Integrating Islam

Integrating Islam: Political and Religious Challenges in Contemporary France

Jonathan Laurence
Justin Vaisse
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 342
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Integrating Islam
    Book Description:

    Nearly five million Muslims call France home, the vast majority from former French colonies in North Africa. While France has successfully integrated waves of immigrants in the past, this new influx poses a new variety of challenges -much as it does in neighboring European countries. Alarmists view the growing role of Muslims in French society as a form of "reverse colonization"; they believe Muslim political and religious networks seek to undermine European rule of law or that fundamentalists are creating a society entirely separate from the mainstream. Integrating Islam portrays the more complex reality of integration's successes and failures in French politics and society. From intermarriage rates to economic indicators, the authors paint a comprehensive portrait of Muslims in France. Using original research, they devote special attention to the policies developed by successive French governments to encourage integration and discourage extremism. Because of the size of its Muslim population and its universalistic definition of citizenship, France is an especially good test case for the encounter of Islam and the West. Despite serious and sometimes spectacular problems, the authors see a "French Islam" slowly replacing "Islam in France"-in other words, the emergence of a religion and a culture that feels at home in, and is largely at peace with, its host society. Integrating Islam provides readers with a comprehensive view of the state of Muslim integration into French society that cannot be found anywhere else. It is essential reading for students of French politics and those studying the interaction of Islam and the West, as well as the general public.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-5152-6
    Subjects: Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    Olivier Roy

    The debates surrounding the integration of Muslims in Europe and France have aroused enormous passions in Europe and beyond. The underlying reason for such a strong interest is not merely the future of millions of people, but the fundamental challenge of defining what is known as French, European, and indeed Western identity. Yet despite the high stakes, the debates always center solely on “Islam”—a poorly defined concept.

    For what, in fact, is being discussed and debated under that label? Muslim populations living in France (and elsewhere in Europe) are generally assumed to act within one of three contexts. Islam...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    France is now home to an estimated 5 million persons of Muslim origin, in a total population of 61 million.¹ Roughly half of those individuals are French citizens. While France has integrated numerous waves of immigrants in the past, this new segment of the population, which traces its direct or indirect origins to former French colonies in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa and to Turkey, poses new and daunting challenges, much as recent immigration does in neighboring European countries. Because of the size of France’s Muslim population—the largest in western Europe—and because of France’s secular sensibility and its...

  6. PART I Being Muslim in France

    • 1 The Steady Integration of France’s Most Recent and Largest Minority
      (pp. 15-48)

      Outside observers of Islam in France often paint a picture of a homogeneous Muslim community that is fast gaining on the “native” French population, one whose religious allegiance stands in stark contrast with its secular environment. The rate of expansion of this community—and its perceived drift away from mainstream French society—has been the subject of much speculation and political maneuvering, both by ambitious Muslim leaders and by the extreme right in French politics. The Front National (FN) (National Front) party once printed on its campaign posters the startling and inaccurate prediction that “France will be a Muslim country...

    • 2 Patterns of Exclusion and Inclusion in French Society
      (pp. 49-73)

      Unlike its neighbors, France has long been a country of immigration rather than emigration. Since the mid-nineteenth century, France has welcomed numerous waves of immigrants—from southern and eastern Europe and from former colonies—and incorporated them into its social and political fabric. In this respect, it has more in common with the United States than with other European countries. The process of integration, which has never been easy, has followed a pattern: each new wave of immigrants encounters strong and even violent resistance from “native” (or recently integrated) residents and accusations of the cultural and sociological incompatibility of their...

    • 3 From Religion to Identity: 1,001 Ways of Being Muslim
      (pp. 74-97)

      Just as there are many ways to be a Catholic, Protestant, or Jew, there are many ways to be a Muslim. Belonging to the Islamicumma, or “community,” can be a matter of religious piety, of course, but it is more often relevant as an element of one’s cultural background or personal identity. Arab Muslims in France are increasingly defining themselves as Muslims rather than as Algerians, Moroccans, or Arabs. But their identification with Islam can be based on familial or community bonds rather than on adherence to a rigorous Islam imported from the Arab world. The religious obligations of...

    • 4 Islamic Organizations and Leaders in France
      (pp. 98-132)

      There has always been a tension in French politics between the ideal of an unmediated relationship between citizen and state, on one hand (de Gaulle famously denounced political parties as the “dividing forces of the Republic”) and, on the other, the right of citizens to form interest groups, whether based on class or a common ideology. Rousseau’s legacy of thevolonté générale(general will) and the Revolution’s rejection of feudal society and the guilds of theancien régimeculminated in the passage in 1791 of the Chapelier law, which prohibited the creation of civil associations. Yet French governments have recognized...

