The French Paradox: Assessing Social and Political Landscape Changes in France

Elected President By 53% of the French people, The 51-year-old politician, M. Nicolas Sarkozy, has pulled off a major triumph in uniting his camp behind him, but now faces the greater task of unifying the nation, as his mentor Charles de Gaulle succeeded to do by times of big challenges. This is perhaps what could explain the undergoing negotiations with some personalities so far considered as left-wing, like the socialist leaders: Claude Allegre (ex-minister of education); Hubert Vedrine (ex-minister of Foreign Affairs) and Bernard Kouchner, ex-health minister; the three of them on the list of potential ministers in the next government, according to some rumours.

The “new line” is perhaps not as preposterous as it seems to be, if we recall that the electoral strategy of M.Sarcozy consisted in addressing voters of all persuasions – beyond his own party -, heaping praise on left-wing founding fathers such as Jean Jaures, and trying to sell a vision of a society built on the values of "work" and "respect", while promoting a "new image" announcing that there is a “Sarkozy-new look”.

But is such an image powerful enough to be efficient ? Many people doubt it, while other observers would hardly buy this "new image", as the man is deemed to be linked to a right-wing harsh policy -as it is widely believed among the left-wing middle-class-, and to the powerful MEDEF ( Le Mouvement des Entreprises de France) against which the Unions demonstrate several times each year, and most of all, to the 2005’s riots of the suburbs. It is no surprise then that one of the first things Sarcozy did, prior to his entry to the Elysée palace, was to meet the powerful French Union-leaders, on May 14. Similarly, it is almost no surprise that demonstrators started the Sarcozy era with some violent incidents.

Simply put : Unless the left-wing alliance reveals to be faltering and incapable of unifying itself for the upcoming legislative elections , Sarkozy would have hard times and much difficulty to manipulate the middle-class (traditionally left-voters) into “obedience”. This is to mean that, in some way, Sarkozy needs to rule this country with the respectful “cooperation” of the democratic opposition, mainly the democratic movement of M.Bayrou and the Socialist party.

Nonetheless, whatever the issue of the legislative elections, the next government will also have a lot of work to do on the social front, particularly in connection with some thorny issues that have emerged in recent years. We propose in this paper to reframe these issues and analyse them in the context of the ongoing debate and to end up with some recommendations for the next government :

Immigration, ethnicity, multiculturalism

In the last week of January 2007, France’s comfortable image of herself as a colour-blind society – already weakened by race riots in 2005 – received a further blow when a new survey found that a majority of French blacks believe they face discrimination in daily life. The survey by the TNS-Sofres polling agency suggests France’s cherished values of "Egalité" and "Fraternité" remain elusive goals for the nation’s estimated 5 million blacks.

Of the 13,000 blacks surveyed, 61 percent said they experienced at least one racist incident within the past year. More than one in 10 said they were frequently the target of racism that ranged from verbal aggression to difficulty finding housing or jobs.[1] We have to notice in this context that only 10 of 577 National Assembly members are black, and all were elected from overseas territories. In February, a new poll showed that 9 out of 10 persons in the suburbs intend to participate to the vote. 45 % of the polled said they will vote for the socialist candidate. 27 % said Sarkozy is more able to cope with their problems. These are the suburbs concerned with the 2005 rebellion, inhabited by about 4.5 millions French of immigrant origin.

Connected to the immigration, to the suburbs, and to the Muslim community, the cocktail may be still highly explosive. As we know, France has been a recipient of massive overseas immigration, particularly compared with its European neighbours. “Approximately 3.3 million immigrants live in France, including 650,000 Algerians, 550,000 Moroccans, 200,000 Tunisians, and 500,000 "harkis" (natives of Algeria who helped France during the Algerian war and were French citizens), and approximately one million second or third generation French-born citizens of Maghrebi origin”.[2] Actually, the figures may even be more important, if we recall that significant increases might have occurred since the latest census.

