I’m an alien; I’m a Muslim in France


Bonjour, aslamailakun ca va? ka fa hal? Both greetings are the same, hello, how are you? In France, you can often hear a mixture of French and Arabic being spoken.

Are the French islamphobic? Do they fear Muslims? Do they welcome Muslim or ethnic minorities? I cannot answer this question.

France has one of the largest Muslim populations in Western Europe 5- 6 million (8-9%), yet you will struggle to see many Muslim people in senior management positions. Muslims from all over Africa especially Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria come to France with the hope of making a better life for themselves.  I personally did not experience any form of Islamaphobia from French people during my weekend in Paris. But, then I do not wear a hijab and have an English accent. However, the story is different for some Muslims living in France and the subject of racism is a taboo subject.

In London, you can see Muslim women roaming the streets head to toe in black with only their eyes showing. In Paris, I didn’t see one women with an abaya in all the different neighbourhoods I explored. I spotted a few women wearing the hijab and Muslim men wearing traditional attire from their home countries. I am not saying I want to see women wear the niqab or that I support it. However, I am a firm believer that a woman and a man should be able to wear what they want to.What is it about the hijab and niqab that scares some people? I admit speaking to someone whose face I cannot see is NOT a comfortable experience. However, seriously it is not hard to converse with someone who covers his or her head. What is so scary about that? Please tell me as I am struggling to figure it out. Is the hijab such a sore sight and who are we to tell people what to wear? What happened to freedom of expression or the freedom to wear what you want?

In France on January 25 it was announced that the parliamentary committee, having concluded its study, would recommend that a ban on veils covering the face in public locations such as hospitals and schools be enacted, but not in private buildings or on the street. On 22 June 2009, at the Congrès de Versailles, President Nicolas Sarkozy declared that the Islamic burqa is not welcome in France, claiming that the full-length, body-covering gown was a symbol of subservience that suppresses women’s identities and turns them into “prisoners behind a screen.” A parliamentary commission of thirty-two deputies and led by André Gerin (PCF), was formed to study the possibility of banning the public wearing of the burqa or niqab.[35]

As I enjoyed my weekend in Paris, I spoke to various Muslims from Tunisia, Lebanon, Africa, Algeria Senegal and Ivory Coast and they all have the same story to tell, that in France Muslims are feared and the hijab is not allowed in public places.  . In France, the French people will not admit they are racist or do not like Muslims or minorities. However, realistically, who is going to openly admit that they do not like a certain set of people. This is a view shared by the people I encountered and other Muslim or minorities in France may have a different tale to tell.

Islam, niqab, hijab

The problem in France is that it asks children who are born here and grow up here to eat French, sleep French, but they still don’t accept me as French,” said Bigaderne, the son of Moroccan and Algerian immigrants.

“A real Frenchman is white,” he explained, “not black or Arab.”

It saddens me that in 2012 we still discriminate against minorities and cannot fully accept other faiths and people and have to pose restrictions on people and what they can or can’t wear. I hope with the new French President Hollande things for Muslims in France will get better.

19 thoughts on “I’m an alien; I’m a Muslim in France

  1. If France keep on suporting USA and israel taking out arabs from their lands, France will expect to receive more arab muslims from Palestine, Iraq, Afganisthan and Iran. Today it is said that there are more mosques in Paris than even Christian churches.
    Stop supporting israel Apartheid, and stop to support crimes of OIL DESTRUCTION, and you will stop in someway arab migration to France and many other countries.

  2. This is a good write-up, Iram! I haven’t been to France, yet, and am not terribly familiar with its cultural climate, but the ethno-phobia you refer to is disconcerting. The politics of attire and other symbols of ethnic affiliation seem to represent a new battleground for appropriating, or even diminishing, culture. I am nervous about the future of diversity, in some ways. I agree: Let people wear what they like or are compelled to wear. Speaking with Muslim women who wear traditional clothing that reveal only their eyes and hands (one young lady told me the reason for such attire is to represent the idea that people should only judge them by their eyes) has never been uncomfortable for me, or a point on which I was affixed or particularly recognized. Maybe it’s because I’m really disinterested in what people wear. What makes some people uncomfortable is not so much the clothes but the perceived meaning behind that clothing, the associations. If the clothes weren’t an issue, there would be other markers, so to speak, to evoke fear and discomfort of that particular group.

    It’s funny how, no matter where, “minority” groups seem to face identical obstacles. Clothing matters, in the United States, have also been an issue, particularly those involving efforts to, in certain forums, diminish or eliminate certain styles that are typically adopted by Black men.

    Good conversation, Iram!

    • Hi Simone, thank you for your feedback. I am really happy that you like what I have written. I don’t live in France, but the UK,but have friends who live in France so I am aware of the issue through their experiences. I agree that is more the meaning of the clothes, than the actual clothes that matter to some people. Thanks. Iram

  3. Hello,

    I am currently doing research on African Muslims residing in Paris, France (From Senegal to be specific) and came across your blog.

    I enjoyed reading current post “I’m an Alien.” I have a few questions for the script I am writing. Some very general and some more specific about the Muslim religion being practiced specifically in Paris. Also, African muslims in Paris that are not consistent followers of the religion.

    Would you mind having a dialogue with me about that and answering some questions?

    Any information you provide will be most appreciated.

    Thanks in advance,
    Pat

  4. Assalamualikum and bonjour. I’m from Malaysia.I just get married recently and planning for a honeymoon. I love France and would love to go there. but the prob is that I’m searching for a muslim tour guide. do u know any?plz… i really wanna go there..

  5. Hi Arabian Queen,

    Was looking for info on Muslims in France and found your blog. I’d like to know if it’s possible to wear niqab in France. I know it’s banned but my neighbor went with her family to France, Switzerland and Germany for a holiday last month and she was wearing the niqab the whole time. She even passed through immigration with it on (they went as far as calling a lady to see her face as she requested for a woman).

    She told us that they were plenty of women wearing niqab on the streets that she almost forgot she was in Paris!

    Did she just get lucky?

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