French patriotism shared across religious lines. By Jean-Pierre Filiu


France currently has the largest Muslim community in Europe with approximately five million people (i.e., about eight percent of the total population), most of whom hold French nationality. This sociological and demographic fact has raised many questions regarding the level of integration or exclusion of this community, even though most polls underline the support by French Muslims to the values and institutions of their country.
Gallup recently published an interesting report (available at confirming this phenomenon. It shows that this support is also deepening among the just over two million Muslims in Great Britain (more than three percent of the total population) and approximately three million Muslims in Germany (less than four percent of the population).
The principal result of this study is that 52 percent of French Muslims identify with their country, as do approximately the same percentage of their fellow citizens. This patriotism is unquestionably ingrained to the same degree across the entire French population, irrespective of a person's religion, and is all the more striking considering that French Muslims attach a much more predominant role to faith in their daily lives – by about 44 percent – than the rest of the population.
Therefore, there appears to be no contradiction between religious practice, which is stronger amongst the Muslims interviewed, and identification with France and its institutions, the degree of which was shared with the rest of the population. The French, Muslim or non-Muslim, lend the same degree of confidence to the system of governance, elections and the media.
Muslims interviewed in France seem more socially conservative than their fellow citizens, but more liberal than Muslims in other European countries: 35 percent of French Muslims deem abortion "morally acceptable", according to the study, compared to 19 percent of German Muslims and five percent of British Muslims.
Non-Muslims in France are also becoming increasingly tolerant of their Muslim neighbours, as nearly two-thirds feel that wearing the headscarf does not impede integration. Eighty-three percent of French Muslims reject the prospect of living in socially and ethnically isolated districts, compared to 68 percent of the larger French population. This desire for physical integration distinguishes French Muslims from those of Great Britain and Germany who, by 15 percent and 24 percent respectively, prefer to live among their fellow Muslims (compared to only four percent of French Muslims).
Social integrations appears to play a major role in day-to-day satisfaction: a relatively equal number of French Muslims and non-Muslims feel that they are treated with respect in their daily lives and that the past day was worth living. They are proud of what they accomplished on that particular day.
To lead a full existence, Muslims grant about the same importance as other French citizens to mastering the French language and their professional occupation. And an even greater proportion than their compatriots (90 percent versus 80 percent) tend to lend importance to education for achieving social success, but place less emphasis on political involvement (49 percent versus 66 percent). Generally, it is not religious practice, but rather economic precariousness that is perceived as a hurdle to social advancement.
This data was published in France at the same time that US President Barack Obama's presidency rekindled the domestic debate on ethnic and religious diversity, as well as integration of "visible minorities". Multiculturalism, as it is understood in other Western nations, is still the subject of heated debate in France where support for secularism has often led to the rejection of any unique cultural characteristics.
As a result, perhaps the most shocking contrast is the liveliness of the debates and the calm and irreversible process of Muslim integration in France.


* Jean-Pierre Filiu is a professor at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

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