Study: 28% of French Muslims Lean Toward Extremist Views

Fayçal Benhassain | September 23, 2016 | 1:24am EDT
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(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)

( – Twenty-eight percent of French Muslims hold extremist views, or are at least attracted to fundamentalism and oppose the country’s liberal way of life, according to a new study by an independent French think tank that is making waves here.

Another 25 percent of Muslim respondents in the study by the Montaigne Institute were found to be more devout and in search of their identity, but rejected the wearing of the full veil for women.

And 46 percent were either entirely secularized or in the process of becoming integrated without denying their religion.

One of the study’s authors, Hakim El Karoui, said the findings reveal that more young Muslims are being attracted by radical ideologies.

“On one hand you have this silent majority, practicing Muslims who do not feel threatened by French society,” said Hakim, who has mixed Tunisian/French parentage. “And on the other hand, you have this minority being lured by the call of Islamic fundamentalism, and who is using Islam to attack France.”

The study findings have caused a stir, and the 28 percent is being cited by right-wing politicians with an eye on next year’s presidential elections

“What I understood from this report is that a third of French Muslims are radicalized or in the process of radicalization. And this figure is increasing,” said François Fillon, who served as prime minister under former President Nicolas Sarkozy. “There is a kind of momentum for radicalization.”

“28 percent of radicals?” tweeted National Front lawmaker Marion Maréchal-Le Pen. “If there are 6 million Muslims in France, it is 1.5 million!”

In television interviews, French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) president Anouar Kbibech fretted that the 28 percent figure would likely “further stigmatize Muslims.”

Bernard Godard, a former Interior Ministry official responsible for relations with Islam and author of several books on the subject said he was not really surprised by the findings.

“We already knew that a big part of young Muslims did not want to vote nor believe in the opportunities in French society,” he said in an interview.

Other findings in the report include 31 percent of respondents saying they attend mosque or a prayer room once a week, 65 percent saying they are in favor of the veil, and 70 percent saying they always buy and eat halal meat.

Many readers were surprised by the report’s estimate of the number of Muslims in France. It put the number of between three and four million, well below previous estimates of five to six million.

(French law forbids ethnic statistics for any purposes, so the conducting of the study based on people of a single religion was unusual and surprised many here.)

El Karoui concluded by giving eight recommendations for a “French Islam.”

Among them, the Arab language should be taught at schools instead of only in mosques or religious schools. He also suggested the creation of a post of state secretary for secularism and religions, the training of imams in France, and a review of French foreign policy to limit the influence of the Wahhabi regimes like those of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Godard said the study was interesting but was not impressed by the recommendations.

“And what would have been great is to propose practical and real solutions,” he said.

The study, the first major snapshot of French Muslims, found that a majority of terrorists were young Muslims who do not have a job or professional skills, and who think the state and politicians have turned their backs on them.

The study was based on an IFOP survey conducted among 1,209 people sharing the Muslim faith or culture, drawn from a sample of 15,549 people in mainland France – not necessary French citizens – aged 15 and over.

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