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Les musulmans

It is difficult to define the number of Muslims in France. The commonly accepted number is 4 to 5 million people, that is, approximately 7% of the population. The Muslim population is predominantly made up of people from North Africa (2, 900, 000), 1, 550, 000 from Algeria, 1, 000, 000 from Morocco and 350, 000 from Tunisia, not counting the Harkis (Algerian soldiers who fought on the French side in the war of independence) whose descendents are French citizens (450, 000). Furthermore, there are also Muslims from Turkey (350, 000), Sub-Saharan Africa (250, 000), natives of Mayotte who are French citizens (124, 450) and people from the Middle East (100, 000).

The first arrival of Muslims officially dates back to 1870. It was due to military reasons (conflict between France and Germany then, more massively still, First World War in 1914-1918). It was a specific presence of colonial troops whose numbers remained inferior to 100, 000 people.
The beginning of the 1920s saw the start of economic immigration mainly linked to the rapid development of the building trade (reconstruction) and industry. Until the Second World War, most of immigrant labour was made up of Europeans.
During the "thirty glorious years" (1945-1974, a thirty-year period of economic boom after World War II) immigration from the Muslim world was massive, especially from North Africa, particularly Algeria (the number was multiplied by ten in thirty years). The Moroccans and the Turks immigrated massively in the 70s.
After 1974 the French government officially set about declaring the end of immigration. It launched a policy on financially-aided repatriation and more importantly a policy on family reunification which changed labour immigration into a type of immigration to repopulate France.

Since then the number of foreigners has remained stable. The number of Algerians progressed until 1982, and then decreased during the 90s while Moroccans and Turks continued to emigrate regularly throughout the same period.

Since November 1999, extensive consultation has been undertaken between the Ministry of the interior, national Islamic federations, regional mosques and several qualified Muslim figures. Its aim is to :
- draw up a list of problems that Muslims encounter in the everyday exercise of their religion and any potential solutions to these problems
- establish a federative organisation that represents Islam on a national level.
After a framework agreement was adopted in May 2001 by all of those who participated in this consultative process, it has been decided that, at the level of each region of France, elections would be held to chose regional delegates. These elections would take place in the worship centres ; the number of people voting depending on the size of the mosque. These delegates would then elect the members of a Conseil Français du Culte Musulman, consultative organ representing the muslim denomination at a national level.
The election of the French Council on the Muslim Religion took place in April 2003.

According to the 1994 C.S.A. survey for L’Actualité religieuse dans le Monde, it seems that the overall image of Muslims in French society is improving (31% of French people are for the construction of mosques and 64% would not be against having a Muslim mayor elected in their town). At the same time, the perception of Islam remains blurry.

For more information, see :
- ZWILLING Anne-Laure, "France", in O. Scharbrodt et al. ed.), Yearbook of Muslims in Europe volume 8, Leiden, Brill, 2016, p. 254-284.
- GODARD Bernard, La question musulmane en France. Paris : Fayard, 2015.
- GOULET, Nathalie et André REICHARDT, De l’Islam en France à un Islam de France, établir la transparence et lever les ambiguïtés, mission d’information du Sénat "sur l’organisation, la place et le financement de l’Islam en France et de ses lieux de culte", Sénat, 5 juillet 2016.

See also : Martine Cohen, Samuel Everett, Panorama des initiatives en faveur du dialogue judéo-­musulman, 2020.

D 4 septembre 2017    AFranck Frégosi

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