French Citizens and Muslim Law: The Tensions of Citizenship in Early Twentieth Century

TitleFrench Citizens and Muslim Law: The Tensions of Citizenship in Early Twentieth Century
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsKopytoff, Larissa
EditorMarback, Richard, and Marc W. Kruman
Book TitleThe Meanings of Citizenship
PublisherWayne State University Press
CityDetroit, MI

On September 29, 1916, the French National Assembly in Paris passed a law declaring the inhabitants of Senegal's Four Communes—the coastal towns of Dakar, Gorée, Saint-Louis, and Rufisque—and their descendants to be French citizens. The law, presented as a means by which to aid the war-time recruitment of troops from France's West African colonies, appeared to settle a long-running debate about the political and legal rights claimed by the communes' African inhabitants, commonly referred to as originaires. Yet it also revived old questions and raised new ones about the rights and obligations of citizenship in the French empire and about the relationship between French civil status and Muslim law in West Africa. The originaires were often regarded as culturally distinct from those living in surrounding areas. Furthermore, they had long held some of the rights of French citizens, including the right to vote in local elections and to elect a deputy to the French legislature. Yet before 1916 their status as full French citizens was ambiguous at best.

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