As it happens, the North African immigrant community continues “to diversify with newcomers, elites, middle classes, and refugees from the Maghreb, as the second and third generations acquire French citizenship and, occasionally, break their links with their countries of origin”. It is also remarked that “while a section of Maghrebis maintains invisibility in the social and political sphere, others fight for recognition. Most now play an ambiguous part, mixing traditional French republican values with Muslim community belongings”.[3]

Nonetheless, we would still hear assertions like this : “in the country that gave the world its universal Declaration of Human Rights, a lot of people live without any rights”.

This sounds as a condemnation; but it is actually a statement. Those people happen to be called : Mohamed, Ali, Zohra, Fatima, etc, if they are Muslims; but they are neither all Muslims, nor all immigrants. Some happen to be born in France. Some happen to be offspring of Arab immigrants from the Maghreb or Muslims and Christians from sub-Saharan Africa. Some happen to be French citizens from the islands beyond the seas. Some are illegal, but much more do not have this problem. Yet, they find it hard to be accepted as they are. In the course of “integration” –” French way – , success may occur. Some of them can even reach a summum bonum : either thanks to their talents as football players, or to their intellectual or technical competence. But how many are they? We are often told. On the approximate 5 million people of Muslim background living in France, how many have been integrated into the elites of the country, as leaders of business, of politics, etc.? How many journalists from this background are there in Le Monde or Le Figaro? How many decision-makers are there in the great publishing houses, or the broadcasting business? How many in the high posts of the administration? How many in the Parliament?

The fact is they are not numerous, not enough numerous to set a model for the youth of the suburbs. The latter would tell you : ” The motto of the republic is still : Freedom, Equality, Fraternity. But it does not seem applicable to us. When your name is Mohamed or Zohra, when your skin is black, you won’t be able to get the job or the house you want, even with equal credentials with Michel or Marie, who are “français de souche”, Christians and white!”

A logic hard to argue with. You cannot avoid the feeling that something is wrong with this society. This is a country that has led human kind, and showed it how to think properly , morally and rationally of Men, since the “lights’ century”. This is a country that produced some of the greatest minds of the world, in which everybody should feel free and emancipated. Yet, this is also a country that appears divided onto itself, fearful of the immigrants, anxious about the future and amazingly intolerant toward Islam and young Muslims, whereas France prides itself to be the home of tolerance.

It is a strange, paradoxical behaviour.

Paradox assessment and comparison

The French population reaches 60 million people, according to the 1999 census; among them there is only 1 % of Muslims. What is 1 %? Not much. Is it so hard to integrate them so that they feel proud of being French, and of living in France?

It has been observed that Muslim identity in France is pluralistic . “For immigrants or "Beurs" of North African origin, hard and fast identity boundaries do not exist. For example, although most Muslims celebrate Ramadan as a symbol of community belonging, few observe other obligations”. Mixed marriages often happen between Muslim immigrants and French citizens. For some observers, the result of these facts is the difficulty to find « the signs of a strictly "Islamic" vote in France”. Catherine Wihtol de Wenden, for example, says that “neither during the Gulf War, nor during the (…)conflict with Iraq has there been distinct "Islamic-only" political mobilization. The 1,000 Islamic associations officially registered in France are more involved in the institutionalization of French Islam than in the exercise of political influence”.[4] This may be relatively true, although it seems that – the increase in the number of this section of the population (the most fast-growing) helping – some changes have occurred.

The point is: Islam’s image in France is still very negative.

In May 2003, 62% of French citizens say to an Ipsos- Le Point poll that “Islam values are not compatible with the French Republic values”. We will find this same opinion widely “shared by the overall political class: 50 % on the left, 70% on the right, and 95% on the extreme right wing”. [5]

Inside the current debate about ethnic and religious tensions and multiculturalism, there is indeed the issue of integrating the offspring of this part of the French population which is from a different stock. Discrimination –” which may be positive, but which is also much more negative –” is at the core of the question. As V. Tiberj observed, negative aspects may be much difficult to seize, because of the scarcity of trustful data that we can rely on, as “academic and political community in France is reluctant to consider the ethnic origin as a legitimate variable for measuring social inequalities”,[6] acknowledging a noticeable difference with the Anglo-Saxon countries or Netherlands.

