Country Report: France

France Country Report

August 2022

Women photographed in front of a banner that reads: “Proud of being French and Muslim.’’ (Sipa via AP Photo / Nicolas Messyasz)

For decades, France has hosted the largest Muslim populations in Europe, due to immigration from North and West African and Middle Eastern countries. However, Islamophobia remains pervasive in France, both in legal rulings and socio-cultural discrimination. French Muslims face difficulties integrating into French society due to perceived cultural differences and anti-Muslim prejudices.

For centuries, France has embraced the ideal of ‘laïcité,’ which calls for the separation of religion from socio-economic life. This secularist policy has fostered ‘neo-laïcité,’ which discriminates against religious minorities. 74% of French Muslims say they experience conflict between religious devotion and active participation in their Western, secular society. Studies show French Muslims are four times more likely to face discrimination than other religious people.

The government has passed Islamophobic legislation in recent years. President Emmanuel Macron outlined a new law against religious radicalism in February 2021. This law would ‘free Islam in France from foreign influences’ by monitoring online hate speech and promoting secularism in public life. However, critics say it stigmatizes the French Muslim community. In April 2021, the French senate approved an amendment that would effectively ban Muslim women under the age of 18 from wearing a hijab in public. The senate also voted in January 2022 to ban wearing hijabs and other religious symbols during sports events. This law has had a devastating impact on French Muslim female athletes.

Anti-Roma attitudes in France have also increased in recent years. Over two-thirds of French people hold unfavorable views of the country’s Romani population, with 54% of the ideological left and 76% of the ideological right holding anti-Roma sentiments. Thousands of French Roma have been forcibly evicted from their communities as part of a crackdown on illegal camps by the French police. These expulsions have affected over 60% of Roma families and left tens of thousands of French Romani homeless. Anti-Roma propaganda has incited violence against Romani populations.

Due to the legal and social targeting of the Muslim and Roma communities, Genocide Watch considers France to be at Stage 3: Discrimination and Stage 6: Polarization.

Genocide Watch recommends the following:

  • French citizens of all religions should peacefully protest against Islamophobic laws.

  • The French government should provide financial and housing assistance to homeless Romani.

  • The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights should investigate the forced displacement of Romanis and Islamophobic laws in France.

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