Chapter 9 Why is this chapter important? This chapter is a case study and a compulsory topic for the Leaving Certificate in 2012 and 2013. Syllabus Elements: The Islamic faith in Europe Cultural diversity in multi-racial Britain and France Immigration patterns and policies in different European countries: Britain and France.
Key Concepts: Assimilation Cultural diversity Identity Racism No key personalities associated with this topic.
Key Questions: Why did the French attitude to immigrants change in the 1970s? How did Giscard dEstaing tighten immigration controls? What were the more liberal policies adopted by Mitterrand? What factors saw the rise of Jean-Marie Le Pen and the growth of Le Front National? What anti-racist movements emerged to counter Le Pen? What was the political impact of Le Pen on the Socialists and Gaullists? Could Muslims be fully French? - the debate on identity.
Key Question Why did the French attitude to immigrants change in the 1970s? 30 years after the war period of economic boom – there was little concern about immigration. A blind eye had been turned to illegal immigrants. 1970s saw an end to the post war economic boom. Two oil shocks led to stagflation with unemployment above 10%. Many French people complained that immigrants were taking their jobs and getting social welfare.
Key Question : How did Giscard dEstaing tighten immigration controls? Responding to growing disquiet President dEstaings govt. (1974-1981) passed a number of measures: – No more immigrants allowed into France – though immigrants already resident could bring their families. – Money offered to immigrants to go home – poor uptake. – Bonnet Law – gave police greater power to search and deport illegal immigrants. Result was to increase police harassment of immigrant communities and raise tensions.
Key Question: What were the more liberal policies adopted by Mitterrand? Socialist François Mitterrand was elected president in 1981 – his party opposed dEstaings policies. Adopted a multi-racial approach similar to Britain – recognised immigrants had different cultural and religious decisions. Continued a policy of deporting illegal immigrants but only after cases were reviewed by courts and the power of police to stop and search was reduced.
Illegal immigrants who had jobs were given an amnesty. Greater resources given to schools to help immigrant children learn French. Immigrants given greater freedom to set up cultural, social or political organisations.
Key Question: What factors saw the rise of Jean-Marie Le Pen and the growth of Le Front National? Socialist policies divided France. Rapid social change had affected many and they now lived in cities with large immigrant populations such as Lyon.
This rapid social change also led to increased crime and social disorder – many associated this rise with immigrants. Hostility to immigrants was very strong among the poorer French – many of whom lived in suburbs with a large percentage of immigrants. Matters were made worse by a poorly performing economy.
In 1983 the National Front led by Jean-Marie Le Pen made electoral breakthrough in local elections – 10% support. Party was anti-immigrant – slogan France for the French. Support was around 10% in further elections – strongest in big cities such as Paris, Lyon and Marseilles. Presence of large pieds noirs population in Marseilles increased support for the National Front.
Key Question: What anti-racist movements emerged to counter Le Pen? Growth of Le Pens party saw increase in racist attacks. Led to reaction against Le Pens party and racism. Leading religious figures condemned racism.
Children of immigrants in Southern France – Les Beurs – organised a famous march from Lyon to Paris in 1983. SOS Racisme formed to fight against racism – organised marches and demonstrations. France Plus formed to get people from immigrant backgrounds elected to local and national assemblies.
Key Question: What was the political impact of Le Pen on the Socialists and Gaullists? Key Point: Le Pen put the issue of racism and identity at the centre of French politics. As a result of Le Pens support politicians in France had to walk a fine line between opposing racism and not been seen to be soft on immigration. Forced Mitterrand to row back from his multicultural policies: Immigrants were not given the vote in local elections. More deportations of illegal immigrants and it was made more difficult for immigrants to bring their families into France.
Gaullists led by Jacques Chirac feared losing support to the Front National – they now adopted more hard line policies in response. Chirac became Prime Minister in 1986 - assimilation influencing policies again: – Non-EEC immigrants forced to get visas. – Police given greater powers. – Pasqua Law – power to deport immigrants who werea threat to public order.
However, a proposal to change Nationality Code dropped after opposition. Mitterrand won 1988 presidential election but there was little change in immigration policies.
Key Question: Could Muslims be fully French? - the debate on identity Le Pen and the National Front argued only those of French blood were truly French – not the children of immigrants. A lot of French agreed especially as regards Muslims. Issue that saw this question come to the fore was the headscarf affair: In 1989, the headmaster of a state school sent home three Muslim girls for wearing headscarves.
Decision later overturned after SOS Racisme protested to the Minister of Education, but the issue divided France. Such an obvious religious symbol was contrary to Frances secular tradition. Many in France saw the headscarf as a symbol of womens oppression under Islam.
Many saw it as part of the wider issue and feared the growth of fundamentalism among Muslims. Some were afraid that Muslims would soon outnumber Christians in France – by late 1980s estimated to be 10% of the population. Some even argued that Sharia Law could be introduced into France and women forced out of education and jobs.
However, many of the fears proved groundless and Muslims seemed to identify themselves as French. The girls protest drew minority support among Muslims in France – e.g. few attended march in support. Opinion polls showed a majority of Muslims supporting secularism and were content in French society. There was little evidence of support for fundamentalism among young Muslims.