Joel S. Fetzer and J. Christopher Soper have made such a comparison available for scrutinizing. In a book published in 2005, they say “more than ten million Muslims currently live in Western Europe, which makes them the largest religious minority in the region. Islam is the third largest religion overall, and in most West European countries, it is growing much faster than the historically dominant Catholic and Protestant churches. In Germany, there are an estimated 2,200 mosques or Islamic prayer rooms, most of which have been organized in the past decade but which are still insufficient to meet the religious needs of Muslims in the country. There are as many religiously active Muslims as Anglicans in England and Roman Catholics in France. Islam is a significant social and religious force in Western Europe".[7]

Nevertheless, as truthful as they might be these facts are far from making an agreement about the policy that should respond to Muslims’ claims. As the authors of this book point out, there has been political controversy in every country in the region around such issues: “Conflict in Britain has crystallized on the question of whether the state education system will fully finance private Islamic schools under the same conditions that apply to Christian and Jewish ones. Germany has contended with the question of how or whether to grant public corporation status (Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts) to Muslims as well as to Christians and Jews. Such a status would signal that Islam is a part of the country’s religious landscape and allow Muslims’ social welfare organizations to receive state funds. France annually struggles with the question of whether or not Islamic girls will be allowed to wear the hijab (headscarf) in public schools”.[8]

In France, there is a sense of a deep misunderstanding between the state institutions and the Islamic community, which breaks out at each social crisis. As it has been noticed, “in contrast to Britain, France has been far less accommodating to the religious needs of Muslims. France has rejected multiculturalism as an appropriate educational model in the state schools. Aside from such short lessons on the ‘Muslim World’ as those in the cinquième history and geography class, French secondary school students learn nothing about Islam”.[9] Despite the popular impression that the Conseil d’Etat’s decision on the ‘head scarf affair’ resolved the issue, French Muslim leaders estimate that ‘hundreds’ of Muslim young women have been expelled from public schools for refusing to remove the hijab . Maybe is this due to “the societal and political environment in France” being “surprisingly hostile to public accommodation of Muslims’ religious practices”.[10]

It is indubitably astounding that, with her geographical proximity to the Arabo-Islamic world (southern and eastern Mediterranean), with her historic experience as a former colonialist power in Muslim inhabited territories , with her cultural ties to all her former colonies -(the francophone conference, sponsored by the French state, is still held as an international event involving all the former colonies )-, with her enormous complex of economic interests with much of these countries, and most of all with her own heritage of secularism, democracy and Human Rights, France is still incapable of coping with her Muslim population, much to the satisfaction of the extremists and the hardliners on both sides. Nothing could be of more harmful consequences , though, than the belief that this population and its values could be belittled without reaction. Would the refusal to see moderate Islamic values as compatible with those of the French republic, be interpreted otherwise than an European-centric syndrome, not to say a romantic nostalgia vis-à-vis a past era of French predominance over Muslim populations? Is there really nothing to do about it, or should educative programs and media take on their shoulders the job of reframing and readapting the minds to the fast-changing realities of the French society?

We do not want to orient the debate towards racism, although there may be racism in a wide range of discriminations, beginning with the refusal to let Arabs enter a nightclub and not allowing them a chance to be hired when they apply for a post in public or private organisations. Is it just an accident that “nearly 40 per cent of young people whose parents immigrated to France from Africa are jobless – the proportion rises to 70 per cent in some districts”? [11]

If we trust the French sociologist, Michel Wieviorka, who has written profusely about some of these social issues, there are two kinds of racism : one of exploitation and inequality and one of cultural difference and exclusion or separation. We can hardly pretend that the youth of the suburbs do not feel it that way. Wieviorka draws an analytical map featuring two logics and four pure cases. The first logic sets the individual’s participation to modernity against the requirements of membership in collective identities. The second logic opposes a view of the world dominated by universalism to a perspective based on particularism. In one case, associated with the triumphal rise of modernity and European colonialism, racism defines itself in reference to universal progress, the higher welfare of humankind, or the dissemination of religious truth. Resistance is interpreted as evidence of racial deficiencies. In another case, racism is articulated by downwardly mobile groups targeting nearby others. In the third case, racism forms when an actor’s own religious, national, or ethnic identity is set against modernity and trained on a particular group construed in racial terms and denounced as a privileged, unfair, or otherwise nefarious carrier of modernity. Finally, racism may exist in the form of the defence of cultural identity without any clear reference to modernity or its control. In this case, racism may exist in the absence of actual inter-racial contacts. Wieviorka cites the examples of the rural supporters of the Front National in Alsace, where immigrants and their descendants are few, and of the Jew-less anti-Semitism in contemporary Poland. The first two cases refer to a racism of exploitation and inequality while the last two refer to a racism of cultural difference and separation.


