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Islam Overtaking Catholicism as Dominant Religion in France

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.
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Photo Credit: Yori Yanover

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A majority of people in France, according to a new poll, believe that Islam is too influential in French society, and almost half view Muslims as a threat to their national identity.

The survey reveals a significant degradation of the image of Islam in France. The findings also show that 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 (or Ifop, as it is usually called) and published by the center-right Le Figaro newspaper on October 24, shows that 60% of French people believe that Islam has become “too visible and influential” in France — up from 55% in an earlier survey two years ago.

The poll also reveals that 43% of French people consider the presence of Muslim immigrants to be a threat to French national identity, compared to just 17% who say it enriches society.

In addition, 68% of people in France blame the problems associated with Muslim integration on immigrants who refuse to integrate (up from 61% two years ago), and 52% blame it on cultural differences (up from 40% two years ago).

The poll also shows a growing resistance to the symbols of Islam. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of French people say they are opposed to Muslim women wearing the veil or Islamic headscarves in public, compared to 59% two years ago.

Furthermore, the survey shows that only 18% of French people say they support the building of new mosques in France (compared to 33% in 1989, and 20% in 2010).

“Our poll shows a further hardening in French people’s opinions,” Jerome Fourquet, head of Ifop’s opinion department, told Le Figaro. “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 said.

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% of the French population (or 41.6 million of France’s 65 million inhabitants) identify themselves as Roman Catholic, only 4.5% (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% (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% (or 2.5 million) say 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, “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 4,000 — to meet 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.

In recent weeks, tensions have flared over the proposed conversion of an empty church into a mosque in the central French town of Vierzon. The controversy involves Saint-Eloi’s, a small church located in a working class neighborhood that has been taken over by immigrants from Morocco and Turkey.

With six churches to maintain and fewer faithful every year, Roman Catholic authorities in Vierzon say they can no longer afford to keep Saint-Eloi’s. They now want to sell the building for €170,000 ($220,000) to a Moroccan Muslim organization that wants to convert the church into a mosque.

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About the Author: The writer is the Senior Analyst for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group, one of the oldest and most influential foreign policy think tanks in Spain.


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22 Responses to “Islam Overtaking Catholicism as Dominant Religion in France”

  1. Charlie Hall says:

    Given the long history of institutional Catholic anti-Semitism in France, many Jews will not cry at the Church's loss of adherents.

  2. Paul Williams says:

    this article is alarmist an clearly anti-Muslim. Very poor journalism…

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Charlie Hall, France was always big on the pope but very little about Christ being head of the church. so no crying here either.

  4. Robin Henry says:

    People are fleeing from religion because it is an anachronism. Hopefully there will be increasing numbers of muslims abandon Islam too, although unlike the Catholic church, Islam has a death penalty for apostasy.

  5. Grace Acosta says:

    All I'm going going to say is, if you lie down with dogs, don't complain if you wake up with fleas. Jews, make Aliyah NOW!

  6. ISLAM IS TRUTH ISLAM REACH EVERY HOUME.

  7. Froilan Gomes says:

    If the place is going to be overtaken by Muslims, Jews are extremely stupid for not crying at the Church's loss of adherents…three-fourths of all anti-Semitic attacks are now carried out by young Muslim thugs!

  8. Anonymous says:

    A gratuitous swipe. Catholicism (in France and everywhere else) acknowledges Christ as Head of His mystical body the Church, and the bishop of Rome (the pope) as successor of the Apostle Peter and Vicar of Christ. As to your claim, "France was always big on the pope," that's simply untrue. Gallicanism (look it up) practically withdrew French churches from their allegiance to Rome for several centuries. France may be historically Catholic but there was a long history of uneasy relations between the French bishops and Rome.

  9. Charlie Hall says:

    Christian countries used to burn heretics and apostates at the stake.

  10. Charlie Hall says:

    Froilan Gomes No, France is not being "overtaken" by Muslims. The actual number of practicing Muslims in France is just a few million out of a total population of 65 million.

  11. Froilan Gomes says:

    That few million is already causing serious problems in various French cities. By 2030 that small population is going to become a lot bigger. Muslims do not have to become the majority of any country to take over – they need to be a significant minority. Heck, look at India – they make up only 13% of the population but they have enough clout to make dhimmis of the politicians – and Jews are already being attacked now, Finland has already asked Jews to stop wearing skull caps in most Muslim areas – how many Muslims live in Finland? Try n imagine what it is to be a Jew in France today – now imagine even more of them in 30yrs time – of course the Jews should be concerned!

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