In 1904, 5000 Muslims were working in mainland France on shop floors in Paris, in Marseille soap factories, or in the northern coalfields. Back then, no one imagined these workers, brought from North Africa, would stay in France to raise their children and grandchildren.
During the Second World War, 15,000 Muslims lived in Paris, and like all the French the Muslims were faced with a choice: To resist, to collaborate or to keep a low profile-a personal choice influenced by their pre-war political allegience. In late August 1944, Paris was liberated, in part thanks to the sacrifice of 3,000 resistance fighters. How many amonth them were Muslims? We will never know. They were born as North Africans - and they gave their lives for France. But post-war France was to care little for their sacrifice.
By 1981, Muslims had been working in France for some 75 years. Their children had grown up in the French system at school and with the culture of their motherland at home.
The term French Muslims is both paradoxical and simplistic, but one that marks out those heirs to a particular history within the wider history of the French nation, those who came to build and defend France with little recognition. It means together creating a new country where, through confrontation and conjugation, we learn to shake off our hidebound identities.
Missing my French Muslim friends and their incredibly loving families that continue to ask how I'm doing and wonder about my next visit. Je ne sais pas mes amours :(