France: a brief glance
Area & Border
The overall area of France is estimated at 547965
sq km. Capital: Paris.
It is bordered from the north by: Belgium,
Luxembourg, and the North Sea; from the east by: Germany, Switzerland,
and Italy; from the west, by the North Atlantic Ocean; and from the
south by: the Mediterranean Sea and Spain.
The population of France accounts for 60.9millions
. Language: French.
Catholic constitutes around 85% of the population
and Muslims rank second with some 7%. As for the rest of the
population, they belong to Protestantism, Judaism and other religions.
France: a huge economic power
France comes in the first place in the agricultural
production field in the European Union. It is one of the most
important dietetic agriculture exporting countries. Actually, French
researchers and institutions are considered a reference in the field
of agricultural sciences and water treatment.
Moreover, France takes the lead in the industry of
luxurious products, especially when it comes to cosmetics, perfumes
and quality alcohols.
In addition, France possesses a huge industrial
field that varies from the nuclear industry, to transportation means,
to cars and planes, to telecommunications and finally to the armament
industry. Besides, France is the fourth major super economic power and
the first international source of services. Undoubtedly, it is one of
the most important pioneers in the advanced technology arena as well
as in the researches conducted in the domain of pure and practical
sciences. Here are some of the newest French achievements:
French High-Speed trains (TGV): French trains and
metros invade the biggest international markets. This industry is
characterized by its high technical features, specificities and record
speed. It also plays a very distinguished role in the movement of
transportation and communication.
Another example of the very interesting French
achievements is the credit card (la Carte à Puce) that seems
indispensable to everyone nowadays. Its design originally included an
electronic memory enabled for a certain amount of money from which the
costs of purchases would be deducted. This card works only in
boutiques equipped with such a payment machine. This breakthrough
paved the way for more technological advances, mainly in the field of
calculating machines sensitive to signs and movements, as well as
wireless communication and the robot industry.
Europe is experiencing a fascinating adventure in
which France is assuming the main role. Since 1979, 100
Ariane launchers have been launched from the
Kourou Space Centre in French Guiana, French oversees department.
In fact, due to technological advance, the European Spatial Program
encouraged exchange of technological experiences: installations,
delicate machines, electronic devices, and computers. Furthermore, it
combines the elements of success in the observation and communication
field and ensures Europe’s political and scientific independence.
Ariane is actually drawing severe competition from Russia,
the United States of America, Japan and China. Though, it remained at
the forefront because it enjoys the distinctive character of combining
two industrial satellites. Not to mention that it carries five
industrial satellites weighing some 5 tons, which enables it to
capture the market of all industrial satellites.
France has an important aerospace industry led by
Airbus, the world's largest commercial
aircraft manufacturer based in
Toulouse. Airbus Industry began as a consortium of
European aviation firms, relying greatly on the French century of
experience, potentials and knowledge in this area. The French
contribution in this consortium is represented by the
Aérospatiale-Matra company, including all the activities it
The state controls a significant part of this
industry, in spite of the emergence of a real tendency towards
privatization ten years ago.
Despite the presence of clear signs of economic
growth, France suffers from a considerable unemployment rate. Curbing
this rate remains one of the most pressing priorities of the current
On the other hand, the nuclear electric power
production accounts for 73%, which makes France the first consumer of
this sort of power, particularly since coal is approaching a point of
depletion after decades of thriving. The same applies to natural gas
France from the historical angle:
- The 1789 French Revolution put an end to more
than 1300 years of Monarchy. Subsequently, France knew a troubled
period passing from the Republic, to the Empire of Napoleon, to
Monarchy again before ending up finally with the Republic in 1870.
- France took part in the World War I during
which around one million French lost their lives. It also
participated in the World War II but did not succeed in standing
up to the German invasion. It surrendered in 1940. But later
resistance emerged under the leadership of Charles De Gaulle who
took refuge in London. This resistance managed, with the help of
the Alliance Forces, to set France free in 1944.
- In 1958, France adopted a new Constitution
and knew political stability.
- In the beginnings of the sixties, the
majority of the French colonies earned their independence.
- France is one of the founding countries of
the European Union in 1957. In 1999, it adopted the unified
European currency (the Euro) as its official one.
