In the Eye of the Storm: The Dilemma of Muslim Humanitarian NGOs in France

The following paragraphs summarize the article written by Lucas Faure in The Conversation France


The new bill of President Macron to fight against Islamic separatism, will be submitted to the Parliament in December 2020. However it has already impacted many Muslim organizations suspected of separatism and threatened of dissolution by the Minister of Interior. Some have been targeted and raided by public authorities, including Barakacity, which has been closed.

The article aims to give an overview of the main challenges that French Islamic humanitarianism has to face in the current climate. The first problem that Muslim NGOs have to overcome is their lack of legitimacy by public authorities and by their non-Muslim fellow citizens.

The oldest NGOs on French soil originated in the UK. The biggest British Muslim charities opened branches in France to fundraise in the 1990s, whereas a new generation of organizations has been created in France over the last ten years. The success of Muslim NGOs in France is partly based on their ability to combine religious expectation and humanitarian action. For instance, they collect the mandatory almsgiving in Islam, known as zakat.

At first, these associations focused on overseas aid. From the 2010s onward, local action (inside France) has been on the rise. This change of strategy is related to their wish to gain legitimacy by addressing needs at home, even beyond the Muslim population.

Additionally, Muslim NGOs have to overcome French secularism, or  laicité ; and to mitigate their religious identity when applying for public support. Conversely, the French authorities tend to provide financial support to some of these associations seen as more efficient to channel policies toward Muslim groups . Consequently, they have to navigate between accusations of  communitarianism and proselytism.

In sum, Muslim humanitarian NGOs face unsolvable dilemma: either being too Muslim or not enough. 

Share Button