The Muslim population of France was approximately 6.5 million in 2016, or around 10% of the overall population of 66 million. In real terms, France has the largest Muslim population in the European Union, just above Germany.
Although French law prohibits the collection of official statistics
about the race or religion of its citizens, Gatestone Institute's
estimate of France's Muslim population is based on several studies that
attempted to calculate the number of people in France whose origins are
from Muslim-majority countries.
What follows is a chronological review of some of the main stories about the rise of Islam in France during 2016:
January 1. The Interior Ministry announced
the most anticipated statistic of the year: a total of 804 cars and
trucks were torched across France on New Year's Eve, a 14.5% decrease
from the 940 vehicles burned during the annual ritual on the same
holiday in 2015. Car burnings, commonplace in France, are often
attributed to rival Muslim gangs that compete with each other for the
media spotlight over which can cause the most destruction. An estimated
40,000 cars are burned in France every year.
January 3. Raouf El Ayeb, a 31-year-old French citizen of Tunisian origin, was charged
with attempted homicide after he tried to run down four troops who were
guarding a mosque in Valence. Although police found "jihadist
propaganda images" on Ayeb's computer, they attributed the attack to
"depressive syndrome" rather than terrorism because he was not heard
shouting "Allahu Akbar" (Allah is the greatest) during the attack.
January 7. Sallah Ali, a Moroccan born French citizen, stormed
a police station in the 18th district of Paris while shouting "Allahu
Akbar." He was carrying a butcher knife, and Islamic State flag and was
wearing what appeared to be an explosive belt. Police opened fire and
shot him dead. The belt was found to contain fake explosives.
Investigators were unsure whether the attack was an act of terrorism or
the work of a man who was "unbalanced."
January 11. A 16-year-old Turkish Kurd brandishing a machete attacked a Jewish teacher outside a school in Marseille. The perpetrator said he had acted "in the name of Allah and the Islamic State."
January 12. Some 80,000 people applied for asylum in France in 2015, but only one-third of the applications were approved, according to the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless people (Ofpra).
January 13. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve banned
three Islamic cultural organizations that ran the Lagny-sur-Marne
mosque, which was closed down as part of a security crackdown. He
accused the leaders of the groups of inciting hatred and calling for
jihad over a period of several years.
January 15. An Ifop poll for Le Monde found
that half (51%) of French Jews feel they are under threat because they
are Jewish; 63% said they have been insulted; and 43% said they have
been attacked. Some 70% of those who said they want to leave France said
they been exposed to anti-Semitic acts.
January 27. The Ministry of Culture assigned
an "18 and over" rating to "Salafistes," a documentary which features
interviews with North African jihadists. The filmmakers said the
government wanted to "kill the film" by banning it from being aired on
public TV, and making cinemas reluctant to show it. Filmmakers François
Margolin and Lemime Ould Salem insisted that the film should be given as
wide an audience as possible. "What has upset the French authorities is
not the violence, but the subject itself," Margolin said. "They want to
prevent French citizens from knowing the truth."
January 28. The Council of State (Conseil d'État), France's highest administrative court, rejected a request by the country's Human Rights League (Ligue des droits de l'Homme, LDH)
to lift the state of emergency imposed after the November 2015 terror
attacks. "The imminent danger justifying the state of emergency has not
disappeared, given the ongoing terrorist threat and the risk of
attacks," according to a statement issued by the court. LDH had argued
that the extraordinary powers given to security services posed a threat
February 2. Six converts to Islam were arrested
in Lyon on suspicion of seeking to purchase weapons in order to attack
swinger clubs in France. They were allegedly planning to travel to Syria
after the attacks, and had already purchased bus tickets to Turkey.
February 7. An increased police presence in northern port of Calais spread
France's migrant crisis to other parts of the country. Migrant camps
sprouted up in the nearby ports of Dunkirk, Le Havre, Dieppe and
Belgium's Zeebrugge, as migrants sought new ways to cross the English
Channel to Britain.
February 9. The Islamic State identified France's National Front party as a "prime target" in the latest issue of its French-language Dar al Islam
online magazine. It also identified supporters of the National Front as
targets. The publication published a photo of a National Front rally
with a caption which reads: "The question is no longer whether France
will be hit again by attacks like those of November. The only relevant
question is the next target and the date."
February 10. The National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, approved
a proposal to amend the constitution to strip people convicted of
terrorist offenses of their French nationality. For the measures to be
fully adopted, they require the support of the Senate, as well as a
three-fifths majority of Congress, the body formed when both houses meet
at the Palace of Versailles to vote on revisions to the constitution.
February 15. The Council of State upheld
legal provisions that allow the government to block any website that
"apologizes for terrorism." Several digital rights associations had
challenged the legality of two decrees related to the Anti-Terrorism Act
February 29. Demolition teams began dismantling
the southern part of the "The Jungle," a squalid migrant camp in the
northern port town of Calais. The government tried to relocate the
migrants to official accommodations inside converted shipping containers
in the northern part of the camp. But most refused the offer, fearing
they would be forced to claim asylum in France. "Going to Britain is
what people here want," Afghan migrant Hayat Sirat said. "So destroying part of the jungle is not the solution."