Journal Article

From a Community of Believers to an Islam of the Heart: “Conspicuous” Symbols, Muslim Practices, and the Privatization of Religion in France*

Caitlin Killian

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 68, issue 3, pages 305-320
Published in print January 2007 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online January 2007 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/socrel/68.3.305
From a Community of Believers to an Islam of the Heart: “Conspicuous” Symbols, Muslim Practices, and the Privatization of Religion in France*

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Based on interviews with North African women immigrants, this article examines how religious practices are constrained and the meaning of being a “good Muslim” is transformed in France. When Muslim women cannot celebrate religious holidays or pray five times a day, they instead focus on what is in one's heart, an adaptation to a country engaged in an ongoing battle to keep religion out of the public realm. While many immigrants affirm that Islam should be kept at home, in private, an increasing number of their children seek visible symbols of religious/ethnic identity, such as the headscarf, suggesting the emergence of generational differences in the experience of Islam in France. The new French law banning headscarves in schools is decried by some first generation women, but just as many support the law, including many older, religious women. This article compares American and French perspectives on the separation of church and state and questions the underlying motives behind the contemporary arguments about secularism in France.

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Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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