In France, there are approximately 35 percent of Muslims who are still practicing their Islam faith and religion which has resulted, in creating complex problems between a considerable number of Muslims and the French government. This is due to the strong attachment of Muslims to their traditions and languages, and the existence of government limitations on multiculturalism that precludes the full integration of Muslim people into the ideals of French society. France is one of the most united of all European states due to its historic successes such as the French Revolution.
While the revolution established secularism, the French people have apprehensions that the French “identity” would be diluted by immigrants from all over the world, to the extent that immigrants are often viewed as “others” in France. As a result, multiculturalism as an ideology and as a government policy is not very popular. Despite the government’s strong belief in its republican ideology, there has been some efforts in French government promoting integration since 2002.
First of all, the government appointed new members of public service agencies in 2006 for the further development and evaluation of integration policies which are designed to help facilitate social inclusion and access to employment of immigrants. More so, the National Agency for migration and the welcome of foreign residents (Anaem) was established in 2005 which has been responsible for welcoming migrants, and providing citizenship education and language learning.
On the other hand, the French government is placing a high priority on learning the French language as part of its comprehensive integration policy for immigrants, in a backdrop of a changing government attitude towards immigration, as evidenced by its decision in 2004 to create a national museum of immigration history. Lastly, the High Authority to Fight Discrimination and to Promote Equality (Halde) was formed in 2004 which wasdesigned to combat all types of discrimination against immigrants and also promote equality (Major project, French Government Portal).
All of these efforts to promote integration among immigrants in France can be seen as a reflection of the fundamental political ideology carried by the ruling government, notwithstanding the political accommodation that ensues in the balance of political forces at a given time. These changes in French domestic policy on immigration stems, primarily from the radical backlash and violence that ensued in French suburbs a few years back which centered on immigrant issues such as employment opportunities and education access for the immigrant youth.
On the other hand, the government of French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Villepin can be viewed as a centrist, even liberal government that is not totally averse to the issue of immigrant integration compared to right and far-right parties who have consistently campaigned for stricter immigration controls by the French government. This kind of ideology is championed, at present, by the leading contender to the French government leadership, right-wing leader Sarkozy, as he vowed to clamp down on illegal immigrants who have flocked from poorer countries, especially Algeria and Morocco, in search of greener pastures in France.
On the other hand, the socialist contender for the French presidency, Michele Bachelet, has argued for more openness and understanding of the immigrant question as she continually asserts in her campaign sorties that the immigrant problem is far more complex than simply blaming the illegal immigrants for the loss of jobs of the native French citizens.
In all of these, it is clear that French domestic policy on immigration and integration has a long way to go, especially at a time of global hysteria on Islamic terrorism. However, the question as to whether future policy will turn towards greater multi-culturalism or further immigration control will ultimately be left into the hands of whoever it is that will control the French presidency and the French parliament, including the prevailing ideology the French government will pursue in the future.