Andrew Aguilar, Sciences Po

This introduction is part of POMEPS Studies 32, The Politics of Islam in Europe and North America. Download the full PDF here.

Security issues are only one aspect of the Muslim experience in Europe, but an aspect which receives a disproportionate amount of media attention. The idea that the integration of Muslims is related to security has been vocally articulated after each recent terrorist incident and urban rioting (Bleich, 2009; Bleich et al., 2010).  Political responses to the 2001 riots in Britain and the 2005 banlieue riots in France linked social unrest in segregated Muslim communities to perceived shortfalls in national approaches to integration. For example, in 2006, UK Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair remarked that the 2005 bombing of the London Underground – perpetrated by “well-integrated” Muslim British citizens – threw the dangers of multicultural Britain “into sharp relief” and formally ended his support for multiculturalism. Conservative UK PM David Cameron has insisted that multiculturalism prevents citizens from truly integrating and called for an emphasis on teaching British values (Mattei and Broeks, 2016). Similarly, French Prime minister Manuel Valls linked the November 2015 Paris attacks to the “social, territorial, and ethnic apartheid” of French minorities while maintaining the unity of the Republic as the only answer (Le Point, 2015). In response to the November 2015 Paris attacks, he stated “We will improve integration – not least by inspecting and shutting down any educational institutions that are teaching intolerance” (Cameron, 2015).

As evidenced in political rhetoric, the integration process is a form of statecraft should be understood as a reflection of the contemporary socio-governmental context among seemingly unrelated initiatives. More than promoting economic opportunity or better education, the definition of integration holds important implications for the very definition of national identity and social stability. The almost natural coupling of integration outcomes with national security outcomes marks the rise of an important conceptual framework long overlooked in academic research. Far from a natural occurrence, concerns over increasing crime, urban rioting, and most recently terrorism directly link integration challenges to not simply immigration policy but also to how states perceive their own security. The important result of this coupling is the normalization of integration outcomes as an indicator of national security. This relationship indicates that poor integration outcomes represented a significant security risk. The establishment of this relationship also reflects the increasing weight of security-based analyses and institutions in driving decisions and introduced international security risks into the domestic arena. Such research focuses on the emergence of the rise of transnational Islam as a key driver of poor integration outcomes and political strife (Kepel, 2012, 1997; Obin, 2004).

Existing research has not yet identified the effects of developing social integration policy to strengthen security. Recent policy developments in Britain and France reflect an increased focus on Muslim citizens through policing initiatives and counterterrorism strategies. The security field, comprising intelligence services, the policing infrastructure, and counterterrorism experts in academia, occupies an important role in the implementation of policy attempting to improve structural deficits in important socioeconomic indicators. “Securing” these citizens against the threats of religious fundamentalism occupies a top concern for the Interior Ministries of these countries. For certain Muslim citizens, this increased scrutiny could be contributing to higher feelings of discrimination, lower levels of trust in national institutions, and withdrawal from public debate (Hall, 2018; Isani, 2018). How and to what extent did “security” become a factor in the development and implementation of integration measures in France and the United Kingdom regarding its Muslim citizens? What are the state processes that contribute to this process, and what have been the resulting outcomes of such initiatives?

Reassessing Integration Models

Prior integration literature has juxtaposed Britain and France to typecast two distinct integration models. The literature has described France as an “assimilationist” society and Britain as a “multicultural” society in their approaches to integration (Hill, 2013). In these terms, the Republican integration model (modèle français d’intégration) prioritizes individual integration over group ethno-religious identities, while the British model accommodates difference and allows individuals to retain community identities (Long, 1988; Schnapper, 1991; Haut Conseil à l’integration, 1991; Modood, 2005). These countries occupy the extreme end of a spectrum in which other European countries are placed to compare Muslim integration approaches (Goodman, 2014).  Scholars have reified political assertions rooted in specific national histories in an attempt to explain how policy initiatives fit within or contradict their respective ideologies rather than understanding the sociopolitical context driving these decisions (Favell, 1998; Kastoryano, 2002).

Rather than buttressing theoretical debates on national models, integration as a concept holds important implications in assessing how states view administrative promotions of social cohesion. After identifying a list of 14 different topics encompassed in integration research in the early 2000s, Adrian Favell astutely asked “how and why this disparate range of state policies, laws, local initiatives, and societal dispositions – which could in theory be implemented by all kinds of agencies and at all kinds of levels – comes to be thought of and described as a single-nation-state’s overall strategy or policy of integration” (Favell, 2015). In this question, Favell identifies the important assumption that “integration” is a construction used to facilitate analyses among disparate state initiatives.

Such claims should not discount the importance of local contexts in Muslim-focused integration initiatives. Many of the papers in this collection underscore the national contexts in which state actors, local policies, and Muslim associations operate. Shia communities attempting to practice religious self-flagellation rituals face city ordinance regulation and actively refer to other foreign communities to help push their permits through (Astor, 2018) . Many Muslim associations in the United States prioritize the 501(c)3 tax-exempt status to increase their philanthropic reach, and others interpret Islamic theology to account for the limitations in finding a stable place of worship (Merriman, 2018; Tepe, 2018). In Germany, tombstones assert migrant identities such as a national flag or a mosque in an attempt to redefine public debate on the role of these religious symbols in public  (Balkan, 2018). These approaches, however, should not be forced into a static integration model and then assessed on its compatibility with the model. The complexities of contemporary integration challenges warrant a wide range of responses within a single national context. National integration themes such as multiculturalism or assimilation offer guidance to local level policy implementation, but local level administrative challenges often require negotiation on seemly hardline ideological discourse.

