Yearly conversions to Islam have doubled in France over the past 25 years, a report says.
Bernard Godard, an official in charge of religious issues at the French Interior Ministry, said around 100,000 out of an estimated six million Muslims in France are thought to be converts, compared with some 50,000 in 1986.
The report was published by the New York Times on Sunday.
“The conversion phenomenon is significant and impressive, particularly since 2000,” said Godard, adding that the “nature” of conversions has changed.
Samir Amghar, a sociologist and an expert on Islam in Europe, said even non-Muslims observe the holy month of Ramadan in the neighborhoods mostly inhabited by Muslims since they like “the group effect, the festive side of it.”
According to the report, many Muslims in France, however, say they regularly face prejudice by the government.
They also consider a 2010 law banning the full-face veil (Burqa) from public spaces and the growing concern with conversions as reflections of French intolerance.
Paris has declared that any woman — French or foreigner — who wears a niqab or burqa in public will be fined 150 euros and those who force women to wear such covers will face a much larger fine and a prison sentence of up to two years.
Experts say the increasing number of conversions to Islam in France presents Paris with a growing challenge as the secular government holds awkward or sometimes hostile attitudes towards Muslims.