Fault lines of the French model on integration and immigration

04.01.2013

Liberation

During a debate on the crisis of integration in France at this year’s Forum de Grenoble, Tareq Oubrou, imam from Bordeaux and Jean-Claude Sommaire, former Secretary General of the Council on Integration, came together to identify some issues that have created today’s social tension amongst immigrant youth.

Sommaire considers the French model of integration to have never really existed. In his eyes, members of earlier waves of immigration have integrated in distinct ways. Whilst their children have most commonly left behind their ancestral roots by integrating and assimilating into French society, the descendants of more recent immigrants from the Maghreb and Sub-Saharan Africa have in contrast not.

In a survey conducted by Liberation, 25% of youth state to live in rupture with society. With increasing discrimination and being exposed to the growth of Islam in economically and socially difficult environments, these youth often have no choice but to replicate communitarianism. Sommaire says that “in some quarters it is not the number of Muslims that is rising but the visibility of them”.

Oubrou identifies the failure of schools and the exclusion of Muslims as the main reason for communitarianism amongst Muslims. According to him, Muslim youth consider religion as a shield of protection where they can find refuge and answers to the wrongs done to them. He however also strongly argues that the notion of secularism in France is what puts the relation between Muslim youth and French society in strain. Oubrou comments that “historically secularism has never been anti-religious. Secularism permitted the public expression of faith but today there is a virtual schizophrenia between lived realities and what the law says. It has become normal to see the Muslim faith as a threat. Hence, there’s an increasing demand to adapt the faith to Western civilization and culture”.