Muslims in France between the beginnings of
immigration and the rights of citizenship
A historical view:
The beginnings of Arab - Muslim presence in France
dates back to 716 A.D. when the first group of Muslim soldiers crossed
the Pyrenees Mountains infiltrating the Spanish-French borders to
occupy the city of Norborne turning its Cathedral into a Mosque (which
was later destroyed). In 721 A.d., led by Al-Samh ibn Malik, Islamic
forces swept up to the city of Toulouse and defeated the French forces
that were trying to defend the city under the leadership of Duke Eudes
Muslim forces continued their advance and reached
in 726 A.D. the city of Lyon in central France. The year 731 A.D.
witnessed the peak of Islamic invasions with the occupation of the
city of Bordeaux . But right after this occupation, the real retreat
of Islamic forces began as they were defeated by Duke Eudes in
cooperated with Charles Martel near the city of Poitiers in 732 A.D.
Some Muslims were taken captives by the French and deported to North
of France where they finally settled. That was regarded as the real
first Muslim Arab existence in France.
This situation continued as such until the
Andalusians were defeated by the Franks. The latter went too far in
unleashing killings and slaughters. Consequently, some 150 thousand
Arabs and Muslims had to seek refuge in south of France and settle in
As to new immigrations, they started in the
beginnings of the 20th century where colonial wars reached their
climax. France began coveting the Arab Maghreb since it was in a huge
need for foreign labor force in order to develop its own industries
and become able to compete in foreign markets. And so, the first
groups of Arab laborers headed towards France coming from Algeria and
Morocco between 1900 and 1905. In the same context, the breakout of
World War I increased even more France’s demand for foreign labor that
had to fill in the vacancy in arm factories and serve France in its
colonial wars in the Chinese India, Africa and the Normandy.
It is worth mentioning that this workforce was
first employed in inferior jobs. It is believed actually that the huge
Metro tunnels in Paris and Lyon were built by those laborers. The flow
of immigrants continued between the two world wars to reach some 132
thousand people. Even after the Second World War, immigration did not
stop due to multiple reasons varying form economic, to political and
social. In consequence, the number of Muslim expatriates increased
considerably, which made the French governmentbuild a mosque in the
centre of the French capital, Paris. The mosque was opened by French
Gaston Doumergue and the Sultan of Morroco ,Mawlay
A negative perception of Muslims
Islam is considered the second largest religion
after Christianity in France. The number of Muslim community in France
varies between 5 and 6 Million. The majority of this community is
originated from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia and lives under very bad
conditions. French media and schools curricula try to portray them in
a negative way, accusing them of being hostile towards others and
perpetrating violence and terrorism. All the more so, Zionist
publicity and the exactions of some Arab emigrants contribute to
increasing distortion of Muslim’s image.
In this respect, in order to guarantee a further
isolation and encirclement of Muslims in France, some French political
milieu like the former French Foreign Minister Charles Pasqua, a
Gaullist, initiated the procedure, stipulated by the law, of taking
the fingerprints of foreigners living in France illegitimately, and
extending the detention period in an attempt to pave the way for
expelling foreigners from France. This procedure was described by the
weekly “Le Courrier Internationale” as being similar to the iron
curtain regime once adopted by the Soviet Union against the foreigners
trying to lead a life in it.
Acknowledging Islam as a religion:
These decisions caused a strong reaction from the
part of the Muslims General Federalism President in France, Doctor
Muhammed Al-Bichary who earnestly called for canceling these
decisions. This federalism demanded officials to grant Muslims of
France their legitimate rights. In fact, these demands were crowned by
success with the conclusion of the agreement of 28 January in 2000. By
virtue of this agreement, the French Government acknowledges Islam as
an official religion amongst the other religions recognized in France,
such as Christianity and Judaism. This agreement was regarded as a
turning point in the history of Arabs and Muslims in France.
