France has one of Europe’s largest Muslim immigrant populations, estimated at over 5 million in 2009. In 2010, it was expected that they would receive an influx of 66,000 Muslim immigrants. At the time of this study, The Future of the Global Muslim Population: Projections for 2010-2030, Muslims accounted for two-thirds or 68.5% of all new immigrants to France. This indicates that despite what has been perceived as “islamphobic” policies, such as the “burqa ban,” Muslim immigration has not declined nor is it expected to decline, as the population is estimated to account for 10.3% of the French population in 2030 (an increase from the current 7.5%).
Policies such as the “burqa ban” instigate debates over what it means to be “French” and the extent of assimilation that the immigrants and ethnic minorities must take on to integrate into French society. Unfortunately, these policies which stem from a fear amongst many “native French at the growing visibility of Muslims” and the French secular tradition which upholds the principle that citizens have the right to exercise personal beliefs in private places,while prohibiting them in public zones, has led to a social revolution between Islamic and secular fundamentalism.
The Muslim population in France is often faced with poverty, unemployment and discrimination. These factors have made individuals susceptible to “recruitment” by Muslim “brotherhoods” (radical religious groups often funded from outside Europe) that prey on young North African schoolboys in the Muslim ghettos in France. The veil for some, has now become not only a symbol of religious faith but solidarity. It should be noted that although it is the voluntary choice of many women to wear the veil, some are often forced to by male family members.