Following the first phase of my research, which provided an overview of secularism in the United States and France, I began constructing narratives of American and French experiences with their respective Muslim populations reviews the origins of each country’s Muslim population as well as the development and promotion of Islamophobia in both countries. The information established during this phase of the research provides further context for the review of the Islamophobic policy this paper centers on.

France’s first contact with Islam took part during military and political action campaigns beginning circa 1830 in Algeria. French powers forced Algerians to completely denounce their Muslim heritage to integrate into colonial society until the nation became independent in 1962. Beginning in the 1960s, a wave of labor immigrants from current and former French colonies marked the introduction of the majority of France’s current Muslim population. Comparatively, the first Muslims to enter the United States can be traced to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Although an initial 20% of enslaved Africans in the United States were Muslim, the majority were coerced into adopting Christianity by captors and plantation owners. Like France, the United States’ Muslim population can largely be attributed to an influx of immigrants in the latter half of the 20th century. Following President Lyndon B. Johnson’s passage of the Hart-Celler Act in 1965, by 1977 over 1.1 million Muslims had immigrated to the United States; primarily attracted to the country due to its pluralism.

Anti-Muslim sentiment in France and the United States can be associated with the xenophobia and racism Muslim immigrants face. In 1990s France specifically, public opinion against Muslims was strikingly high due to Islamophobia and outrage over the new influx of immigrants’ high integration into the French labor force. Muslims in America experienced a dramatic increase in Islamophobia following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Anti-Muslim sentiment rose significantly, sparking an increase in hate crimes and the integration of Islamophobic conspiracy theories into the national dialogue. Although hate crimes against Muslims increased following the 2015 Islamist terrorist attacks in France, the literature concludes that it did not spark an equally large rise in Islamophobia. This can be attributed to the notable increase in anti-Muslim sentiment in the 90s and French assertive secularism’s role in “othering” Muslims before the attacks.

Now that I have established the context of the climates France and the United States have created for their Muslim citizens, the next phase of my research will feature an in-depth look into the complexities of Islamophobic policy in both countries and resistance against it.

Author: Julia Lynn