into European society.

  1. How is the Islamic gender system different from that of the French? Why does the Islamic headscarf pose a challenge to the French republic’s ideal of “abstract individualism” and “laïcité”?  What are your own thoughts on this debate and controversy?

The Islamic gender system is different from the French one for many reasons. First, France, like many European countries puts emphasis on equality between genders. The French believe that men and women should be treated equally not only in social situations but also in the work world and in everyday life. The Islamic gender system is different since the Sharia is the Islamic law and we know that a woman is worth half a man according to the Qur’an. Women do not have the same rights and liberties as a man. It might seem unbelievable for people living in developed countries but this is the reality of their culture, religion and society. However, I can say that in France more and more Muslims people do not think this way regarding the status of the woman and they do respect them equally. More Muslims women go the university and try to find a job before getting married and having children. However, if they are wearing the headscarf they have a big chance of not getting employed for a good job.

A big issue in France is the Islamic headscarf and the challenge for the goal of “laïcité”. “Laïcité”, refers to French secularity, like I said in my previous post again which is the absence of religious involvement in government affairs, especially the prohibition of religious influence in the determination of state polices. Also, we cannot show/wear any signs of religion on us.

There is in France a very strong separation between church and state. We believe in a secular nation where religion cannot threaten schooling or government. For example, it is forbidden for a teacher to tell his students what is his religion. The teachers also can’t give their preferences. That is why coming to the US, I was surprised when my teacher openly said he was Christian. The “laïcité” and the Hijab concepts kind of contradict how we see the Islamic headscarf as a threat. The French see it as old-fashioned and repressive, but for the Muslims, it is their way of life and has been in them for thousands of years. The French claim to see the use of a headscarf as an attack on women’s rights when in fact it is just a part of the Islamic religion and in most cases the women wearing the headscarf chose to do so on their own. However, it is a problem in my country because it’s a physical reminder of the Islamic religion and separates individuals by religion in public which is forbidden in our law.

 My opinion is complicated. I do think that people should be able to wear what they want whether it is a short or a headscarf. I live in a city where I have seen the difference in numbers of girls wearing the headscarf over the years. It used to be one or two woman but now most of them wear it even though they were born in France and went to school in France. I just wonder why they would want to wear it. I do think there are other ways to “protect” themselves and their body without wearing one. It creates a real separation between them and the other girls, even though I think it is not a good reason to be put aside because of what someone is wearing. My last thought would be that if a woman follows the religion to the letter and do everything that is written in the Qur’an (not eat pork, not swear, pray 5 times a day, do not look a man in the eye, only do good…) then she should wear it. It is my personal opinion only. I know that for every religion, some people say they are religious but their behavior contradicts their belief.

             I would never discriminate or judge someone wearing the headscarf. But I have to say it might be because my grandmother wears it and for me she’s a person and it doesn’t matter what she does and wear. I do not agree with it but I accept it just the way she accepts the way that I wear shorts and won’t wait for marriage to live with my boyfriend. I feel lucky that I know both sides of the story and not only what the media are portraying on Muslims people in the news.

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Picture : Google : “Law against the headscarf or against Islam?”

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