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Rampant Islamophobia in France is pushing educated Muslims abroad

3/14/2023 4:55 PM

Educated Muslims who feel they can no longer practice their faith freely in France are increasingly leaving the country for places like the UK.  

The brain drain in talent, due to the pervasiveness of the Islamophobic attitudes in the country, is ‘increasingly plaguing’ the country, according to a report on Bloomberg News.

A recent study by Olivier Esteves, a professor at the University of Lille, found that many white-collar, highly educated Muslims are emigrating from France, said Bloomberg.

In his survey of 1,074 Muslims who left France, Esteves found that over two-thirds left to practice their religion more freely. A further 70% reported that they fled to face less frequent incidents of racism and discrimination.

Esteves’s research, which will be published in the coming weeks, suggests that those who are financially able to emigrate are doing so. “What’s ironic is that France pays for these people’s education, yet the country loses that highly-skilled talent because of rampant institutional Islamophobia,” Esteves told Bloomberg.

Bloomberg profiled several individuals who left the country and took their skills to places where they believed their abilities will be better appreciated.

It interviewed several Muslims who had relocated to countries like the UK, Canada, the US, and Dubai.

While some individuals cited better career prospects as a reason for leaving, all the interviewees stated they wanted to freely express their faith without pressure, particularly women who wear the hijab.  

Discrimination in the job market significantly influenced their decision to leave.

French Muslims favour the UK

Those interviewed acknowledged there will always be some anti-Muslim sentiment in the West. Still, they felt the discrimination was becoming more prominent in France.

Fatiha Zeghir, a 44-year-old who grew up on the outskirts of Paris, left a decade ago for the UK.

In Paris, she could not even lease an apartment in her name; instead, she would ask roommates with non-Muslim names to sign the lease for her.

“In the UK, I can finally be Muslim and not feel bad about it. It’s so freeing,” she told Bloomberg.

Natasa Jevtovic, a 38-year-old finance project manager, left Paris for London in 2020. She has been promoted multiple times and now earns twice as much as in Paris.  

Jevtovic said she experienced Islamophobia while working at a leading French bank. Her manager even threatened her position at the company when she accused her colleagues of discrimination.  

Bloomberg also reported a graduate with an Arabic name struggled for years to get interviews when applying for consulting jobs in Paris, while his hijabi wife never heard back after interviews.  

They moved to London in October 2020, and within months, his wife landed a job.  

France has around 5.7 million Muslims, the largest Muslim population in western Europe.  

But Muslims in the country face discrimination, racial violence, and toxic political discourse, which has prompted many educated Muslims to flee the country.

A survey conducted by market research firm Ifop in 2019 found that approximately 42% of Muslims in France reported experiencing religious discrimination

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