America should take note of this dilemma when it comes to immigration, assimilation, and the Muslim community in the United States. We must find a middle ground between the extreme multiculturalism of Britain, where the state allows parallel Sharia courts to mete out justice according to Islamic law, and French Universalism, which forbids even asking questions about religion, ethnicity, and race in its official census.
For the most part, America has struck a healthy balance. We require some level of assimilation but also insist on the separation of church and state while allowing individual differences and protecting religious liberties. However, we should be on alert, because this balance can easily slide.
France has made a series of dangerous mistakes that immigration reform can’t fix. They have alienated a community of Muslims five million strong, and the youths in this community are doubling down on their Muslim identity. Because radical Islam considers itself at war with the West, it appeals to young people who want to reject the Western culture and society they feel has rejected them. So they turn to a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, often finding their inspiration in prisons, where Arab youths are frequently radicalized. As the French prime minister to the U.S. said in an interview this week, this gives them a raison d’être.