Let us recall that in 1995, “a wave of Islamist terror and the inexorable rise of France’s crime rate –” blamed largely on immigrants – further exacerbated the already tense relations between ethnic French ‘Français de souche’ and residents of North African heritage”.[12] The rate of ‘ordinary’ crime has dramatically risen since the mid-1990s, especially in the working-class, heavily immigrant suburbs surrounding major French cities, leading the French officials to rank crime as their top concern.

It is in July1995 that Khalid Kulak, a Muslim immigrant from the Lyon “ghetto”, and his followers –” from the GIA : the Armed Islamic Group –” blew up a Paris RER train, killing seven people and wounding over eighty. Several weeks later, French security forces tracked down Kelkal and shot him to death.

Trying to explain the causes of these tensions, some observers say : “North African and Sub-Saharan Muslims do not, on the whole, appear to have been welcomed as warmly as most European immigrants have been”.[13] Not only have African-origin Muslims become the bête noire of Le Pen’s all too-successful Front National Party, but many French citizens also view them as fundamentally ‘inassimilable’.

They notice an “even more virulent hostility (…) directed at French Muslims by the police and private citizens.”[14] Thus, they mention the example of the journalist Fausto Giudice, chronicling a host of “Arabicides” from1970 to 1991, and concluding that “one may in post-68 France , kill Arabs with impunity”.

In reaction against such rejection, many young working-class from the suburbs, started creating a counterculture of protest ( expressing itself in graffiti, rap and ray music…), if they do not embrace Islamic fundamentalism or engage in a violent insurrection against the Establishment. According to C.Wihtol de Wenden, in the 1980s, the movement of the second generation of Franco-Maghrebis –” Beurs – generated “new forms of struggle and participation”. “The fight against racism, the struggle for civic rights and for a new definition of citizenship stressing socialization based on plural belongings, the promotion of socio-cultural integration in the suburbs, and the mobilization against police and judicial discrimination all rose to prominence. Many Franco-Maghrebis became involved in local political life, and have been elected to municipal posts since 1989, when the civic association France Plus ran 550 "Beurs" as candidates in municipal elections. About 150 succeeded in 1989, 1995, and 2000, but none achieved the rank of MP and only a few went to the European Parliament”.[15]

On the other side, we have the opposite landscape: one of rebellion and awful destruction. From October 27 through mid-November 2005, young men rampaged through urban areas around Paris and on the fringes of most major cities in France. They set fire to cars, buses, schools, gymnasiums, stores, warehouses, and social centres. They dropped bottles, slabs of concrete, radiators, and supermarket carts on police from the tops of high-rise apartment blocks. Some even fired shots. They were mostly blacks or of North African or Gypsy descent-and overwhelmingly French citizens. Nevertheless, they tend to be referred to as second- or third-generation immigrants. They are considered by some observers in some respects, as “the heirs of the students of May 1968-albeit younger, politically less articulate, and potentially more violent. Although they are at pains to define their objectives, they somehow understand that the only way to jolt French society into noticing them is by taking to the streets”.[16]

The unrest started in Clichy-sous-Bois on the outskirts of Paris. During the night of October 27, two youngsters trying to escape the police climbed into the compound of an electricity company and were electrocuted. The tragedy triggered a chain of violence: Rioters seized on it, as well as on unfortunate statements by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who equated inner-city kids with vandals and initially denied the two young men died as a result of police pursuit.

