From the Élysée Salon to the Table of the Republic

State-Islam Relations and the Integration of Muslims in France

in French Politics, Culture & Society
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The creation of a representative council for observant Muslims—the Conseil Français du Culte Musulman—is a landmark accomplishment of Fifth Republic France. It is a strong reaffirmation of the republican framework in which the representatives of organized religion are expected to operate in lay France. But it is also an uncharacteristic official acknowledgment of contemporary religious diversity. How did a country whose political system has been notoriously allergic to organized religion decide to assemble and embed Muslim leaders within a state-sponsored institution? Some clues are contained in the remarks above, which hint at the mindset of the ministers in charge of religious affairs. These statements, made by two key actors in the French government's efforts to integrate Islam into French state-church relations, can be seen as rhetorical bookends of a policy process aiming to bring France's Muslim population closer to the state. Over a nearly fifteen-year period, politicians of distinct party traditions drew on competing models of state-society relations to make this politically feasible.

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