The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Macron’s plan is the latest attempt at religious integration in France

French President Emmanuel Macron at U.N. Headquarters in New York on Sept. 19, 2017.
French President Emmanuel Macron at U.N. Headquarters in New York on Sept. 19, 2017. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters)

Regarding the April 18 World article “France, fighting terrorism, seeks to ‘reform’ Islam”:

The latest calls by French President Emmanuel Macron and Hakim El Karoui, a leading voice on how Islamic traditions fit within French culture, to create a “French Islam” in the name of improved security indicate the primary goal of religious integration policy. Since the 1980s, the French Interior Ministry has launched numerous initiatives to form an officially recognized religious association for Islam. These initiatives were done in the name of equity and religious expression to allow Islam to participate in the institutional fabric of the French Republic. The prevention of radicalization and terrorism, while noted as a potential benefit, was not the primary aim of such attempts.

Beginning in the early 2000s, French integration policy toward Islam has dramatically shifted to focus on the prevention of radicalization. In 2004, the religious-symbol ban in schools was passed based on evidence that the headscarf indicated potential student radicalization.

The January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack and the November 2015 Paris attacks crystallized the notion that poorly integrated Muslims represented a security concern. Policy doubled down on integration processes such as the school and the neighborhood to improve perceived integration gaps and further secure critical social institutions. The latest declarations for a new “blueprint” clearly indicate the troubling view that an unintegrated Muslim will eventually pose a security risk.

Andrew Aguilar, Providence, R.I.