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More and more French believe Islam is compatible with society

While the role of Islam in French society has long been a divisive and inflammatory topic a new study suggests people in France are now more accepting of the religion.

More and more French believe Islam is compatible with society
The Grand Mosque in Paris. Photo: AFP
The new survey showed that 56 percent of French people believe Islam to be compatible with the values of French society compared to two years ago when the same percentage believed the opposite to be true. 
 
Carried out by pollsters Ifop on behalf of Le Journal de Dimanche, the survey however also showed that 43 percent of the country does not think the religion is compatible with life in France (see graph below). 
 
The survey comes at a time when France is waiting for President Macron to deliver his vision for the role of Islam in French society. 
 
In an interview with Le Journal de Dimanche in November the president said he wanted “to reorganize Islam in France to better integrate worship, fight fundamentalism and preserve 'national cohesion'.”
 
In September, a survey that looked at how Muslims themselves felt about their home country showed that Muslims living in France feel a stronger attachment to their country than they do in much of Europe, despite experiencing high levels of discrimination. That study also found that first generation Muslims feel more attached to France than their offspring. 
 
This week's Journal de Dimanche survey also asked the French what they thought about the creation of a tax on halal products, the revenues of which would be used to finance Muslim worship in France. 
 
On this point, there was no debate, with the large majority of respondents (70 percent) opposed to the idea and only 29 percent of French people saying they were in favor of a “halal tax”.
 
In the graph below, the results on the left relate to the question of whether people believe Islam to be compatible with French society while those on the right relate to the question of the “halal tax”.

 
 
Ifop survey results: JDD
 
 
The subject of Muslim integration in France is one of the country's most hotly debated issues and so it probably doesn't come as a surprise that people's views on this matter varied greatly according to which political party they supported. 
 
The survey showed that the more left-wing the voter, the more likely they were to consider Islam compatible with French society. 
 
In total, 73 percent of people who supported France's Socialist party believed Islam to be compatible as did 60 percent of those who supported left-wing party “La France Insoumise” (France Unbowed).
 
And 58 percent of people who supported French president Emmanuel Macron's Republique en Marche party thought the same. 
 
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The Grand Mosque of Paris. Photo: AFP

At the other end of the political spectrum, among those who support the right-wing Les Republicains party, 63 percent think that the religion is “incompatible with the values ​​of the French society”. 
 
Somewhat surprisingly, National Front voters were slightly less likely to think of the Muslim religion as incompatible with French society but the figure was still high, at 62 percent. 

OPINION & ANALYSIS

‘Police should have stopped Koran-burning demos after the first day’

Swedish police underestimated the level of violence that awaited them and should have called a halt to Danish-Swedish extremist Rasmus Paludan’s demos as soon as it became clear the riots were spiralling out of control, argues journalist Bilan Osman. 

‘Police should have stopped Koran-burning demos after the first day’

Speaking to The Local for the Sweden in Focus podcast, out this Saturday, Osman said she understood why the police had allowed the demonstrations to go ahead in the first place but that the safety of civilians and police officers should have taken precedence when the counter-demonstrations turned violent. 

“Just to be clear, I don’t think it’s an easy question. I think everyone, regardless of views or beliefs, should have the right to demonstrate,” said Osman, who writes for the left-wing Dagens ETC newspaper and previously lectured for the anti-racist Expo Foundation.

“I understand people who say that violence [from counter-demonstrators] shouldn’t be a reason to stop people from demonstrating. I truly believe that. But at the same time: was it worth it this time when it’s about people’s lives and safety?” 

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

“I think the police honestly misjudged the situation. I understand why Paludan was allowed to demonstrate the first day. It’s not the first time he has burned the Koran in Sweden. When he burned the Koran in Rinkeby last year nothing happened. But this time it was chaos.” 

Osman noted that Rasmus Paludan did not even show up for a planned demonstration in her home city of Linköping – but the police were targeted anyway. 

“I know people who were terrified of going home. I know people who had rocks thrown in their direction, not to mention the people who worked that day, policemen and women who feared for their lives. So for the safety of civilians and the police the manifestations should have been stopped at that point. Instead it went on, not only for a second day but also a third day and a fourth day.” 

On the question of whether it was acceptable to burn Islam’s holy book, Osman said it depended on the context. 

“If you burn the Koran mainly to criticise religion, or even Islam, of course it should be accepted in a democracy. The state should not only allow these things, but also protect people that do so. 

“I do believe that. Even as a Muslim. That’s an important part of the freedom of speech. 

A previous recipient of an award from the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism for her efforts to combat prejudice in society, Osman drew parallels with virulent anti-Semitism and said it was “terrifying” that Paludan was being treated by many as a free speech campaigner rather than a far-right extremist.  

“If you are a right-wing extremist that wants to ethnically cleanse, that wants to cleanse Muslims from Sweden, and therefore burn the Koran, it’s actually dumb to think that this is a question about freedom of speech. When Nazis burn everything Jewish it’s not a critique against Judaism, it’s anti-Semitism.” 

Anti-Muslim sentiment in Sweden tended to come in waves, Osman said, pointing to 9/11 and Anders Behring Brevik’s attacks in Norway as previous occasions when Islamophobia was rampant. Now the Easter riots had unleashed a new wave of hatred against Muslims that she described as “alarming” and the worst yet. 

“I do believe that we will find a way to coexist in our democracy. But we have to put in a lot work. And Muslims can’t do that work alone. We need allies in this.” 

Listen to more from Bilan Osman on the April 23rd episode of Sweden in Focus: Why Sweden experienced its worst riots in decades.

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