Varied solutions

To fight the problems of the suburbs, the French state has increased funding for education , and social services organizations in the poor zones à urbaniser en priorité (ZUP). Under the ZEP (zones d’éducation prioritaire) program, public schools with 30 % or more immigrant students would receive more funds, for teachers, and facilities.

Yet, “in contrast with Britain and (…) Germany”, observe Fetzer and Soper, “metropolitan France contains not a single state-funded Islamic school”. In theory, Muslims might receive state funding for their private schools, “just as the many Catholic and Jewish parochial schools do”.[17] Under the governing Debré Law of December 31, 1959, Muslims seeking public funding would need to demonstrate the following : 1) that their school has already been functioning for five years; 2) that their teachers are well qualified; 3) that the number of students is relatively large ; and 4) that the school facilities are “clean”.

However, the failure of the French educational authorities, hitherto, to respond positively to the few applications for public funding of Islamic schools , is also noticed. Some officials contend that French Muslims have not yet formed a sufficiently representative organization able to negotiate such funding with the state. But some observers say “it is Muslims in France who are relatively well organized , not those in Britain”.[18] At least, 1400 specifically Muslim groups exist in France, most of which are primarily local. Two years before the election of the Conseil Français du Culte Musulman , several panregional organizations could be mentioned: The Union des organisations islamiques de France (UOIF), Jeunes Musulmans de France (JMF), Union des Jeunes Musulmans (UJM), and the Collectif des Musulmans de France (CMF)… We notice also that the yearly meeting of the UOIF, gathering thousands of Muslims in Le Bourget, is considered as “the most important annual assembly of Muslims anywhere in Europe”.

With the organization starting in 1999 of what will become the Conseil Français du culte musulman (CFCM), “French Muslim achieved one of the highest levels of formal, national unity in Europe”.[19] Still, the tensions in the suburbs would not be eased just by gathering. They may be even maintained burning under ashes by such incomprehensible behaviour as the rant about “the positive aspect” of colonization, in which some people in the political class indulge : the last –” but not the least –” symptomatic apparition of this behaviour, was when ” Le Petit Robert” dictionary, presented in its 2007 issue two shocking definitions of the entries “colonisation” and “colonize”, which has been definitely condemned by the French anti-racist movement called MRAP –” mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples. In the entry “colonization”, Le Petit Robert reads : “valorisation and exploitation of countries that have become colonies”. In the entry “colonize”, it reads : “to occupy a country in order to value and exploit its wealth”. According to 5 September’s declaration of the MRAP (2006), both entries are no less than an unacceptable justification and legitimation of the colonization. MRAP considered that “Le Petit Robert” took to its own account the spirit of February 23, 2005 law, which acknowledged a positive aspect to colonization. In respect to « this glorification and rehabilitation of the colonization , MRAP demanded merely the withdrawal of the dictionary”. It called also for the constitution of a study committee whose mission will be to give accurate definitions of these words, “taking in consideration the real life experience, the pains and all the damages caused by this crime against humanity which is colonization”. So far, it is not clear what has become of this invitation to Reason.

Recently, M. Jack Lang the leading member of the French Socialist Party called for France to recognise crimes from the colonial era in Algeria rather than to apologise for them as Algiers wants : "The best way to say sorry is to recognise the reality of the crimes which were committed by the colonisation in Algeria from 1830 to 1962" when Algeria became independent, Jack Lang, a special adviser to Socialist party presidential candidate Segolène Royal, told a conference in Algiers on February, 5.

Thus, it seems reasonable to assume that, in the light of what happened in 2005 in the suburbs – more than 200 million euros in damage, and some 10 000 cars destroyed – , in part as a response to Mr. Sarcozy’s discourse considered unacceptable, this kind of provocations were caused by some people with connections to the right-wing majority- maybe to the far-right. After all, the suburbs “revolt” of 2005 happened as a reaction against their social policy, not only against what the Minister said. Assumedly, what M.Sarcozy said (depicting the youth of the suburbs as “racaille” that ought to be erased) was just the drop that made the glass overflow.

