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France

Ramadan in France, behind closed doors

Text by Hasnae MALIH

Latest update : 2009-08-21

Observing Ramadan isn't quite the same for Muslims in France as it is in their countries of origin. With no allowances for the event's schedule in working hours and with family far away, the holy month can lose much of its intimacy and friendliness.

Some 88 percent of Muslims in France observe Ramadan, according to a CSA poll in 2006. But France is an extremely secular country, where society's calendar runs to a different rhythm.

"Here we observe Ramadan alone," says Sinaly Diakite, from Mali. "In everyday life you see no evidence that the holy month has begun. You have to go to the more mixed areas, like Barbes in Paris, where people shop for the breaking of the fast."

Hassan, a Moroccan who has settled in France, says Ramadan can be a lonely time: "In Morocco, people gather to eat together in the evenings. I live alone and my family does not come together because of our different work schedules."

Zouheir Brek, imam of a mosque in Les Mureaux, a north-western suburb of Paris, does his best to bring his community together during the holy month.

"We serve 100 iftar a day during Ramadan," says the imam, referring to the traditional meals for breaking the fast at sundown.

Well integrated in France

If Muslims in France get nostalgic about the Ramadan atmosphere they have left behind, few seek to leave the country during the holy month.

In a recent survey, 60 percent said they were well integrated in France.

Erpuyan Mourat, who is Turkish and now lives in Nancy, says: "Turkey is like France in that it is a secular society. Working hours are not prescribed by the authorities in Turkey during Ramadan either.

"But here in Nancy I feel lucky. We have two mosques where the sermons are given in Turkish, while of course most of the prayers are in Arabic. France does not feel all that different to me."

Date created : 2009-08-18

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