Integrating Islam

Political and Religious Challenges in Contemporary France

France is home to nearly 5 million Muslims, roughly half of whom are French citizens. While the nation has successfully integrated waves of immigrants in the past, this new influx poses a variety of daunting challenges, particularly when viewed against the backdrop of growing Islamic fundamentalism worldwide. Because of the size of its Muslim population and its universalist definition of citizenship, France provides a good test case for the encounter between Islam and the West. Peaceful and successful integration of Muslims into Western societies is more critical than ever before. In this book, Jonathan Laurence and Justin Vaisse offer extensive and original insights into how such integration can be fostered in a diverse, secular democracy.

Many in France view the growing role of Muslims in their society with a jaundiced eye, as do others elsewhere, suspecting that new Muslim political and religious networks are a threat to European rule of law and the French way of life. Not surprisingly, however, the reality of the situation is far too complicated to be captured by slogans and slurs. Integrating Islam examines the complex reality of Muslim integration in France—its successes, failures, and future challenges.

Laurence and Vaisse paint a comprehensive and nuanced portrait of the French Muslim experience, from intermarriage rates to socioeconomic benchmarks. They pay special attention to public policies enacted by recent French governments to encourage integration and discourage extremism—for example the controversial 2004 banning of headscarves in public schools and the establishment of the new French Council of the Muslim Religion. Despite the serious problems that exist, the authors foresee the emergence of a religion and a population that feel at home in, and at peace with, French society—a "French Islam" to replace "Islam in France."

Book Award: Integrating Islam was named a Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title for 2007.

Review: "Integrating Islam," by Stanley Hoffman, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2006.

Review: "To Keep the Banlieue From Burning," by Matthew Kaminski, WSJ.com, October 20, 2006.

Event transcript: "Integrating Islam: Political and Religious Challenges in Contemporary France," September 13, 2006.

Presentation to Congressional staff: "Unrest in France, November 2005: Immigration, Islam and the Challenge of Integration," Justin Vaisse, January 12, 2006.