In contrast to the situation in the Anglo-American world – where detailed racial data gives a good sense of most groups’ educational and socio-economic performance, criminality, voting patterns, etc. – there is no systematic collection of such data in France.
This means that we have to estimate the general situation using proxy data, such as first names in birth registries and voter registration rolls, the percentage of children tested for sickle-cell disease, or parallels with comparable countries who do have some data (such as Great Britain and Belgium).
The French pollster Jérôme Fourquet has gathered a considerable set of data on France’s Muslim communities. As he documents in his book L’Archipel français, there is a clear pattern of residential (self-)segregation and socio-economic stratification along ethno-religious lines:
Even if this phenomenon [of immigration] is not new, the geographical concentration of certain communities, associated with the quasi-planetary diversification of migratory flows and the impressive demographic rise of populations from the Arab-Muslim worlds constitute major drivers for the archipelization of French society. (p. 143)
Settlement patterns are strongly influenced by “family and acquaintances networks” (p. 142). As a result, immigrant groups in France tend to not only be concentrated in particular neighborhoods, but also tend to come from particular areas and communities within the home country.
Using data from voter registration rolls, Fourquet could determine that in the municipality of Sarcelles (population 58,000, in the northern suburbs of Paris), 92% of Indians are from Pondicherry (a former French colonial possession) or the surrounding state of Tamil Nadu (p 142). Similarly, Sarcelles hosts a significant community of Christian Chaldeans overwhelmingly hailing from just three Turkish districts. If you give immigrants even a toehold into the country, this greatly facilitates the whole clan being brought over.
These ethnic clustering patterns are long-term if not permanent. For instance, Armenians are still heavily concentrated in certain areas of Marseille (making up 10-40% of some neighborhoods), despite the fact they mostly arrived in France after 1915, around a century ago (p. 142-3).
The tendency of ethnic clustering and self-segregation is being reinforced by the sheer scale of immigration, particularly Islamic. It is becoming easier and easier for Muslims to live among their own and not have to adapt to local French norms:
The greater the immigrant presence, the greater the tendency to reject mixed marriages among Muslims, reaching 35% or even 37% in neighborhoods and municipalities with a very high immigrant presence (15% to 30% immigrants or immigrants’ children in the local population). (p. 153)
One set of polls found conflicting tendencies: between 2011 and 2016, the percentage of Muslims who would be happy if their son married a non-Muslim rose from 41% to 56%, while those who would be happy if their daughter married outside the faith fell from 38% to 35% (p. 152). Interestingly, the more educated a Muslim is, the more likely he/she is to intermarry with a non-Muslim (p. 158). The less educated working class Muslims are more hostile to intermarriage, reproducing the pattern of ethnocentric sentiment inversely correlating with intelligence and socio-economic status.
Hostility to intermarriage is suggestive of the clash of values between native French and Muslims. As a rule, we can expect initially stark differences between liberal post-60s Frenchmen and first-generation Muslims hailing from relatively traditional societies, and then a partial convergence as the immigrants acculturate to the new environment (or, to some extent, as the French are reeducated to “adapt” to the newcomers’ cultures).
Convergence has always been limited. Muslims in France are no more likely to adopt French names for their children they they were in the past (p. 161). Muslim naming follows its own patterns completely independent from the general French population (p. 162). Whereas the French population overwhelmingly supports women’s right to abortion or gays’ right to “be free to live as they wish,” only small majorities of French Muslims also do so (p. 165).
Convergence may have, if anything, peaked as there is evidence of a resurgence in Islamic sentiment:
The studies and polls that we have all converge in indicating a greater frequency and observance of religious signs in the population of Muslim faith or origin. The turning point seems to have been the early 2000s. (p. 163)
In the early 1990s, around 60% of Muslims in France fasted for Ramadan, the figure for the 2000s varied between 67% and 71% (p. 164). In the 1990s, 35% to 39% of Muslims said they drank alcohol, a figure which fell to 32% in 2011 and 22% in 2016. The proportion of Muslim women wearing headscarves has risen from 24% in 2003 to 35% in 2016. Perhaps most surprisingly, a recent poll found that young Muslims are significantly more hostile to sex before marriage than are their elders. Whereas 55% of Muslims over 50 said “A woman should remain a virgin until marriage,” 74% of 18-24 year-olds were of this opinion (p. 167).
It is unclear what is driving this re-Islamization. In addition to the Muslim community’s growing confidence as it also grows in size, it may also be an ethno-religious reaction to certain polemics of the early 2000s: the War on Terror, the renewed Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and new measures by conservative French politicians to limit overt Islamization (such as the 2004 ban on headscarves in schools or President Nicolas Sarkozy’s “Le Pen-lite” campaigning). President Emmanuel Macron’s draft “law against separatisms” may have a similar effect, aiming as it does to eliminate Islamism through various measures so as to assuage native French fears, measures which will likely stoke greater ethno-religious sentiment and a feeling of persecution (justified or not) among Muslims.
We can expect to see a continued cycle reinforcing Muslim and native French ethnic/religious sentiment as measures appealing to the French offend Muslims, Muslims adopting behavior offensive to the native French, and so forth. One of the most common vectors of this: cases of alleged police brutality becoming causes célèbres for protest among Muslims (and Africans), in a context of distinctly higher Muslim (and African) violent criminality).