Comparatively, one has to acknowledge that the Socialists (under Mitterrand and even under Jospin) have led some reforms that maintained a kind of cohesion between the communities and the varied social groups. But these reforms were almost improvised, with the exception of the working time, and failed to meet the new social evolution. One of the Left achievements was the 35 working hours’ week, which opened up more opportunities for employment. This important achievement seems nowadays threatened by M. Sarkozy, who seeks to accord more flexibility or latitude to the powerful MEDEF ( Le Mouvement des Entreprises de France : Movement of the French Enterprises, which is the largest union of employers in France ), as to allow a way back “to those who want to work more”. Another socialist reform was called “the proximity police”: it is a concept that allows the policemen to patrol in little groups of two to three persons, generally walking into much of the suburbs’ “complicated” quarters. Under this concept, the police role was understood to be of prevention (or containment, if you prefer, rather than repression), as the “hot quarters” were always under the eyes of the policemen. When the right-wing government took over, it dismissed the “proximity police” sending them back to their stations; and M.Sarkozy’s preference went to allowing the police more power of “retaliation” and repression. We have to notice, by the way, that the responsibilities of what happened in the fall of 2005 are to be shared between Sarkozy and de Villepin. On the one hand, Sarkozy said in Parliament on November 9, 2005 that outsiders detained during the riots would be expelled. In fact, only about 5 per cent of those rounded up by the police proved to be non-French: They were mostly minors, living legally in France with their families and therefore not subject to expulsion. On the other hand, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin did not follow the advice of those on the Right who advocated mobilizing the Army. But he did revive a law introduced in 1955, during the uprisings in what was then French Algeria, allowing the President to declare a state of emergency. It was used only once afterward, to quell riots in New Caledonia in 1984. For a few nights, mayors in several cities imposed a curfew.

The point is there is two antagonist views of the police work: the Socialists underline the preventive task, as they see the increase of criminality caused by social injustice. The right-wing politicians see the police in the traditional way, that is, as an institution that has to fight criminality and to repress it, without according much thought to other considerations. It seems that these two views would clash every time there is trouble in France. But most of all, there were little reforms aiming at integrating a wide range of the population into the overall social development. Such a failure explains the anger and its explosive consequences.

The question that remains unanswered is therefore : how all this is related to the current context?

In a presentation to Congressional Staff, January 10 and 12, 2006, Washington, DC., Justin Vaisse said: “roughly half of the 5 million Muslims living in France today are not citizens. Many are under 18 years of age or recent immigrants, the latter of which tend not to register to vote”.[20] However, we observe that these statistics are not accurate anymore. As we write these lines, a new census is underway; and nobody would pretend that in 7 years, we have still the same figures. Vaisse observes rightly that many perpetrators of the violence in 2005–”as well as many of their victims–”were of Muslim background. New immigrants tend to concentrate in poor areas and it was there that much of the nightly unrest unfolded. (It should be noted, however, that many perpetrators were not Muslim.) But that’s it for the religious factor. The unrest was not about religion. It was not even really about politics; it was about the social and living conditions of the young and of course, about discrimination.

But even if we concede to Vaisse that Muslims are not yet a political force in France; even if we acknowledge they do not constitute a voting bloc, they have still enough expressed themselves –” not always as it is wished –” as to emphasizing their presence on the political landscape at least as an issue concerning much of France’s social and economic realities . To neglect or ignore them would not do much good to any presidential candidate. Yet, to try to win them to one’s side in the presidential race may alleviate them , contribute to generate a feeling that they are not anymore rejected and marginalised, reinforce the social cohesion and reintroduce some balance in the political scene, not to talk of fairness and justice.


To meet these ends, we recommend the following :

Discrimination: this is an issue that deserves to be a priority on any political agenda, because it is one of the major factors of the malaise in France. Unemployment rates run as high as 40% in some of the affected neighbourhoods. If the next government –” which would emerge from May 2007 elections –” seeks to start on a sound basis, it ought to fight discrimination with law enforcements, and to set a practical social program for those who are suffering in the suburbs and elsewhere.

