The cross : The INSEE study on the immigrant population and of immigrant origin in Franceshows an increase in the wearing of the veil (2) by Muslim women immigrants and descendants of immigrants between 2008-2009 and 2019-2020, regardless of their origins. How do you explain this trend?
Laetitia Bucaille: The motivations of Muslim immigrant women for wearing the veil in France are multiple and complex. Many analysts or ordinary citizens believe that wearing the veil is the result of male family or social pressure; undeniably, this can be exercised in certain environments and certain neighborhoods, but this phenomenon is far from being exclusive. Wearing the veil is part of a religious choice and journey.
The conception of a rigorous Islam which imposes the wearing of the veil or which makes Muslim women interpret the wearing of the veil as compulsory, disseminated since the 1980s, is still very present today in the world: it therefore feeds this phenomenon. Moreover, in France, wearing the veil can also correspond to a form of politicization: the “visibilization” of oneself as a Muslim is part of the affirmation of identity. The very strong polarization in France between Republicans – or “republicanists” – who consider that secularism is in danger and those who defend the recognition of minority and discriminated against populations contributes to an acceleration of the process of claiming identity.
How can we explain the differences between immigrant women and the descendants of immigrants on the question of wearing the veil?
L.B: It is difficult to interpret figures which designate populations whose time and route of migration are unknown, and which encompass several countries within undifferentiated areas such as that of the “Maghreb” or those of “Turkey and the Middle East”.
That said, for the generation of immigrant women, covering up can be akin to preserving a way of life already practiced before the migration journey, which is obvious, the wearing of the veil being the majority in many Muslim societies. . Among the descendants of immigrants, on the other hand, it is more a matter of individual choice, and not conformism or tradition. It is an act of self-affirmation and “visibilization” of their belonging to the Islamic religion.
Could the period of the Covid-19 pandemic have played a role in this increase?
L.B: The figures from the INSEE study do not detail the periods and we cannot therefore rely on them. The hypothesis that can be formulated is that Muslims and young Muslim women have, like the rest of the French, gone through this period which may have generated isolation, anxiety and loss of meaning.
Faced with this malaise, the Muslim religion, like other religions, provides individuals with resources to contain anxiety and malaise. To believe in divine power, to follow rites and to compel oneself to do so is reassuring, especially since the period was marked by the decline of ideologies and utopias.