One-in-four French Muslims follow ‘hardline’ Islam

A study showing that more than a quarter of French Muslims follow hardline Islam is causing discomfort for the political class, which is united in ignoring its conclusions.

Among the survey’s findings are that 28 percent of Muslims questioned follow an “authoritarian” interpretation of texts advocating a break with French society; or that more than 40 percent of young Muslims (aged 15-25) consider Islamic Sharia law more important than the secular law of France.

“They (young French Muslims) feel rejected,” Hakim El Karoui, who co-authored the report for the Institut Montaigne think tank said. “French society is sending them the message: you are not French. In a way they are getting revenge by hanging on to the identity they have.”

The embrace of hardline Islam was strongest among young Muslims who lacked jobs or strong qualifications, added El Karoui. Overall, a plurality of French Muslims — 46 percent — considered the practice of their religion totally compatible with local rules and customs.

The study should be causing waves. It’s the first major snapshot of how French Muslims view their own beliefs to be published in France, and it comes after a wave of Islamist-inspired terrorist attacks.

And yet, public reaction to the study is partial, and strained.

Robert Ménard, a far-right mayor known for his provocative positions, tweeted a link to the report, followed by the question: “Is a confrontation [with Islam] inevitable?”

Left-wing magazine Télérama took a sarcastic stance, calling the findings “unsurprising” and criticizing the study’s methodology.

“For the time being it’s total silence from the administration,” Fanny Anor, one of the study’s co-authors, said. “What we are trying to do is create data that allows us to analyze these questions based on solid evidence, so we can avoid debating purely on impressions.”

“But that’s a very uncomfortable position for the government,” she added.

While Prime Minister Manuel Valls has repeatedly voiced alarm over the spread of “political Islam” in France, the Montaigne study shows where it’s coming from: young Muslims who lack jobs and professional skills, and feel as though the French state has turned its back on them.

To rekindle faith in the French system, the study’s authors argue, France should bring the alienated population into the workforce by overriding hiring discrimination through the use of ethnic and religious statistics.

“They [politicians] feel trapped,” added Anor. “After the terrorist attacks, it’s an awkward camp to be in, arguing for measures to fight discrimination.”