Paris: Islam is the fastest growing and influential religion in the French society, this is what most of the people in France believe who participated in a survey whereas almost half of the participants consider Muslims as a threat to their national identity.
According to the survey recently taken, French voters are growing increasingly uneasy about mass immigration from Muslim countries, which has been encouraged by a generation of political and cultural elites in France dedicated to creating a multicultural society.
The survey, conducted by the French Institute of Public Opinion (Ifop), shows that 60 percent of French people believe that Islam has become “too visible and influential” in France –up from 55 percent in an earlier survey two years ago.
The poll also reveals that 43 percent of French people consider the presence of Muslim immigrants to be a threat to French national identity, compared to just 17 percent who say it enriches society.
In addition, 68 percent of people in France blame the problems associated with Muslim integration on immigrants who refuse to integrate (up from 61 percent two years ago) and 52 percent blame it on cultural differences (up from 40 percent two years ago).
The poll also shows a growing resistance to the symbols of Islam. Nearly 63 percent of French people say that they are opposed to Muslim women wearing the veil or Islamic headscarves in public, compared to 59 percent two years ago.
Furthermore, the survey shows that only 18 percent of French people say that they support the building of new mosques in France (compared to 33 percent in 1989 and 20 percent in 2010).
The Head of Ifop’s Opinion Department, Jerome Fourquet, said, “Our poll shows a further hardening in French people’s opinions.”
“In recent years, there has not been a week when Islam has not been in the heart of the news for social reasons: the veil, halal food, dramatic news like terrorist attacks or geopolitical reasons,” he added.
France, which is home to an estimated six million Muslims, has the largest Muslim population in the European Union. There are now, in fact, more practicing Muslims in France than there are practicing Roman Catholics.
Although 64 percent of the French population (or 41.6 million of France’s 65 million inhabitants) identify themselves as Roman Catholic, only 4.5 percent (or 1.9 million) of these actually are practicing Catholics, according to a separate survey on Catholicism in France published by Ifop in July 2009.
By way of comparison, 75 percent (or 4.5 million), of the estimated six million mostly ethnic North African and sub-Saharan Muslims in France, identify themselves as “believers” and 41 percent (or 2.5 million) say that they are “practicing” Muslims, according to an in-depth research report on Islam in France published by Ifop in July 2011.
Taken together, the research data provides empirical evidence that Islam is well on its way to overtaking Roman Catholicism as the dominant religion in France.
This trend is also reflected in the fact that mosques are being built more often in France than are Roman Catholic churches; nearly 150 new mosques are currently under construction in France.
The total number of mosques in France has already doubled to more than 2,000 during just the past ten years, according to a research report named “Constructing Mosques: The Governance of Islam in France and the Netherlands.” The rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, has called for the number of mosques in the country to be doubled again to meet the growing demand.
By contrast, the Roman Catholic Church has built only 20 new churches in France during the past decade, and has formally closed more than 60 churches, many of which are destined to become mosques, according to research conducted by La Croix, a Roman Catholic daily newspaper based in Paris.