Ramadan on the rise among France's Muslims

10th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 9, 2006 (AFP) - Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting currently underway, is being increasingly observed by France's sizeable Muslim community, experts and media here said.

PARIS, Oct 9, 2006 (AFP) - Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting currently underway, is being increasingly observed by France's sizeable Muslim community, experts and media here said.

The trend is encompassing more than just the devout, and is especially prevalent among young adults, they noted.

According to a recent survey in a Catholic weekly, La Vie, 88 percent of all Muslim adults in the country fasted for Ramadan — and 94 percent of those aged under 30 did.

France has Europe's largest Muslim community, estimated at between four and six million. The total population of the country is 63 million, most of whom are considered Roman Catholic — though, by one study, more than 40 percent declare themselves atheist.

While Ramadan has found greater favour among French Muslims, the other precepts of Islam are less respected.

According to La Vie's survey, 56 percent of those questioned said they did not pray five times a day, and only four percent had made a piligrimage to Mecca.

A French anthropologist who has written several books on Islam, Malek Chebel, said the surge in interest in Ramadan "is a phenomenon we've been seeing for 15 or so years.

"Essentially, it's a phenomenon of cultural identification — French Muslims have the feeling of belonging to all other Muslims around the world," he said.

The two forces pushing the effect along, Chebel said, were Islamic proselytism and the political rhetoric in France that made non-observing Muslims feel guilty and less likely to signal their stance among the more faithful.

Another explanation, offered by an atheist and Communist Algerian writer who did not wish to be named, was simple nostalgia for the home countries of Muslim immigrants.

"It's pure nostalgia. My wife says I'm crazy, but I don't care," he said, referring to his non-Muslim French spouse.

Abderahmane Dahmane, the president of the Council of Democratic Muslims in France, one of several Muslim organisations in the country, said he had seen Ramadan observance increase markedly from the end of the 1980s on.

"It's become a month of identification for all a community," he said, adding that it also underlined the failure of France's attempt to assimilate immigrants by trying to make them adhere to its secular principles of nationality.

In the suburbs of Paris, the importance of Ramadan for young Muslims was easily seen — but also for a few non-Muslims of ethnic French background.

"I do it sometimes to show my support for my Muslim friends," said Lorie, a schoolgirl in the eastern suburb of Montreuil.

Chebel said the physical rigour of observing daily fasting for a month also made Ramadan a sort of macho competition among boys and young men.

"It gives them a certain status and allows them to exclude people from their group who don't fast," he said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

 

 

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