Integrating Islam into the West 2: Opinion by Phillip Blond and Adrian Pabst

For all its good intentions, European multiculturalism fails to make a place for religion. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Rowan Williams — the titular head of the 77-million strong worldwide Anglican Church — ignited a huge controversy last week when he suggested in a lecture in the Royal Courts of Law that Britain should adopt certain aspects of Shariah law. This was done with the benign intention of integrating into British law the practices and beliefs of Britain’s 1.8 million Muslims. However, the archbishop’s apparent suggestion that Muslims could opt out of secular common law for separate arbitration and judgement in Islamic religious courts created the impression of one law for Muslims and another for everybody else.

Integrating Islam into the West 1: Opinion by Phillip Blond and Adrian Pabst

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Rowan Williams – the titular head of the 77-million strong worldwide Anglican Church – ignited a huge controversy last week when he suggested in a lecture in the Royal Courts of Law that Britain should adopt certain aspects of Shariah law. This was done with the benign intention of integrating into British law the practices and beliefs of Britain’s 1.8 million Muslims. However, the archbishop’s apparent suggestion that Muslims could opt out of secular common law for separate arbitration and judgement in Islamic religious courts created the impression of one law for Muslims and another for everybody else. This incendiary idea (subsequently corrected by the archbishop) provoked a furor about states within states and a widespread fear that any license granted to Shariah law would also license its more extreme aspects. Unfortunately, the media storm masked the real message of the speech, which concerned the authority of the secular state and its impact on religious minorities in general and Muslims in particular.

Integrating Islam: Political and Religious Challenges in Contemporary France

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.”