Police violence and racial profiling: this is , to be sure, one of the causes of social unrest, as it was clear in 2005. We think that it should be also remediated, as far as the law against such behaviour could be enforced. To avoid sorrow and recriminations, some courses of human and civil rights should be organized for the policemen. From time to time, they should be lectured by scholars and professionals about what the police is allowed and not allowed to do. This would keep them sensitive to Human Rights issues.

Territory and Ghetto phenomenon: we know that the poorest as well as the more recent immigrants tend to concentrate in the bleak housing projects located on the outskirts of French cities. These “ghettos” –” called cités –” develop the brand of violence and criminality that make all the people around them sound as “social losers”, although they may be ordinary, honest workers. The socialists have created the “proximity police” to deal with their problems on a day-to-day basis. But this would not be enough on the middle and long-term. The next government, should try to put an end to the “ghetto phenomenon”, in giving it the required attention. The governmental action should be multileveled so that it does not sound as motivated by security issues uniquely. People in the suburbs need to feel that they are not the forgotten; that their social, educative, cultural, economic problems reach the ears of those who are in charge of the state. The mayors can help; but they should not be the sole relay.

Local associations and networking must be encouraged; cultural and sportive activities too. Integrating these people means also to give them new hopes and new chances and opportunities; it means to respond positively to their expectations. This may be achieved by starting socially-oriented networks, able to increase their self-respect and make them feel useful to their families and to their countries. Usage of Internet, of broadcasting, of free lessons to help them gain some social leverage, would be much appreciated.

Role of religion: this is a very delicate issue that needs to be approached with tactfulness and tolerance. Instead of stigmatizing the Muslims, of hunting the girls wearing the head-scarf; instead of pretending to defend the laicism of the republic as if the laicism means the rejection of other people’s religious beliefs –” while it actually means separation between state and religion -, there is , on the contrary, a veritable need in France today to integrate Islam as a positive component of the society, and to make all the Muslims of this country feel at home, instead of pressuring them and pushing them to the Islamic radicalism.

Role of Education and Media: What we suggest has nothing to do with a state-oriented program of thought : Briefly, as the society changes, new needs emerge. If the education programs and the media do not follow these changes, the society would soon or late be confronted with crises. That is why there are today a veritable need to “readjust” the minds and adapt them to these changing realities. This cannot be done without thoughtful, well balanced educative programs, and wide and thorough media reporting. If young French know nothing –” or very little- about Muslim history, civilization and societies ; if Arabic –” which is ranked the 5th language by the World Guinness Record, well before the French –” is not taught in public schools, -at least, as an option – how people can hope to understand each other on sound bases?


[1]. Elizabeth Bryant : ” J’accuse Racism”; The Washington Times ; February 5, 2007.

[2]. Catherine Wihtol de Wenden : "Assimilation and Struggle"; Publication: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs ; Summer 2003.

[3]. Idem.

[4]. Idem.

[5]. Vincent Tiberj : « Vers une citoyenneté plurielle ? Le rôle de l’origine ethnique dans l’intégration politique des 15-24 ans » ; Notes de recherche /Working Papers ; CEVIPOF. Paris.

[6]. Idem.

[7]. Joel S. Fetzer and J.Christopher Soper: Muslims and the State in Britain, France, and Germany. Cambridge University Press; 2005; p. 2.

[8]. Fetzer and Soper,Op.Cit., p.3.

[9]. Fetzer and Soper op.Cit.; p.5.

[10]. Fetzer and Soper op.Cit.; p.62.

[11]. Valls-Russell, Janice : “France’s Identity Crisis”. Publication: The New Leader; Nov/Dec 2005.

[12]. Fetzer and Soper; op.Cit., p.66.

[13]. Fetzer and Soper: op.Cit., p.67.

[14]. Idem.

[15]. See: de Wenden, Catherine Wihtol; op.Cit.

[16]. See : “France’s Identity Crisis”; op.Cit.

[17]. Fetzer and Soper: op.Cit., p.85.

[18]. Fetzer and Soper : op.Cit., p.91.

[19]. Fetzer and Soper ; op.Cit., p.92.

[20]. Justin Vaisse : “Unrest in France (November 2005) : Immigration, Islam, and the Challenge of Integration”; The Brookings Institution. Center on the United States and Europe