The numbers of French Muslims and Muslims in France are exaggerated

12 January 2013

The Nouvel Observateur has sat down with the French-Syrian historian and co-author of the book ‘Notre France’ (Our France), Farouk Mardam Bey, to discuss his work on identity, integration and the idea of France.

Bey describes his work as a product of the previous French presidential campaign, when polemic debates on French national identity and the position of Islam and Muslims in France transformed to become a well contested national sport. In his book, Bey and his co-authors analyze their external imagination of France, their actual physical contact with the country and their interpretation of their home country. He describes it as a conversation about ‘our France, its history, its political life, its culture and landscapse’.

When asked whether his work still holds relevance in the post-Sarkozy area, Bey responds that the as he calls it ‘right-ing’ (‘droitisé’) of Sarkozy’s politics is a trend that has mainstreamed by also influencing the Socialist party. As such, the rhetoric appears demagogic, dangerous and counterproductive to social cohesion. Throughout the interview, Bey problematizes the history of immigration in France as well as the paranoia created through the deliberate inflation of the number of French Muslims and Muslims in France. He further denounces the political right for its instrumental role in creating and maintaining the monolithic image of Muslims, and people descending from majority Muslim states, as people with homogenous culture, identities, desires and aspirations. Bey asserts that by generalizing Muslims the threat of the Other is secured.

Nadine Morano, Secretary of State for Family and Solidarity, asks French Muslims to no longer speak “Verlan”

In the context of the debate on French national identity in Charmes (Vosges), Nadine Morano, French secretary of State in charge of the family and of solidarity, declared to young French Muslims that they no longer use “verlan” slang when they speak.

Verlan is a popular suburban phenomenon of speaking, changing the order of words (i.e. bizarre becomes “zarbi”). Morano called for young Muslims to love their country, to find work, to no longer speak using verlan, to no longer wear their caps backwards.

Benoit Hamon of the Socialist Party responded with concern for Morano’s caricaturized portrayal of young people which looks very little like most young French Muslims today. The organization SOS Racisme echoed Hamon’s position.

According to a poll held by Nouvel Observateur, 40 percent of French people see the debate on National Identity by Nicolas Sarkozy to the necessary. 42 percent of respondents noted the negative ramifications of the debate.