Local communities in France’s immigrant suburbs increasingly organize themselves on Islamic lines rather than following the values of the secular republic, according to a major new sociological study.
Respected political scientist Gilles Kepel, a specialist in the Muslim world, led a team of researchers in a year-long project in Clichy-sous-Bois and Montfermeil, two Paris suburbs that exploded in riots in 2005.
The resulting study ? “Suburbs of the Republic” ? found that religious institutions and practices are increasingly displacing those of the state and the French Republic, which has a strong secular tradition.
Families from the districts, which are mainly populated by immigrants from north and west Africa and their descendants, regularly attend mosque, fast during Ramadan and boycott school meals that are not “halal.”
With between five and six million Muslim residents and citizens, France has the largest Islamic population in the European Union, and central government often struggles to address the challenges to integration that this poses.
Kepel performed a similar study 25 years earlier, and told the daily Le Monde that the influence of Islam in the daily lives and cultural references of the suburbs has “diversified and intensified” since then.