Does French Islam Have Borders? Dilemmas of Domestication in a Global Religious Field

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Abstract

Although many accounts of transnational religious movements emphasize mobility and communication, equally important are efforts by both political actors and religious leaders to carve out distinctive national forms of religion. In this article I examine dilemmas faced by Muslims in France who seek both to remain part of the global Muslimcommunity and to satisfy French demands for conformity to political and cultural norms. I consider the history of immigration and the importance of French notions of laïcité but emphasize the structural problem of articulating a global religious field onto a self-consciously bounded French nation-state. I then draw on recent fieldwork in Paris to analyze two recent public events in which attempts by Muslim public intellectuals to develop an “Islam of France” are frustrated by internal, structural tensions concerning religious authority and political legitimacy, and not simply by a conflict between “Muslims” and “France.”

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