The question of the death of a Muslim in France engenders a discussion on the forms and limits of secularisation in the public sphere. Contrary to other public institutions like schools, hospitals and prisons, the particularity of mortuary spaces lies in their nearly uncontested religious character, also recognised by the French state. Despite the fact that repatriation remains to be the dominant practice among French Muslims, the descending generations, who overtly declare their identities as Muslim and European at the same time, seek to obtain their place within the European public sphere. Yet accommodating deceased bodies of Muslims within the so-called secular cemeteries represents a real challenge in terms of space, recognition of religious identities and application of Islamic funerary rites. The regulations imposed by the French authorities seem to pose serious problems to Muslims, who desire to be buried in accordance with the requirements of their religion. In this respect the cemetery becomes a realm of spatio-temporal struggle, where subjectivities are formed via negotiations between the subjects—dead or alive—and state apparatuses. This article aims to reflect on the power struggles in the development of the mortuary space from a historical perspective. It will then attempt to shed light on the legal possibility of the construction of the only French Muslim cemetery inaugurated in Strasbourg in 2012.
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