Research Process

The focus of the project came from my undergraduate thesis “Unveiling Laïcité: Secularism, Algerian Muslims, and the Head Scarf Affair in Modern France,” which explored the relationship between the French state and its Muslim population through a case study of the passage of the 2004 law banning headscarves, and other ostentatious religious symbols, from public schools. “Visualizing French Muslims” began as a digital look at the themes explored in my thesis.

“Visualizing French Muslims” began as my completion project for my “Introduction to Digital History” course at Northeastern University, where I created maps of the Islamic, Catholic, and Jewish institutions of Paris. The project was significantly expanded as part of the NULab Digital Humanities Certificate, to include all cities in France with at least 10% Muslim population (Paris, Marseille, Roubaix).

To bolster the maps, I provided interpretations and analysis, pulling from a wide range of sources. To see my complete lists of sources, navigate to Works Cited.

Data Collection

Ideally, I would have liked to create a map depicting where the French Muslims were living, but French laws made this impossible. Due to a law from 1872, it is been illegal to gather data, including census data, on religion. This became even more strict with the passage of the 1905 Law on the Separation of Church and State. Thus, there is no available data on the location of French Muslims, or even on the exact population numbers. The locations of mosques and private Islamic schools were available, so I decided to use these as a means of spatially placing Islam in France. Halal markets and restaurants were included as other proxies for Muslim peoples, as well.

I created the datasets of the religious institutions and religious schools, because I could not find any existing online. Salatomatic, a comprehensive guide to the locations of mosques and Islamic schools globally, was used to obtain the master lists of both the mosques and the Islamic schools. To create the dataset, I included the name and coordinates of the mosques. Initially, I was interested in exploring the opening dates of the mosques, and other institutions. In order to obtain this data, for any mosque that did not have its opening date available online, I would contact the mosque on Facebook or Gmail to determine their opening date. Unfortunately, not all of the institutions got back to me, and a few did not have online presences in the first place. Therefore the opening dates are included in the datasets, but I do not attempt to make any broad claims based on them.

I also created the data sets for the halal restaurants and markets in the cities, because I could not find a dataset only. Zabihah is an online database of Halal restaurants and markets throughout the world, for the use of Muslims traveling to new places who want to easily find restaurants and markets with halal options. Using the addresses of the markets and restaurants, I determined the coordinates necessary to create the datasets.

For both the mosque locations and the halal restaurants and markets, it was important for me to find this information on websites that are by, and for, the Muslim community.

To create the master list of synagogues, I consulted the interactive map made by Historic Synagogues of Europe, which depicts the location of every pre-WWII synagogue in Europe and what the structure is currently used for, as well as all of the remaining active synagogues in Europe, as of 2017. This provided me with both the name and location of all the synagogues in France, as well as opening dates for a fair amount of them.

A similar process was repeated for the master list of Catholic churches. I consulted The Catholic Directory, a comprehensive list of all catholic churches in the world.

The other map aspects, including the location of public transportation stops and city boundaries, were available through OpenStreetMap. The boundaries of Paris’ arrondissements were available through None of these datasets required significant cleaning to be utilized.


I used CARTO to create the interactive maps. I used the OpenStreetMap and data for my baselayers.