Eurabia, a Reductive and Perilous Analysis: the French Case

"Allah Islam" a four-part series created and directed by David Deri and the journalist Zvi Yehezkeli, current being shown on Israeli TV, deals with "Islam's Conquest of Europe". Even if providing a neutral description of any reality is impossible, as every representation requires selective mutilations, objectivity should nevertheless, remain a regulating horizon in a reporter's work. In Deri's movie the only visible horizon is a biased distortion serving a reductive vision of European evolutions. Instead of analyzing the series, it would be more interesting to examine its supporting thesis: the harrowing threat of the green peril often named Eurabia's theory. Three synthetic articles will focus on this complex and controversial issue. This one, the first, will focus on the specific French situation, the second on European Islam evolutions, and the last one will deal with contemporary European anti-Semitism.

Fantasies as fears tend to smooth an abrupt reality; nourishing a simplified perception requires a renunciation of all the nuances that compose the complex world. Embracing complexity does not mean to dissolve in it, but trying to keep a balanced distance between the necessity of analyzing and thus schematizing the tendencies, and the imperative exigency of multidimensionality. A serious study of Islam's evolutions and influence in France involves as a consequence historical, theological, economical and sociological facts and analysis.

First and foremost, in view of the absence of official religious statistics – forbidden by French law – establishing a precise number of Muslims living in France is impossible. Nevertheless, through polls, it is assumed that 2,1 million1 people declare themselves Muslims and practice their religion in 2010, while 5 to 6 million 2 persons have Muslim origins. Islam is consequently the second religion in France, and the Muslim community is the most important religious minority in Europe. First notch in Eurabia's theory, only a third of the people with Muslim origins believe and practice their religion, while only 10%3 practice regularly Friday’s fundamental service.

The French Muslim community is absolutely not a homogeneous sociological group. More than one hundred different national origins can be enumerated, even if more than 80% originate from the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia)4 . It should be ascertained that this heterogeneity concerns also the ethnic and linguistic fields. People who came from Turkey or Pakistan are culturally extremely different from Algerians for instance, and the latter are also diverse as Kabyle people cannot be assimilated into Algerian Arabs.

photo credit: Flash90

Diversity exists in the national, cultural, ethnic and religious practice areas. More importantly, divergences also prevail in the extensive variety of group strategies aiming to represent Islam in France. An Algerian reformist tendency is represented by the Great Mosque of Paris, the RMF 5 largely represent the Moroccans, while the Turkish CMTF6 competes with it. Dozens of institutions and associations could be cited which underline a certain decentralization and numerous religious, political, and strategic divergences. Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Great Mosque, representing a moderate and republican Islam is certainly different from the very conservative UOIF7 union and its prominent theological figure Tariq Ramadan.

If institutions are extremely diverse and often in opposition, dissimilarities are even more significant on the individual scale. Identity exclusivism and “Islamo-centrism” concerns only a minority of Muslim fundamentalists who absolutely do not represent French Muslims disparities. As modest as the latter group is, it tends to attract a disproportionate attention with its radical ideology and its abominable acts of violence. Eurabia's theory supporters generally focus on those extremists in order to convey the impression that Islam is a threat. Numerous studies show however a multiplicity of individual paths, most often adopting French values and cultural models and readjusting them.

In a society in which Muslim individuals live often through simultaneously and successively heterogeneous and sometimes contradictory social experiences, each person inevitably carries a plurality of roles, ways of seeing, feeling and acting. The incorporated cultures are plural and sometimes antagonistic. Every individual builds his own system of beliefs, cobbling together a multiplicity of values and attitudes. Hence, our analytical grid should replace French Islam by French Islams.

photo credit: Flash90

Omitting French Islam’s extreme diversity, Eurabia's theoreticians often neglect also socio-economical traits, shifting the blame for certain violent acts on “Arab culture” or Islam. The 2005 civil unrest, for example, which involved both Muslims and non-Muslims, French youths of North African origins and many others, was reduced by some observers to an ethnic-religious riot. By deliberately giving a reducing vision of complex evolutions and social facts, not only do they increase racism and rejection of a community who, in its vast majority, wants to integrate French values, but they also reinforce their declared enemy, by creating a binary vision which stigmatizes them, and in this way favor a fertile ground for fundamentalists. Paradoxical though it may seem, both religious fundamentalists, and Eurabia's theory supporters reinforce each other while they fight their so called, enemy with their simplifications and extremism. In a retroactive movement, their analyses tend to reinforce the criticized reality, and their nightmares become self-fulfilling prophecy.

Do we really want to play this dangerous game?

1 INSEE/INED study, Enquête Trajectoires et Origines, INED-INSEE, 2010,
2 Estimation issued by the Interior Ministry using a criterion of people’s geographic origin as a basis for calculation.
3 Le - Published 28/06/2010
4 Yves Charles Zarka (dir.), Sylvie Taussig (dir.) et Cynthia Fleury (dir.), L’islam en France, Paris, PUF, coll. «Cités», octobre 2008, 2e éd. P.28
5 Rassemblement des musulmans de France
6 Confédération des musulmans turcs de France
7 Union des organisations islamiques de France