France and the Hated Society: Muslim Experiences, by Saied R. Ameli, Arzu Merali and Ehsan Shahghasemi
Publication date: 9 October 2012
£10 / ISBN: 9781903718841 / 233mm x 156mm / 144 pages / paperback / Islamic Human Rights Commission
Results of a recent survey conducted by the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), soon to be published as part of France and the Hated Society: Muslim Experiences, show that over 80% of Muslims in France have heard offensive jokes being made about Islam or Muslims and have heard Islamophobic comments being made by politicians. Similarly high proportions have witnessed the implementation of policies, both political and organisational, that impact Muslims negatively. However, the highest figure, over 87% of the survey sample, reported seeing negative stereotypes of Muslims in the media. These and other statistics indicate deep-seated problems in Muslim/non-Muslim interaction in France, the solution for which can only be found through a study of history, both medieval and modern. This report is part of a project aiming to assess experiences of hostility and discrimination against Muslims in different countries, for which the pilot ran concurrently in the UK (Ameli et al, 2011) and France.
Among the most significant findings of the study was the fact that, of the 29 categories of explicit and implicit forms of discrimination and hate respondents were asked about, 28 categories were reported by an alarming proportion of respondents (a minimum of 44% and maximum of 87%). The remaining category, experience of physical assault, was reported by only 11% of respondents, but this figure is significant due to the severe nature of the experience. Because 68% of the sample group were French-born, over 80% were French citizens and over 98% reported France as their place of residence, the above figures reflect disturbing realities about the situation of Muslims in France.
Given the pervasive nature of Islamophobic discrimination in France, solutions cannot be drawn without consideration of the historical context that gave rise to the prevalence of such attitudes. The study considers how such acts are encouraged and legitimised, including discriminatory legislation resulting in social inequality and negative media representation of Muslims. A historical-cultural context is set out, adopting the long-durée approach and charting French interaction with Islam and Muslims from the earliest days up to the present day, focusing on important historical turning points, such as the crusades; the expulsion of Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492; and the impact of French imperial ambition post-1789. The contemporary state of Muslims in France is studied, considering roles played by laïcité, multiculturalism, communautarisme and French republicanism on French self-perception. Issues relating to immigration, the Algerian War of Liberation, the demonization of refugees and the debate surrounding housing, unemployment and marginalisation are all considered. Explicit forms of racist and Islamophobic discrimination and hate are also considered, including violent attacks against mosques and cemeteries; controversies surrounding the construction of mosques; and the negative role played by philosophers, intellectuals and popular literature in promoting Islamophobic hate in France.
The report concludes by making its most important recommendations relating to media self-regulation and a carefully considered rethink of the academy, due to the important role played by both in perpetuating an environment conducive to discrimination.
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