Life Style

As a couple, how to combine the Algerian and French cultures so that it lasts?

At first, Sihem refused to allow her daughter to eat pork. Not by religious conviction, she does not believe. Rather out of loyalty to her Algerian culture… But her husband, an atheist from the south of France, has a weakness for charcuterie. So she tolerated the sausage in the fridge. And then, one day, Sihem took another step.

Why camp on its prohibition when little Inès, French, grew up in France, did not receive a Muslim education and saw her father taste chorizo? ” I said to myself : It’s ridiculous, you’re not a believer. » His daughter, since then, can imitate her father.

→ REPORT. Mourad and Stéphanie, the double Franco-Algerian culture as obvious

Many Franco-Algerian couples encounter dilemmas like that of Sihem. Should we observe the Ramadan fast at the risk of imposing this singular rhythm on others, or should we give it up even if it means denying part of our identity? Where to get married and live? Algerian or French side? And what culture to draw inspiration from for the first names of the children, the decoration, etc.? ?

Whether they relate to everyday life or spirituality, these questions come together in one: what place should be given to each person’s identity? Certainly, such a question accompanies any couple. But it gains in intensity in the case of mixed unions – 27% of marriages in French registers in 2015.

Invisibilization or differentiation

“In a single-sex couple, there are consensuses that are not discussed, on the role of each for example, explains the sociologist Beate Collet, specialist in marital diversity (1). On the contrary, in a mixed couple, there is no fixed framework, everything can be discussed: language, values, religious practices, food…” A possible source of instability to which are added the tensions between France and Algeria.

Between resentment linked to the past, racism, distrust of Islam, stereotypes risk weighing on the spouse “exiled”. “From the start, despite themselves, Franco-Algerian couples contain strong inequalities”, says Beate Collet. A challenge to overcome: “You cannot live a love story and carry out a family project while remaining in this pattern. Couples are therefore looking for solutions to make these inequalities livable. »

Several scenarios are possible. One can give priority to the culture of the other by converting to their religion, respecting the division of roles within the couple prescribed by their tradition… “In the case of an Algerian spouse in a mixed couple in France, this can involve a change of name, the fact of being very close to the in-laws, having an aperitif like everyone else, explains Beate Collet. Clearly, it is a question of doing everything to erase the Algerian markers. »

A choice which, when it is made by the “exiled”, amounts to a “invisibilization of diversity”, according to the sociologist. And who, when it is the fact of “native”returns to a “differentiation”. But whether the mix is ​​erased or the difference displayed, the solution is only lasting if it comes from free choice. Also, it presents the risk, in the long term, of frustration for the “assimilated” spouse.

A common spirituality

Another scenario: the compromise, for which Agnès, 42, and Djamel, 45, have opted. In 2020, their wedding ceremony took the form of a “braiding” between the Catholic and Islamic traditions, says Agnès nicely. In a church in Île-de-France, a priest celebrated mass alongside a representative of the Muslim faith. The public was able to participate thanks to a booklet bringing together texts on the theme of the alliance borrowed from the two religions, in Arabic and French. This mixture structures the couple.

“I like the idea of ​​inventing a common spirituality”, said Agnes. More religious than her husband, she goes to mass almost every Sunday. He accompanies her. “I don’t sing because I’m not Catholic and I pray in Arabic in my head, Jamal explains. But by the simple fact of being there, I participate. » Agnès, she follows him during Ramadan by showing a “increased attention to the most vulnerable”.

→ CHRONICLE. Support the fears of the other…

And the choice of mix can go beyond religion. Married since 2018, Rachid, 43, and Richard, 70, demonstrate this. The devotion of the first for the elders, a legacy of his Algerian culture, prompted the second to bring his own mother to live close to the couple’s home, in Strasbourg, to take care of her on a daily basis. Relatives tried to dissuade him. “I couldn’t have done it if Rachid hadn’t supported me”says Richard.

Rachid, for his part, is grateful to his husband for having transmitted to him his relationship to time. “This sense of organization and anticipation has given me a solid foundation in life, he explains. I didn’t have them, because in Algeria we integrate the unexpected. »

The place of the surroundings

How to make these adjustments, distribute the compromises, determine their contours? “It is impossible to settle all the subjects in advance”, warns sociologist Beate Collet. However, preparation is possible. To prevent mixed couples from discovering disagreements up against the wall, associations answer their questions in this way.

Like the Group of Islamic-Christian Homes (GFIC), created in 1977 by several mixed couples. “The couples we welcome need us to help them adjust”, explains Dominique Abcharou, member and former president of the GFIC. The questions are asked via the group’s website (2), but also during “couples cafés” and weekends, most often at Pentecost.

→ FILE. Islam, why it’s complicated

A useful support because certain subjects, in the absence of anticipation, can turn out to be problematic. This is often the case with the birth of children. Should they be brought up in religion? If yes which one ? And if it is about Islam, should the little boy be circumcised? Eager to become parents, Agnès and Djamel decided: “My husband accepted that our child be baptized, and I that he should become a Muslim if he wishes. » Also, they will choose “a name from the Book”which therefore belongs to both religions.

As for circumcision, “we said to ourselves that we would not do it”, said Agnes. Choices that result from a “permanent exchange”explains Djamel, who sees in the possibility of his love with Agnès a testimony of God: “It didn’t cut me off from God but brought me closer to him, I’ve never shared so much with him. »

The place of the entourage is also one of the unavoidable questions. “A couple, at its beginnings, thinks that it is done alone, Beate Collet analysis. But little by little, he discovers himself connected to family entities, neighbors, colleagues, stories… which also play a role. » Anaïs, 33, who fought with the French and Algerian administrations to succeed in marrying Mohamed, 27, last June, knows this well. “At the time, I heard so much: ‘He’s marrying you for the papers’, that I had my doubts”, she acknowledges. The entourage often represents a challenge for lovers all over the world, even more difficult between Algerians and French.


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