August 22, 2014
A comparative survey between England, Germany and France has created controversy due to its results concerning France. When asked about their opinions about Islamists in the Islamic State of Iraq, those who were polled in France expressed a 15% positive opinion, compared with 7% in Britain and 2% in Germany. Although the religion of those surveyed is not indicated, the survey’s results gave rise to questions surrounding integration, especially in France. It is important to note that the study’s sponsor is Rossiya Segodnya, a Russian press agency. While the Russian media is not particularly interested in the problems of integration in France, question remains about the agency’s motives for conducting the survey. Atlantico conducted an interview with historian Guylain Chevalier and professor Moustafa Traoré.
When asked if England’s method of integration, often lauded as a model for Europe due to its multiculturalist approach, is a success, he answered: “Let us remember that during the terrorist attacks in London, everyone across the Channel was shocked that the terrorists did not come from abroad but were ‘well integrated.’” He stressed that after the attacks, David Cameron saw the English model as a failure. He continued, “The phenomenon of jihadism that is developing in European countries is evidence of an evolution of a part of the Islamic community towards a radical Islam that responds to the goal of Islamic domination based on the model of the Islamic State of Iraq.” In the case of the Islamic State, every person who does not convert to Islam risks death.
Chevalier continued, “One can image what espousing this vision, for certain Muslims tempted by the renewed figure of the ‘warrior for Islam,’ could have as a projected consequence in Western countries in a closed community where things can go adrift.” For this reason, he concluded, “One cannot ask questions in such a context about the efficacy of our models of integration for combating a risk of radicalization in the long term, as it is fed by armed conflicts where Islam is increasingly involved.”
The Atlantico then spoke with Moustafa Traoré, and asked: “From the point of view of integration, the unemployment rate for Muslims, or of mixed marriages, how is France worse than other countries in terms of integration? In contrast, how is it better?” Traoré said that the best way to evaluate an integration system is to speak with those who are primarily concerned. For example, “One cannot evaluate the integration of women in the workplace without making reference to the feelings of the latter.” He stressed the importance of using proper terms when discussing integration, “France, is before anything, an assimilationist country that has the tendency to ask the newly arrived to get rid of their values, their culturally ethnic particularities, so that they can adopt those of France and of the Republic.” He continued, “To speak in France about the process of integration where there does not exist one is an intellectual fault that often reflects dishonesty, or an underlying racism.”
Chevalier points to the failures of England’s multiculturalism as, “A model that is specifically the opposite of France’s, a society that is the quintessential mix of primarily considering individuals as equals before seeing them as part of cultures or religions.” He adds that France has the highest rate of mixed marriages, 27%, of anywhere in Europe. However, he concedes that “It is becoming increasingly difficult to integrate populations that are coming from elsewhere, into an economy of chronic unemployment, where cultural tensions can also be exacerbated by the economic tension.”
Responding to the issue created by Nadine Morano, whose negative comments about a veiled Muslim woman at the beach have sparked controversy, Chevrier states, “It’s certain that her reaction reflects a fear that is growing today,” but notes, “In a number of Muslim countries, women have a minority status that is not completely discriminatory, and which is not without influence on the way a number of Muslims in France practice their faith.” He adds, “The countries of origin of those who decide to wear the veil did not operate on the separation of religion and politics like we do…To follow before anything the values of religious codes, seen as superior to common law, is a form of confinement that breaks with the idea of the common good and of the public interest and favors social and political divisions that could lead to radicalism.”
Traoré said that while he does not have the same point of view as Chevrier, he recognizes that “The reaction of Nadine Morano is understandable, when France has chosen assimilation instead of integration. This supposes that there exists a cultural model of established and rigid values to which the newly arrived must submit to, all the while leaving behind what makes up their ethnic and cultural differences.”
When asked about the tensions that erupted in Stockholm in 2013 and if there is another country that is similar to France in terms of its integration policies, Chevrier stated, “Our model of integration…is without a doubt the best safeguard for our peaceful coexistence in terms of social diversity, no matter what differences may exist.” He concluded, “The Republican model is a wonderful tool for integration…Confronting the danger of radicalism and its current temptations, the feeling of belonging to a national community, to a larger being that puts the public interest ahead of idiosyncrasies, is what’s at stake for peaceful coexistence and more so, a determining element for social peace.”