In This Review

Integrating Islam: Political and Religious Challenges in Contemporary France
Integrating Islam: Political and Religious Challenges in Contemporary France
By Jonathan Laurence and Justin Vaísse
Brookings Institution Press, 2006, 342 pp.

Laurence, a young American political scientist, and Vaísse, a young French historian, have written a well-documented, nuanced, and ultimately optimistic study of French Muslims -- a convincing refutation of American clichés about the rise of Islamism in France, the effects of Muslims on French foreign policy, European anti-Semitism, and the incompatibility of Islam and the traditional French model of integration. The greatest obstacles to integration, they argue, are unemployment and the ghettoized big housing developments in suburban areas. For Muslim immigrants, French citizenship has not led to "the kind of social advancement and political integration that had been hoped for," although the troubles of November 2005 have jolted the government into introducing new programs. And yet, the great majority of the Muslims in France want to be integrated and demand not separateness (or multiculturalism) but to be treated as equals. "Banlieue anti-Semitism," Laurence and Vaísse argue, scapegoats Jews for the failures of Muslim integration. Their illuminating and impressive book concludes that "Islam in France is, above all, a question of internal French politics," and that domestic reforms are needed to "fine-tune the self-proclaimed universalism" of the French citizenship model.