Young, Muslim and French

France’s recent decision to ban the wearing of traditional Muslim headscarves in public schools — a law widely perceived in the Muslim community as an undemocratic expression of “Islamophobia” — has increased tensions between the French Republic and its largest minority population, numbering about five million people. WIDE ANGLE explores this conflict in the town of Dammarie-les-Lys, a racially diverse, working-class community on the outskirts of Paris, where young Muslim women face a choice to obey the ban – or flout it. Also featured is the local high school principal who, as a member of the commission charged with reviewing the use of religious symbols in public life, voted for the ban against headscarves. In nearby Evry, we see the rector of the grand mosque leading Friday prayers and conducting the conversion of a young French man to Islam. Europe’s Muslim population has doubled in the last decade, with the largest numbers settling in France. Their presence is challenging traditional French notions of nationhood and citizenship, and their increasingly vocal demands for integration and recognition — on their own terms — is creating a crisis in the republic. “Young, Muslim, and French” reveals the hopes, frustrations, and political aspirations of second- and third-generation French-born Muslims and explores their potential to alter the landscape of France’s national identity.

Produced: Micah Fink
Broadcast: PBS Wide Angle