What Would It Mean for France to Accommodate Muslims?

David Frum. "What Would It Mean for France to Accommodate Muslims." The Atlantic, September 26, 2016.


A philosopher grapples with Islam, secularism, and their place in society.

Last year, a distinguished French philosopher named Pierre Manent attempted to offer an answer in a book-length essay, Beyond Radical Secularism. He began writing after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015, and published just before the atrocious mass murders of November 2015. The book was very widely debated and discussed in France. Americans may have more trouble assimilating it, because of its very French style. Beyond Radical Secularism is a book of bold assertions and heroic generalizations. We flinch from those on the western side of the Atlantic (if I may hazard a bold assertion and heroic generalization of my own). But if we flinch in this case, we’ll miss something important—not only to our French friends and partners, but to ourselves.

Manent is one of those who want to use the word “Islam,” not in order to blame or condemn a group of people (he very sedulously refrains from doing anything like that), but in order to identify more precisely the challenge Western societies face in consequence of the large-scale migration from Muslim-majority lands. The French version of the challenge is particularly extreme: It has entailed not only spectacular acts of terrorism, but a proliferation of lower-intensity confrontations between Muslim citizens and state authority. One view, often heard in the United States, attributes France’s difficulties with Muslim migration not to the migration, but to the society receiving the migration.

The Atlantic