I have always believed that it is vital to understand the intersections between policy and human rights. It would be a disservice to communities across the world to deny the role policy plays in permitting or denying them the rights that ensure a humane and safe quality of life. Thus, it is necessary to comprehensively examine the current policy efforts that deny, specifically the variety of anti-Muslim policy in France and the United States; and the Islamophobia that permits it. 

The first phase of my research deals with establishing context so that I might best understand the nuances that shape current policy conditions. France and the United States’s histories with secularism, as well as the history of Muslim communities in both countries, must be established in order to conduct a thorough analysis of the environment each country has created for their respective Muslim populations.

This research stems from a want to analyze why explicitly anti-Muslim policies are less successful in the United States than they are in France, and the review of secularism I have conducted offers valuable insight on the circumstances that have shaped this phenomenon. France’s secularism stems from a reaction against the oppression caused by the dual regime of the Catholic Church and the French Monarchy. The negative feelings revolutionaries held about religion made it so that French secularism is assertive and in place to protect the people from encroachment from religion. In contrast, American revolutionaries had no such negative associations with religion, and the resulting passive secularism functions primarily to protect religion from government suppression. These opposing histories have made it so that France has made significant efforts to completely remove religion from the public sphere, while the United States does not. An important note to make in this research is that although both countries invoke secularism in their legal codes, the histories of France and the United States are intertwined with Catholicism and Christianity respectively. As a result of this, both still empower a dominant culture, which has allowed for the “othering” of Muslims. 

Following the conclusion of my overview of secularism, I turned towards the histories of Muslim populations in both countries. France experienced a wave of Muslim labor immigration in the 1960s-70s. The United States’s Muslim population can be traced back to the transatlantic slave trade and dramatically increased with an influx of Arab immigrants beginning in the late 19th century. To conclude this section in the coming weeks, I hope to offer a more comprehensive review of France’s relationship with their Muslim colonial subjects and the influences that had on immigration and to involve more discussion of the prevalence of white supremacy and its intertwined relationship with Islamophobia. 

Author: Julia Lynn