As French as Everyone Else? A Survey of French Citizens of Maghrebin, African and Turkish Origin by Sylvain Brouard, Vincent Tiberj (review)
- Mashriq & Mahjar: Journal of Middle East and North African Migration Studies
- Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies
- Volume 2, Number 2, 2014
- Additional Information
Mashriq & Mahjar 2, no. 2 (2014), 143-147 ISSN 2169-4435© Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies 2014 SYLVAIN BROUARD and VINCENT TIBERJ, As French as Everyone Else? A Survey of French Citizens of Maghrebin, African and Turkish Origin, translated by Jennifer Fredette (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011). Pp. 152. $23.95 paper. REVIEWED BY ALEC G. HARGREAVES, Emeritus Winthrop-King Professor of Transcultural French Studies, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL; e-mail: email@example.com In recent decades, Muslims in France have been treated with considerable and growing suspicion. Compared with other minority groups, they are widely perceived as less easy to integrate, more inclined to challenge or reject prevailing norms such as the code of laïcité (governing the separation of the French state from organized religions), and driven by a spirit of communautarisme, i.e. ethnic factionalism inimical to social cohesion and the integrity of the French nation. These perceptions of Muslims have come to the fore amid broader debates under the umbrella term of “immigration,” the loose usage of which has often engendered confusion and imprecision. In popular thinking, it has often been assumed that all persons perceived as originating in predominantly Islamic countries are Muslims and that they are by the same token in some degree aligned with headline-grabbing extremists. Assumptions of this nature were tested in 2005 by Sylvain Brouard and Vincent Tiberj in a survey of attitudes and opinions among the minority ethnic groups in which most Muslims in France have their origins, i.e. immigrant populations originating in the Maghreb, sub-Saharan Africa, and Turkey. Identical questions were put to both a sample of French citizens originating in those regions and a control group representing the French population as a whole, thus facilitating comparisons between norms characteristic of minority ethnic groups and those prevailing more generally in France. The minority ethnic sample was multi-generational in nature, including immigrants in the true sense—defined by Brouard and Tiberj, in line with common practice among social scientists and state-run datagathering systems, as persons born abroad without the nationality of the country in which they now reside—and descendants of immigrants who, born in France, were natives of the country to which their forbears had migrated. All of those surveyed held French citizenship: in the case of immigrants this resulted from a naturalization procedure, which had required them to apply to become French, while their children and grandchildren were automatically citizens of France by virtue of being born there. Comparison of the responses elicited from the minority and control group samples found that in many respects the differences between them were quite 144 Mashriq & Mahjar 2, no. 2 (2014) small. In his Foreword to the French edition, Pascal Perrineau summarizes this aspect of the findings as follows: These French citizens with immigrant backgrounds are less religious and more receptive to religious pluralism than some have thought; they are not political dissidents; they have not fallen into a “welfare culture”, having forgotten the values of hard work and ambition; their morals and their behavior suggest a degree of open-mindedness; and they are aware of the difficulties of integration even though they maintain close relations with other French people. In these respects, we can consider this population “as French as everyone else,” and we can see how this study undermines a whole series of banal commentary and stigmatizing clichés that center on these citizens with immigrant backgrounds. (p. xiv) This is not to say that there are no differences between the minority and majority ethnic samples. The survey found lower levels of tolerance towards homosexuality, less openness to gender equality, and higher rates of antiSemitism among the minority ethnic sample compared with the control group. Yet homophobia, sexism and anti-Semitism are by no means universally shared by minority ethnic respondents, nor are they unheard of among the majority ethnic population, as is amply attested by aspects of recent debates over la théorie du genre and court convictions handed out in trials such as those of former Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. As Brouard and Tiberj rightly observe, minority ethnic respondents cannot be characterized as a homogeneous...