SECULAR AND INDIVISIBLE?: LAÏCITÉ, ISLAM AND THE FRENCH STATE
Degree awarded: M.A. Anthropology. American University
France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe, and has attractedattention in recent years for its attempts to assimilate and secularize Muslims.The state's view of Muslims is shaped by laïcité, or secularism, and by France'shistory of North African colonialism. Many French citizens oppose attempts byFrench Muslims to assert a group identity based on their religious and culturalbackground; at the same time, the historical diversity of France is often forgotten.Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims are on the rise across Europeand the United States. This thesis aims to explain how laïcité and Islamophobiashape the French government and general public's attitudes toward FrenchMuslims; how secularism, nationalism, colonialism and feminism areinterconnected, making criticism seem unpatriotic; and how the Western world'sframing of Islam as "the Other" overlooks the extent to which Islam is a part ofthe past, present and future of France.