Senior Catholic figure says mainly 15-year-olds to 30-year-olds rejecting French values
French Muslim youth the dominant group seeking isolation from society
French Muslims between the ages of 15 and 30 form the main group seeking isolation from society and rejecting its vaunted values of freedom, equality and fraternity, says a senior Catholic figure with knowledge of Islamic affairs.
Father Vincent Feroldi, director of the French Catholic church’s service for relations with Muslims, says an active minority has adopted a separatist outlook with “a strong communitarianism inspired by Salafism”.
Fr Feroldi told The National that 75 per cent of an estimated five million Muslims among France’s 67 million population had French nationality. “Most are under 30 and a large majority want to integrate into French society and adopt French culture, as long as they can keep their religious traditions,” he said.
The minority of dissenters, he said, showed respect for French laws, if only to avoid prosecution, imprisonment or – if foreign – deportation. But as well as distancing themselves from the population as a whole, some held negative opinions about non-Muslims. “Others will exert strong pressure on their fellow Muslims to follow Salafist Islam,” he said.
Fr Feroldi leads a team that regularly meets Muslims in France and abroad and seeks partnerships on joint projects.
He also helps Catholic dioceses to develop relations with Muslims and updates the church hierarchy of developments and events affecting the lives of Muslims in France and abroad.
When asked whether he believed a majority of French Muslims supported the principle of mutual tolerance, Fr Feroldi said: “In 2018, after years marked by the economic crisis and deadly attacks in France, Europe and worldwide, Christians, Muslims and Jews wish to live their faith in France peacefully, in accordance with the laws of the republic and in a context of vivre ensemble [living together].
“Nevertheless, faced with the issue of immigration and the rise of populism, everyone searches for identity.”
This could lead to tensions, which usually disappeared when representatives of different faiths worked together.
Fr Feroldi welcomed the case studies of Ecquevilly, recognising “the great merit of allowing the public to discover the complexity and better understand Salafism”.
Such exposure, he said, challenged French President Emmanuel Macron and his government to forge clear policies to resist practices that threaten France’s “great values of equality, fraternity, freedom and solidarity”.
Above all, he said, there was an urgent need to “foster a life together where we all enrich one other”.