Muslim and secular: Performing 'Muslim' exemplarity and public debates on Islam in France

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9 Citations (Scopus)


The place of Islam and Muslims in contemporary France has occupied the public sphere for well over two decades now, taking the form of a series of well-documented confrontations over the visibility of ‘Islamic’ symbols in schools and the public sphere. What generally attracts less scrutiny is the concurrent emergence of a number of organizations that define themselves as being simultaneously Muslim and secular. This article explores the phenomenon of secular Muslim organizations in France by posing a series of questions that highlight the paradoxical position that these groupings can find themselves in. One key aspect of the dilemma is illustrated by the curious nature of the musulman laïque (secular) label, which hints at an anxiety amongst these French Muslims to prove themselves as ‘exemplary citizens’. This article argues that an unintended consequence of such a public stance is that religion becomes the main identifier for this population, and instead of transcending religious belonging through secularism secular Muslim organizations illustrate the ways in which tensions between secularism and Islam magnify Muslim affiliation in France.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-66
Number of pages22
JournalPerforming Islam
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • Islam
  • secularism
  • France
  • exemplarity
  • alterity
  • performance


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