Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 October 2013
The issue of the political representation of Maghrebi (North African) immigrants and their descendants in France, now redefined as a question of representation of Muslims, has been a long-standing debate in the French policy arena. The importance of representation in the French case is perhaps more heightened than in other EU countries because of France's particular model of secularism (laïcité) and statist political ideology. More so than other countries, the French state has raised numerous obstacles to Islamic practice, thus making political participation among Muslims a high-stakes endeavour. In order to make claims on the state and demand religious rights and recognition – in an era of anti-Islam discourse and in political and cultural fields that seek the elimination of religion from public space – French Muslims critically require means of political participation. But the question of who can represent the diversity of French Islamic practices and religious needs looms large, especially when the state demands Muslim interlocutors. It is commonly thought and argued that representation is difficult because Muslims in France are divided by ethnic background. While there are important ethnic differences among Algerians, Moroccans, Turks, and black Africans, I suggest that these are not nearly as salient as they are usually made out to be. For the younger generation of Muslims, they are even less consequential.