29 October 2012
Islam, the Premier Religion of France?
Although France does not have religious statistics allowing comparison of the communities, the demographic mechanisms make it possible to predict a shift in the near future.
the cultural and religious weight of Christianity in France - of which strict secularism is paradoxically one of the fruits - will prevent for a long time Islam and its culture setting the tone in France, even if the development of this religion is spectacular there. A religious shift, silent and barely visible, is nonetheless underway in terms of religious "practice".
If it is still a delicate matter to compare the religious practice between religions and faiths as different as Islam and Catholicism, it seems that this first religion in France still remains in this place, but could pass to the second rank. In terms of "practice" and not on the level of culture and influence. And this, in the near future, within two or three decades.
In France, it could be estimated today that in absolute figures, for every practising Muslim, there are three practising Catholics. But if we deepen the analysis, it seems that this ratio is tending to reverse itself in an unavoidable fashion because it is mechanically inscribed in the demographics.
If we compare only attendance at the mosque on Friday (without taking into account the practice of Ramadan, often cultural, thus much larger) and Catholic attendance at mass on Sunday, the elements of this change are clear:
- 65% of practising Catholics are 50 or over;
- 73% of practising Muslims are less than 54.
France does not have religious statistics which allow the population of each community to be known with precision. The collection of this type of data by census is prohibited by law. On the other hand, the data accumulated by the polling institutes - which has been confirmed in the course of the years - permits a rigorous approach to the subject.
Two IFOP studies (dating from 2010 for Catholicism and 2011 for Islam) contain precise elements on the religious practice of those under 34 years of age (in the sense of mass on Sunday or the mosque on Friday): 16% of practising Catholics belong to this age category compared to 48% of practising Muslims. These percentages, related to three factors - the overall French population, a low estimate of the Muslim population (4.5 million), the populations of practising Catholics and Muslims - indicate that in France currently for every young practising Catholic there are three young practising Muslims. Source: Le Figaro
Also from Le Figaro. H/T Bluepanic
An increasing majority of people in France believe Islam plays too influential a role in their society and almost half see Muslims as a threat to their national identity, according to a poll published yesterday.
The survey by pollster Ifop in Le Figaro newspaper showed that 60 per cent of people believed that Islam was "too important" in France in terms of its influence and visibility, up from 55 per cent two years ago.
It found that 43 per cent of respondents considered the presence of the Muslim community as a threat to their national identity, compared with just 17 per cent who said it enriched society. Forty per cent of those questioned were indifferent to the presence of Islam, Le Figaro said.
"Our poll shows a further hardening in French people's opinions," Jerome Fourquet, head of Ifop's opinion department, told the newspaper.
The struggle of secular France, whose people are mainly Catholic, to assimilate the largest Muslim population in Europe was thrust into the spotlight in March when Muslim Mohamed Merah, went on a shooting spree in south-west France that killed three Jewish children, a rabbi and three soldiers.
"In recent years, there has not been a week when Islam has not been in the heart of the news for social reasons: the veil, halal food, for dramatic news like terrorist attacks or geopolitical reasons," Fourquet said.
The prevalence of halal food and rising immigration - particularly from north Africa - were hot topics in the campaign for the presidential election as Nicolas Sarkozy sought to appeal to voters of the far-right National Front.
Sarkozy eventually lost to Socialist Francois Hollande but a contender to lead his conservative UMP party, Jean Francois Cope, put Islam back on the agenda this month by suggesting Muslim youths were tearing pain au chocolat pastries from children's hands during Islam's fasting month of Ramadan.
The publication of the poll also came after a far-right group occupied a mosque in the western city of Poitiers at the weekend and issued a "declaration of war" against what it called the Islamisation of France.
Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the French Muslim Council (CFCM), said fear of Islam was being stoked by political manipulation of concern over immigration and fears the growing Muslim population could lead to the imposition of sharia law.
"Islam has left the spiritual sphere to become a political subject," he said, in response to the poll. "Attempts to associate marginal practices with mainstream Muslim religion fuels the rejection of every aspect of Islam."
The survey, carried out on Oct. 15-18 on 1,736 people, showed a growing resistance to the symbols of the Islamic faith. About 43 per cent of those questioned were opposed to more mosque building, up from 39 per cent in 2010.
Sixty-three per cent opposed Muslim women wearing the veil or headscarves in public, compared with 59 per cent two years ago. Sarkozy's previous conservative banned the wearing of full-face veils.
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