Since the 1980s, French governments have tried and failed to fully integrate French Muslims and, increasingly, to fight extremism and radicalization. Despite their best efforts, these goals have been impeded by multiple factors, including the legacy of French colonialism, the unique interpretation of the separation of church and state in France, various internal divisions within French Muslim communities, and the ongoing influence of various external actors including foreign governments.
President Emmanuel Macron, too, struggles with these challenges. Early in his term, he declared his intention to “set down markers for the entire way in which Islam is organized in France.” In 2018, Macron began a consultative process toward this end, stressing the need to set up an interlocutor for French Muslims (similar to those of other religious groups), create a framework for financing places of worship and collecting donations, and a system to vet and train imams working in France. Macron’s initiative sought to amend of the Law of 1905 on the Separation of the Church and the State (Law of 1905) with the goals of intrusively reforming religious organizations and ending foreign funding pouring into Muslim communities, which Macron felt prevented “French Islam from entering into modernity.”
Editor's Note: Read the rest of the post on the Brookings Order From Chaos blog.These articles were written as part of the Geopolitics of Religious Soft Power project, a partnership between Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and the Brookings Institution supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the respective authors.