The revolts in the French slums have got the attention of England where people wonder about the integration problems of the French system. This is the opposite of what happened last July after the attacks in London. The comparison regarding form: “which society has better handled the process of integration?” does not seem to be functional. Every system has its advantages and disadvantages, the product of the history of the country. What we should focus on now is analyzing what’s similar between these systems that is causing social, cultural and religious tensions.
In both countries, people talk about the difficult “integration of Muslims.” It seems the obsession of considering Islam as a problem for social peace exists and this rhetoric is used several times in a bad way for electoral reasons. Such obsession with Islam comes from the refusal to talk about the social problems and the inability to pay attention to the democratic and European Muslims who affirm that it’s not Islam that is creating troubles...Feeding fear to get votes is easier than proposing courageous policies in the social and educative fields.
Whether based on ethnic or economic bases, both models, the French and the British, have created true ghettos. What in England is determined by the ethnic group, France is organizing with its money. The existent xenophobia in both models and how much they feed it will never be openly discussed. The core of the debates is not religious, but social. We need a new political, brave and audacious creativity. That, unfortunately, is not what is seen in the left or the right. The recurrent speeches about Islam and integration give reason to those who, on the Muslim side, Islamize all problems and, on the other hand, feed the idea of an avoidable conflict with Islam. Immersed in debates, as passionate as futile, with regard to “what’s French” and “what’s British”, no attention is being paid to the legitimate social demands of citizens that are French and British already. Their violence, using illegitimate mediums, is an unfortunately comprehensive reaction to such deaf ears.

Le Monde (France)

Nos ghettos vus d’Angleterre”, by Tariq Ramadan, Le Monde, November 9, 2005.