The articles of this agreement provide for the
right of Muslims to Freedom of belief, to the open and safe
performance of religious rituals, to the freedom of wearing Islamic
costumes and eating meat that has been slaughtered in the manner
prescribed by the Sshari’a, to build mosques and cemeteries, and to
construct French schools. Muslims are also entitled to have their own
feasts and special occasions, such as the Fitr, the Adha and the
Messenger’s (p.) birthday in exchange for their respect of the French
Feelings of hatred and animosity:
Muslims in France – most of whom are Arabs – feel
insecure and unstable because of the French laws imposed on
foreigners, even those who have earned the French nationality. Muslims
and Arabs are faced with such hostility despite the fact that they
have proven high potentials and competences that were of a great use
for France in different areas.
Adding to the feelings of rancor and antagonism
against Muslims and Arabs were the September 11 events of 2001. The
tragedy of that year led to the occurrence of numerous aggressions and
violence against Muslims, especially veiled women or people with Arab
The problem of Muslims – Arabs – in France lies in
the numerous dissentions that emerge between the associations they
form. Each Arab community constitutes actually an independent
association connected to the mother country. These associations
reflect the disagreements between the immigrant communities.
There are two types of these associations in
France. The first one encompasses the group of people that opposes the
regime prevalent in their mother Arab State. The second one brings
together the group of people who had immigrated to France for economic
reasons and who still want to maintain a relationship with their
mother country, whether out of loyalty or sense of belonging.
This pluralism in associations and institutions
helped weakening Arab associations and undermining their capabilities.
Hence, they prove to be unable to take up the challenges they are
facing in their expatriation.
The French political scene:
As for the French political scene and the way it
approaches Muslim community, it varies between a group of political
parties and movements, including:
The Rally for the Republic RPR (Rassemblement
pour la République). It was founded by
Jacques Chirac in
1976 and posed as the heir of
Gaullism. This party adopts a policy of
establishing friendships with Arab states, understanding their causes,
mainly the Palestinian cause. However, this policy was not adopted
towards Arabs internally. Nay, it looked sometimes as anti Arab and
Islamic presence in France.
The Union for French Democracy UDF (Union pour
la Démocratie Française), is a
political party. It is known for its hostility
towards Arab causes. Its current leader, as of
François Bayrou expelled tens of veiled students
from public schools when he was Minister of National Education.
The Liberal Democracy (Démocratie Libérale,
DL), is one of the parties opposing Arabs inside and outside. This
party takes always the lead in anti-Arab and pro-Israel demonstrations
fostered by Zionist organizations in France. It also supports
extremist French Jews and radical right-wing parties in Israel such as
the Likud Party.
The National Front (Front National FN) is a
political party in
France, often accused of being racist on account
of its opposition to
immigration. The party was founded and is still
Jean-Marie Le Pen in
1972 with collaboration with Bruno Mégret - the
leader of The National Republican Movement - who later withdrew from
it. This party is generally considered to be of the
far-right, expressing animosity towards Arabs,
Jews and all foreigners. It calls for imposing harsh restrictions on
foreigners to expel them from France, and for exiting the European
The Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste or
PS) (1901) is one of the most important French Parties that has a
historical friendship with Israel. Thousands of Jewish members in this
Party were able to reach the leadership and the presidency of the
The French Communist Party (Parti communiste
français or PCF) (1920) is one of the most eager French
parties in supporting Arab community and the Arab position in the
The Citizen and Republican Movement (Mouvement
républicain et citoyen) is a
political party in
France, founded by
Jean-Pierre Chevènement who left the Socialist
party. He resigned from the Socialist government because he did not
approve his country’s attitude vis-à-vis the U.S. aggression against
Iraq. He is one of the few French politicians who defend the Arab
community in France.
The Greens (Les Verts) (1981):
Noël Mamère is very supportive of Arabs and the
Palestinian cause. During the besiegement of Arafat, the Green Party
sent a parliamentary delegation to Ramallah in a sign of solidarity
with him. Besides, it always participates in the French demonstrations
supporting the Palestinian Cause. For that reason, it has suffered
from severe aggressions from extremist Zionist organizations during
the last presidential electoral campaign.
The Workers' Struggle Party (Lutte Ouvrière)
supports Arab in France and the Palestinian cause based on ideological
convictions. The Party’s spokeswoman
Arlette Laguiller likened the Zionist exactions in
the West Bank and Gaza Strip with the Nazi exactions in the
concentration camps in Europe.