Islam in France: An Omen of things to Come?

Collected by Dr. Zia H Shah and Dr. Falak Rehman


“If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and outstanding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modern history with Muhammad?”  (Alphonse de Lamartine, Foreign Minister of France in 1848)


Islam is the second-most widely practiced religion in France behind Roman Catholicism by number of worshippers, with an estimated total of 5 to 10 percent of the national population.

As of 2010, according to the French Government which does not have the right to ask direct questions about religion and uses a criterion of people’s geographic origin as a basis for calculation, there are between 5 to 6 million Muslims in metropolitan France. The government counted all those people in France who came here from countries with a dominant Muslim population, or whose parents did. Only 33% of those 5 to 6 million people (2 million) said they were practicing believers. That figure is the same as that obtained by the INED/INSEE study in October 2010.[1]

The United States Department of State placed it at roughly 10%,[2] while two 2007 polls estimated it at about 3% of the total population.[3] The CIA World Factbook places it at 5–10%.[4]

A Pew Forum study, published in January 2011, estimated 4.7 million Muslims in France in 2010 (and forecasted 6.9 million in 2030).[5]

More in France Are Turning to Islam, Challenging a Nation’s Idea of Itself

Source: The New York Times:

By MAÏA de la BAUME.

CRÉTEIL, France — While the number of converts remains relatively small in France, yearly conversions to Islam have doubled in the past 25 years, experts say, presenting a growing challenge for France, where government and public attitudes toward Islam are awkward and sometimes hostile.

Every year about 150 Muslim conversion ceremonies are performed in the snow-white structure of the Sahaba mosque in Créteil, with its intricate mosaics and a stunning 81-foot minaret, built in 2008 and a symbol of Islam’s growing presence in France. Among those who come here for Friday Prayer are numerous young former Roman Catholics, wearing the traditional Muslim prayer cap and long robe.

Whatever the impact, there is little doubt that conversions are growing more commonplace. “The conversion phenomenon is significant and impressive, particularly since 2000,” said Bernard Godard, who is in charge of religious issues at the Interior Ministry.

Of an estimated six million Muslims in France, about 100,000 are thought to be converts, compared with about 50,000 in 1986, according to Mr. Godard. Muslim associations say the number is as high as 200,000. But France, which has a population of about 65 million, defines itself as secular and has no official statistics broken down by race or creed.

For Mr. Godard, a former intelligence officer, it is the “nature” of conversions that has changed.

Conversions to marry have long been common enough in France, but a growing number of young people are now seen as converting to be better socially integrated in neighborhoods where Islam is dominant.

More in the New York Times

Categories: Europe, France, Highlight

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