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Poll: One in four French Muslims backs burqa

September 18, 2016

A large number of young Muslims supports more conservative views of Islam, including wearing a full-face veils and polygamy, a study showed. But a majority of Muslims said they accepted France's secular laws.

Burka Verbot Frankreich Frauen Symbolbild
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The survey found that 29 percent of respondents believed Sharia code to be more important than the laws of France, "Le Journal du Dimanche" reported on Sunday.

A French think tank, Institut Montaigne, commissioned the poll that included over 1,000 people who identified themselves as Muslim. All of the respondents were over 15 years old. The survey was conducted in April and May, before the Nice truck massacre and the debate on banning the burkini on French beaches.

According to the Ifop poll, some 20 percent of male Muslims and 28 percent of females were supporting the wearing of the burqa, which covers the whole face, and the niqab, which leaves a slit open for the eyes.

The survey also found Muslim women to be more conservative on some other issues. Only 56 percent of them said they would attend a gender-mixed swimming pool, compared to three-quarters of men.

Religion as revolt

Institut Montaigne's report divided the respondents into three groups, with "completely secular" being the most numerous with 46 percent of the total. The second group, amounting to 25 percent of those surveyed, was "proudly Muslim" and accepting of restrictions on religion in the public domain and opposing the burqa and polygamy, but also wanting more space for their religion in the workplace.

The most "problematic" were the remaining 29 percent in the third section. This segment of the Muslim population was composed of "mostly young, low-skilled people with low levels of participation in the labor market" on the outskirts of cities.

"Islam is for them a way of asserting themselves on the margins of French society," the report found, saying that the majority of them approved of the burqa and of polygamy and used Islam as a means of "revolt" against the rest of French society.

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Around half of respondents younger than 25 fell into this third category. The poll found that older Muslims generally display more moderate attitudes. Some 29 percent of Muslims said they attended a mosque on a weekly basis.

Halal food wanted

Some issues were shown to have a wide support across all groups polled. For example, eight out of 10 people believe that school cafeterias should offer halal options to their Muslim students, which several towns have already rejected as encroachment of religion into schools.

Also, two-thirds of respondents said they supported the right to wear the headscarf, which covers a woman's hair but leaves the face uncovered. The headscarf is forbidden as a religious symbol at French schools and universities.

Despite the wide support for the right to wear a scarf, two thirds of women said they themselves were not covering their heads.

The survey also found that Muslims make up 5.6 percent of people aged 15 and over, but that the percentage is larger among younger generations.

dj/sms (AFP, Reuters)