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Constructing Muslims in France

Constructing Muslims in France: Discourse, Public Identity, and the Politics of Citizenship

Jennifer Fredette
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Constructing Muslims in France
    Book Description:

    The standing of French Muslims is undercut by a predominant and persistent elite public discourse that frames Muslims as failed and incomplete French citizens. This situation fosters the very separations, exclusions, and hierarchies it claims to deplore as Muslims face discrimination in education, housing, and employment.

    InConstructing Muslims in France,Jennifer Fredette provides a deft empirical analysis to show the political diversity and complicated identity politics of this relatively new population. She examines the public identity of French Muslims and evaluates images in popular media to show how stereotyped notions of racial and religious differences pervade French public discourse. While rights may be asine qua nonfor fighting legal and political inequality, Fredette shows that additional tools such as media access are needed to combat social inequality, particularly when it comes in the form of unfavorable discursive frames and public disrespect.

    Presenting the conflicting views of French national identity, Fredette shows how Muslims strive to gain recognition of their diverse views and backgrounds and find full equality as French citizens.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-1030-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. 1 Introduction: Why Do We Ask Whether Muslims Can Be French?
    (pp. 1-22)

    Who are France’s Muslims, what do they want, and why is their Frenchness such a contentious subject? This book examines how the public identity of French Muslims is constructed in France and the implications this has for this relatively new and diverse population. Elite public discourse commonly (though not universally) questions whether Muslims can be good French citizens. In comparing this elite discursive frame with the discourse of French Muslims themselves, we see that it does not adequately reflect the political diversity and complicated identity politics of this population. French Muslims must respond to this common elite frame while attempting...

  6. 2 Elusive Citizenship: The Consequences of an Undesirable Public Identity
    (pp. 23-46)

    This story comes from a member of Étudiants Musulmans de France (EMF [Muslim Students of France]). She is a young French woman who is Muslim and the child of Algerian immigrants. Her story illustrates the kind of daily hostility many Muslims experience in France. This hostility is in part a product of an omnipresent elite discourse that condemns Muslims as unfit citizens. Yet many French Muslims themselves do not doubt their French identity.¹

    As this young woman notes, the bus doors were closed on her because of her foulard, an external sign of her belief in Islam.² While her story...

  7. 3 Claiming Membership: French Muslim Identities, Political Goals, and Repertoires of Contention
    (pp. 47-77)

    It is difficult to speak about France’s Muslims. One cannot entirely account for this difficulty even with carefully chosen terms such as “of immigrant origin,” “practicing Muslims,” “cultural Muslims,” or “Arabs.” Muslims in France are all of these, none of these, and more. It is important to consider the immigrant experience when discussing the situation of Muslims in France, but not all Muslims are immigrants. Not all Muslims in France are Arabs, and not all Arabs are Muslim. And what defines a Muslim, anyway? Is it the number of times a day one prays? Is it a cultural marker one...

  8. 4 Education: The (Undelivered?) Promise of Republican Equality
    (pp. 78-102)

    Regardless of one’s ultimate evaluation of France’s ban on the hijab (and other ostensible signs of religion) in public schools, the criticism from many Americans sometimes speaks to our ignorance of the important role education plays in French citizenship. While Americans may acknowledge the role of education in civic virtue, it was traditionally the “Republican Mother” that inculcated civic values, such as patriotism and personal discipline (Kerber 1997). Children in the United States could be educated privately or even at home and still receive the benefits of citizen formation (Kerber 1997). This is not understood to be the case in...

  9. 5 Employment: The Muslim Experience in (and out of) the Workplace
    (pp. 103-125)

    Between 1945 and 1975, France experienced what Alan Jenkins refers to as the “rapid reconstruction, industrialization, and economic growth” that characterized theTrente Glorieuses. France’s economy blossomed under highly centralized state management that aimed to “wipe out the failures and humiliations of the prewar and wartime periods, and reconstitute the greatness of the nation as a prosperous world power” (Jenkins 2000, p. 4). While this experience certainly left a legacy for French employment policy for years to come, thedirigisme(central planning of the economy) that many associate with France is increasingly challenged. According to Jenkins (2000, p. 189), France...

  10. 6 Housing: The Banlieues as a Geographic and Socially Constructed Place
    (pp. 126-150)

    In 2002, seventeen-year-old Sohane Benziane was murdered by a fellow resident of herbanlieue. The circumstances are deeply troubling: Jamal Derrar, a local gang leader, had forbidden Benziane from visiting his apartment complex after he had a disagreement with her boyfriend. When he found Benziane at the complex one day, he cornered her in a basement full of dumpsters. His friend Tony Rocca blocked the door. Derrar then threw gasoline on Benziane, lit a match, and set her on fire. When Derrar was brought back to the building to show police what had happened, cheers of support—for Derrar—erupted...

  11. 7 The Contentious Concept of Frenchness: French Muslims Embracing, Reimagining, but Not Rejecting the Republican Triad
    (pp. 151-174)

    On the evening of February 10, 2011, President Nicolas Sarkozy participated in the televised interview programParoles de Français, where he was peppered with questions from the French public. One questioner asked, “Do you think that multiculturalism is a failure and that it is the cause of many problems in our society?” Sarkozy replied, “My response is a clear: yes, it is a failure. The truth is that in all our democracies, we have been too preoccupied about the identity of those arriving and not enough with that of the countries that welcome them.”

    Sarkozy’s comments distinguish between the search...

  12. Appendix: Sample Questionnaire
    (pp. 175-182)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 183-192)
  14. References
    (pp. 193-206)
  15. Index
    (pp. 207-213)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 214-214)