  7. PART II From Muslims into French Citizens:: Muslims and Public Policy

    • 5 Liberté, égalité … laïcité: Creation of the French Council of the Muslim Religion
      (pp. 135-162)

      The legacy of European colonialism in the Islamic world and the aftereffects of post–World War II immigration are felt throughout Europe—from France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany to the United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy. EU member states’ stances on religion differ even more than their social policies or tax regulations: some have established state churches (Denmark, United Kingdom); some have mixed “recognition” systems with some public funding of religious communities (Germany and Italy); and some are full-fledged “secular” states (France and Sweden). In contrast to the situation in the United States, where the separation of church and...

    • 6 Intolerance or Integration? The Ban on Religious Symbols in Public Schools
      (pp. 163-174)

      On March 3, 2004, the French Senate gave final approval to a bill prohibiting the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols in public elementary and secondary schools.¹ The law, which went into effect the following September, does not ban the wearing of headscarves or any other conspicuous symbol in public places, in universities, or in private schools, and it did not actually change the status quo, which was established in France by a ministerial decree in 1994. Rather, the law is a narrowly defined reassertion of religious neutrality within French public schools. The law implements one of the recommendations of a...

    • 7 An Assessment of French Policy Responses
      (pp. 175-192)

      The task of integrating a large, highly visible minority could be seen as one for which the French state is singularly unsuited. French republicanism resists making official reference to either the foreign origin (after the first generation) or the religious affiliation of its citizens, except as it relates to the free exercise of religion. The French government has traditionally rejected U.S.- and British-style minority group politics, especially as institutionalized in the United Kingdom’s Commission on Racial Equality or in affirmative action policies in the United States. To try to get data or elicit opinions regarding immigrant populations—or worse, specific...

  8. PART III The Politics of Islam in France and Europe

    • 8 The Pursuit of the Muslim Vote and Its Impact on Foreign Policy
      (pp. 195-221)

      The participation of Muslims in French politics has advanced slowly over the past several decades, but in recent years the political parties have greatly increased their appeals for Muslims’ electoral support. Some politicians have tried to attract support by appointing more minorities to high-level positions, while party strategists have designed policies specifically to attract Muslim votes. As an abstract concept, the notion of a “Muslim vote” has captivated the imagination of French politicians (many of whom pursue it) and of some French and U.S. critics, who fear that the government is being held hostage by France’s Muslim population, which threatens...

    • 9 Anti-Semitism among Muslims and the Rise of Communautarisme
      (pp. 222-243)

      France is home to 500,000 to 600,000 Jews, approximately 30 percent of whom are of Ashkenazi origin and 70 percent of whom are Sephardim.¹ A vast majority of the Sephardim trace their origins to the same countries as most of the 5 million Muslims in France: Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, from which they have emigrated since the 1960s. France’s Jewish population is the third-largest in the world (after that of the United States and of Israel), and France has both the largest Muslim and the largest Jewish minority in Europe.²

      The physical and political coexistence of French Muslims and French...

    • 10 The Threat of Terrorism and the French Response
      (pp. 244-263)

      Islamist terrorism in France—as well as French anti-Semitism and French Muslims’ impact on French foreign policy—is an example of the nexus of local integration problems and global affairs. Starting in the 1990s, transnational Islamist networks have sought, with some success, to recruit followers among disaffected Muslims in Europe. Their efforts have been especially apparent in France, where integration problems and close immigrant links with Algeria—the theater of a bloody civil war between the secular government and Islamist groups—made the issue of terrorism more salient. That fact, incidentally, gave French authorities a head start in devising tactics...

    • 11 Conclusion
      (pp. 264-270)

      This book has aimed to fill the large gaps in common knowledge about Muslims living in France and how France has addressed the policy challenge of integrating Islam. These lacunae tend to reinforce the misgivings of the United States about the progress of Islam’s coexistence with French institutions as well as those regarding French goals in the Arab-Muslim world. Our study has attempted to portray the more complex reality of integration’s successes and failures in French politics and society. We have argued that the importance of religion in the lives of Muslims should be considered alongside the political, social, and...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 271-324)
  10. Index
    (pp. 325-342)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 343-344)