Jonathan Laurence, Justin Vaïsse

Integrating Islam Political and Religious Challenges in Contemporary France Publication date : March 22, 2007

France is home to nearly 5 million Muslims, most of whom originally came from France’s former North African colonies. While France has successfully integrated waves of immigrants in the past, this new influx poses a number of challenges. In France, as in other European countries, there has been a xenophobic outcry against the growing Muslim presence, seen by some as “reverse colonialism”. These people suspect Islamic fundamentalists of trying to create a separate society on French soil. But what does a serious study reveal?
Justin Vaïsse and Jonathan Laurence paint a comprehensive and nuanced portrait of the complex reality of Muslim integration in France, its successes and failures, and of the French Muslim experience, examining such factors as intermarriage rates and socioeconomic benchmarks.
Because of the size of its Muslim population and its universalistic definition of citizenship, France provides a good test case for the encounter between Islam and the West. Based on firsthand experience, and despite the serious, sometimes spectacular, problems that exist, the authors foresee the emergence of a religion and a population that are at home in, and at peace with, French society.
Has France failed to integrate its immigrants — or is it a model of integration? The authors’ examination of this question is a timely contribution to the current public discussion on this vital issue.

Justin Vaïsse, a historian, is an affiliated scholar at the Brookings Institution, in Washington DC. Jonathan Laurence is an affiliated scholar at the Brookings Institution and an assistant professor of political science at Boston College.