Assessment for Muslim (Noncitizens) in France
|Publisher||Minorities at Risk Project|
|Publication Date||31 December 2003|
|Cite as||Minorities at Risk Project, Assessment for Muslim (Noncitizens) in France, 31 December 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469f3a7e64.html [accessed 9 December 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
There is little risk of the non-citizen Muslims in France employing militant strategies in their dealings with the government. They have come to France to try to build a better life and would not want to jeopardize this life by such activities. As non-citizens they could simply be deported. The group already faces the stereotype in France that assumes they all Muslims are involved with Algerian terrorist groups, and any militant activity would only reinforce this belief.
The group does have many of the risk factors that point to a high probability of protests, (repression, cultural and political restrictions), and these in combination with their history of protest makes this strategy likely to be used in the future. While not as bad as in other countries in Western Europe, the ultra right wing is still a threat to the group; racism is rampant; and as more cases of police racism are reported, there will be more demands to protect the group. The Muslims are also very poor compared to the rest of France. The lack of cohesion in the group has been and will continue to be a severe limitation in the group's attempts to improve their situation.
However, the war in Iraq and the position of the French government regarding banning headscarves from schools has created tension in the recent years with the Muslim population.
The Muslims of France came from North Africa around the time of the First World War, when large numbers arrived to fight with France. This wave of immigrants were granted citizenship. The non-citizen Muslims are those who have arrived after the Second World War (TRADITN = 5) to meet the demand for low-paying labor that the citizens of France refused to accept. These immigrants have been willing to move throughout France in the hopes of finding employment (MIGRANT = 3) usually ending up in the large cities (GROUPCON = 1), and the group as a whole is not organized or cohesive (COHESX9 = 2). Being from North Africa the non-citizens tend to speak both French and a dialect of Arabic (LANG = 2); they have a different culture than the citizens of France (CUSTOM = 1); and the majority are Sunni Muslims as opposed to Catholic (BELIEF = 3). The most striking difference between the non-citizens and the majority of the population is their race (RACE= 2) which easily identifies the group and has lead to discrimination, racism and at times attack.
The non-citizen Muslims in France do not face any demographic disadvantages (DEMSTR03 = 0) other than the large numbers of new Muslims arriving in France every year. Being non-citizens, they are somewhat excluded from the political process (POLDIS03 = 3). They are restricted from voting, and they are not allowed to join the police force, military, or civil service. As an extension of being restricted from voting, they are also prevented from running for and obtaining high office. Economically, the group has been neglected throughout their time in France and face social discrimination (ECDIS03 = 3). The migrants, past and present, have more or less voluntarily accepted the conditions that apply to migrant workers throughout Europe: government regulation of employment and weak or nonexistent bargaining rights. While they are poorer than the majority of the French population, they are better off economically in France in comparison to North Africa. Being non-citizens, the Muslims do face several cultural restrictions. There are very few mosques for them to worship at; they are not legally able to get married in France unless they are citizens; and there are some restrictions on their dress and behavior, seen with the banning of Muslim headscarves in public schools and the crackdowns on Muslim fundamentalists.. Recently the group has faced repressive actions by the French government. Many Muslims of Algerian decent have been arrested on the assumption that they are in France to plan and carry out terrorist activity in association with the conflict in Algeria. There have also been reports of police beating Muslims while in custody. In 2000 a controversy arose when a well-known Muslim comedian was assaulted by racist police officers after being stopped for a traffic violation. In addition to the government repression the group has faced threats from other groups. In 2000 there was violence between Muslims and Jews in France (COMCON00 = 1), and in 2001 a Mosque was burned down by racists, assumed to be supporters of France's ultra-nationalistic right-wing parties.
As mentioned the group is not cohesive and as a result there are a variety of organizations operating in France which represent the Muslims. A variety of Maghrebin associations, Beur associations (name given to children born in France of non-citizens) and Islamic associations pressure the French government on their behalf. The countries of North Africa do not appear to try to help those who choose to leave for France in any way. It is also important to note that while there are several terrorist organizations in France whose members are non-citizen Muslims, they are groups interested in the politics of North Africa, specifically Algeria. These groups are not concerned with those Muslims who have come to France for economic opportunities, and are therefore not included in the list of organizations. The Muslims main demand is to be brought further into the French society. They would like greater political power, and equal civil rights, both of which would be provided through full citizenship. Due to their low economic standing in the country, there are demands for greater economic opportunities and higher wages. For this demand to be met the discrimination against the group which is imposed by a large proportion of the French citizenry would have to be eliminated. It is also difficult in that the group is allowed to come to France specifically because they will take jobs that the French people will not accept. Finally the Muslims would like greater freedom of religion and to a lesser extent promotion of their culture. These final demands do not appear to be as important as the first set.
Protest by the group began in the late 1960s (PROT65X = 3), and levels have remained fairly constant since that time. The level of protest rarely changes, and when it does it tends to be less than the level found in the 1960s (PROT98X = 2), usually not reaching the status of a full demonstration. Protests by the Muslims in France have continued through to today (PROT03 = 3). Only in 1995 and 1996 were there ever any reports of militant activity, and that was very minor (REB95-96 = 1), consisting of a series of small bomb blasts. There have been no reports of militant activity since 1996 (REB03 = 0).
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