French Muslims, stigmatized by attacks, feel under pressure


French Muslims, stigmatized by attacks, feel under pressure

The pressure rises with each gruesome attack. After three in five weeks, France’s Muslims are feeling squeezed.

A spotlight of suspicion was trained on them again even before the latest acts of extremist violence, including two beheadings. President Emmanuel Macron has forged ahead with his effort to rid Islam in France of extremists, part of a project he labels “separatism,” a term that makes Muslims wince.

Amid intensifying rhetoric and fresh attacks by outsiders, including the killings of three people Thursday at a Catholic church in Nice, Muslims in France have kept their heads down and chins up. But deep down, some are squirming, feeling they are being held responsible.

Islam is the second religion in France, which has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe. But the country’s estimated 5 million Muslims have walked a delicate line in search of full acceptance in what for many is their nation of birth. Discrimination casts a shadow over some and is an outright barrier to mainstream life for others.

France’s cherished value of secularism, which is meant to ensure religious freedom, has in recent years been used by the state to reign in customs practiced by some Muslims. The president’s proposed law may mean further tinkering with the 1905 secularism law born out of a conflict with the powerful Roman Catholic clergy.

The rise of Islam into public view was gradual and mostly went unnoticed until the far right seized upon it as a threat to the French identity. Over the years mosques have multiplied, along with Muslim schools.

The religion with no single leader has multiple strains in France, running from moderate to Salafist with a rigorous interpretation of the religion to outright radical upstarts.

In his project, Macron envisions measures like training imams in France instead of bringing them in from Turkey, Morocco or Algeria.

Source: The Associated Press

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