These Muslims who choose to leave France

These Muslims who choose to leave France

When he lived in France, Redouane remembers feeling a “deep discomfort”. Now based in Morocco, the 33-year-old, sales director in a European multinational, looks back on his teenage years spent near Tourcoing, in the North, and on what weighed on him at the time. Police identity checks, “more frequent for (him) only for his non-typed friends », “being followed by security guards in stores”, or the impression that certain people were ” on the defensive “, as soon as he approached them.

“It’s not really explicit racism,” Redouane formula. Rather a discomfort, in the behavior of others, which he links to his North African origins. His unease was reinforced by the recurring media and political excitement surrounding Islam, which affected him deeply. So much so that in 2018, seizing a professional opportunity, he moved to Spain, before moving to Morocco.

Like him, a certain number of French people of Muslim faith have left France to escape discrimination. If precise figures are difficult to obtain in the absence of statistics, researchers Olivier Esteves, Alice Picard and Julien Talpin are examining the trend in You love France but you are leaving it. Survey of the French Muslim diaspora, published Friday April 26 (1), they are based on a questionnaire completed by 1,070 people and on interviews conducted with 139 of them. They show that unlike classic “expats”, these French Muslims are fleeing a negative experience of France, citing racism and discrimination as the primary reason for their departure (71%), then the difficulty of “live their religion peacefully in France” (64%).

This highly educated diaspora – 54% of them have at least a baccalaureate + 5 – first settles in “English-speaking democracies (United Kingdom or Canada) where multicultural tolerance is required, mention the authors. But also in the economically dynamic and predominantly Muslim countries of the Persian Gulf (United Arab Emirates), in the parents' countries of origin (Maghreb, Turkey) and, to a lesser extent, in the countries bordering France.

“Is it because my name is Mohammed?” »

What did they go through to leave like this? In the stories of these young workers, who have often experienced social advancement compared to their parents, experiences of discrimination in employment often take precedence. Mohammed, a doctoral student in Montreal, became particularly aware of this the day when, while at university, an organization asked his professor for an intern. She asked him to apply, which he did. “The next day, I received a refusal, without any explanation, even though the request came from them. » Mohammed is then overcome by doubt. “It’s rarely racism or discrimination that people will spit in your face. It's always insidious, it makes you paranoid every time something isn't going to work. We will ask ourselves: is it because my name is Mohammed or because of my skills? »

For women wearing the veil, the obstacles in the world of work are all the more obvious. In Montbéliard, Maroua, 26, was very aware of this when she decided to wear the headscarf at 17: “I am a woman, North African, from a working-class background, Muslim, and now I wear the headscarf. So I must excel, she thought. I have always been a good student, but I have to do even more, I have to make myself indispensable so that no one can ever say to me: “No, you can't because you wear the headscarf .” »

However, since then, and despite his very good grades, Maroua has accumulated micro-aggressions, ranging from insults in the street to remarks from his teachers. Like that time when the dean of her faculty said in front of the whole class, while she was explaining the reasons for wearing the veil, that “it pissed him off to see veiled women at university.” Or that a sports teacher spoke to her on the microphone, in front of everyone, before starting the session, to say: “You over there, take off what’s on your head, otherwise we can’t start class.” » Arriving in M2, Maroua receives no response to her internship requests. She then decided to go to Canada, where, four years later, she held a position in the municipality of Montreal.

“I know that some people manage to ignore it. But I can't do it.”

Above all, these new expatriates all express a feeling of suffocation in the face of the way in which Islam is approached in public debate, and a form of exhaustion at feeling singled out. Mohammed was particularly marked by the fact that in 2015, after the attacks in Charlie Hebdoa political leader came to the mosque on Eid: “He was talking to us about terrorism! he insists. For us, Eid is Christmas, it's festive. And they talk to us about terrorism as if it concerns us more than our French compatriots. » The impression that, whatever the efforts made, they will always be assigned to their religion, amplifies the frustration: “I studied, I never had any problems, and yet I am still lumped together,” sighs Mohammed.

Redouane, for his part, lists all the controversies that have marked him in a tone of excess. In 2012, Jean-François Copé spoke of children who are “to snatch their pain au chocolat by thugs” during Ramadan. In 2016, a controversy over a cafe allegedly forbidden to women in Sevran (Seine-Saint-Denis) shook up television sets. “These are rumors, and even if it is true, we make generalizations about it, we say that it happens all the time, and that Muslims are responsible for itsighs Redouane. I know that some manage to ignore. But I can't do it. »

The young man saw these speeches seeming to include all his co-religionists as a form of rejection. “The idea that it sends back to me is that we don’t belong here. If we are singled out every day, it is because France, overall, does not want us to stay there. »

Departure is therefore experienced as a relief by these new expatriates. Arriving in Spain, Redouane felt “a weight less on the shoulders”. Mohammed, who lives in Montreal – “with people dressed in all different ways, with hair in all different ways” –, praises the multicultural aspect of his new city. A diversity that he interprets as a sign of openness. And live like “a breath of fresh air”.

(1) Ed. du Seuil, 464 p., €23.


A diaspora more educated than the average Muslim in France

The investigation by researchers Julien Talpin, Olivier Esteves and Alice Picard on French Muslims abroadwas carried out based on a questionnaire which elicited 1,070 complete responses.

It shows that 71% leave France “to suffer less from racism and discrimination”64% for “live their religion serenely”. The following reason, “to progress professionally”concerns 41% of respondents, while “live in the land of Islam” comes in 6th position (23% responses).

Their first three destinations are the United Kingdom (18%), the United Arab Emirates (16%) and Canada (11%).

More than half (54%) have a master's level or higher, which is much more than the average of their co-religionists.

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