Security, Immigration, and Integration

The security studies literature has developed an influential framework for understanding how states view domestic policy as a manner of strengthening their security.  Though originally focused on the sources of state-based conflict, the literature evolved in the 1990s to understand how domestic policy could impact the security of sovereign states. The biggest implication in this argument was the incorporation of policy outside of the defense sector in assessing a state’s overall security.  The Copenhagen School identified a series of threat categories and their role in defining a state’s security agenda (Buzan, 1983; Waever et al., 1993; Buzan et al., 1998). Such views asserted that states fully controlled the issues comprising the security agenda. The term “securitization” referred to the rhetorical ability of state elites to make any issue a security issue. Their interpretations hinge on a coherent view of the state, an approach similar to the one found in integration models literatures and convey security in a static zero-sum perspective.

Increasing migration in Europe during this period also prompted reflections on immigration policy and its increasing role in expressing state sovereignty. Its implications on issues such as border control, asylum policy, and citizenship provided scholars with a compelling argument on the increasing influence of security concerns posed specifically by Muslim migrants. The Salman Rushdie incidents of 1989 and the first affaires du foulard effectively mobilized public discourse on a number of citizenship and immigration policies in light of social integration concerns and the potential for physical violence (Bowen, 2007). In sum, concerns over which migrants and how spurred debate regarding more restrictive immigration policies in Western Europe throughout this period to prevent anticipated instances of urban tension.

More recent security literature has begun re-assessing the static security perspective through assessments of immigration policy practice such as border control at both the national and supranational level (Bigo, 2002; Huysmans, 2006; Rudolph, 2006; Chebel d’Appollonia, 2012). While these scholars have offered a preliminary approach on moving away from a static security perspective, they have kept their analyses rooted in immigration policy and the practices of security institutions.  With increasing concerns arising from domestically-produced terrorism, addressing the root causes of disintegration has become an important assumption in strengthening overall security.

Proposing A New Approach to Security-Integration

In contrast to a static security-integration model, I propose framing security as a competing administrative paradigm within key integration policy areas.  I argue that security concerns and their accompanying institutions are increasingly present in both grand policy designs and in the implementation of such policy. Through shifting the analytical frame to incorporate both integration initiatives and security institutions, the interactions among them can be observed to understand the new day-to-day interactions among various state institutions, Muslim community members, and media outlets. Other papers in this collection have raised important examples in which the two areas overlap. The French Muslim association Union des organisations islamiques de France has in certain cases collaborated on the promotion of a “civil Islam” with state authorities in response to security incidents (Dazey, 2018). French authorities in Roubaix have increasingly relied on Muslim “proselytizing” rationales to deny public funding to certain Muslim associations (Talpin, 2018). Such examples allude to a new governing baseline in the execution of social policy but should not be oversimplified into asserting that security is the end-all issue.

Asking the question of how policy is translated reveals the importance of policy-implementing individuals and even more importantly the context through which they base their decisions.  Policy analysis literature has outlined three key levels of analysis: the philosophies or ideologies that describe a general society, the “policy solutions” proposed by policymakers, and general programs that underpin these solutions (Schmidt, 2008). Scholars have proposed several models to contextualize the ideas and actions of public actors considering changing events (Muller, 2005; Béland, 2009). Literature focusing on local-level implications of integration policy stresses individuals left outside of the national models spectrum – political councilors, mayors, non-profit leaders – who hold responsibility for the actual implementation and outcomes. These individuals often form part of an institution that is the direct tool of integration policies such the school (Mattei, 2012; Zanten, 2004), the hospital (Sargent and Erikson, 2014),  and the city government (de Galembert, 2006; Garbaye, 2005). How do these officials obtain their security knowledge? What is the relationship between social policy institutions and security institutions? How does the need for “increased security” intersect with the democratic need to ensure equal opportunity?

Policy assessment literature has long noted the disconnect between a policy’s stated intentions and its resulting outcomes. The unintended effects of policies have varying effects at different levels of state governance and daily life that are often in contradiction with one another. Moved by spurs in public opinion, politically charged analyses, and inefficient administration, governments design and implement policy in ways counter to their perceived intentions. This unevenness is a crucial variable to assess in the extent to which security concerns can ultimately influence policy implementation (Evans et al., 1985; Skocpol, 2008).  Security in this sense must not be viewed only as a grand strategy but also observed in how it contributes to implementation unevenness. I am specifically interested in whether security institutions and rationales influence the ultimate success of social integration policies across a wide range of government ministries. I suggest that security concerns can result in a series of conflicting policy recommendations in the development and execution of integration policy focused on Muslim citizens.

One compelling example of this trend is occurring in the education system. The French and British governments have embarked on extensive de-radicalization programs in the school  to combat the threat of homegrown terror (Heath-Kelly, 2013; Hill, 2013; Ministère de l’éducation nationale, de l’énseignement supérieur et de la recherche, 2015). The development and evolution of the CONTEST strategy in Britain has focused on the school as a place to both identify symptoms of radicalization and a way to best mitigate them. This strategy constitutes part of a larger security outsourcing approach to many aspects of British society.

In France,  the education system has been the institutional arena in which debates regarding religious symbols, most specifically the hijab, have played out.  The famous 2004 ban was passed in part to limit the influence of radicalized grand-frères on young girls (Mattei and Aguilar, 2016).  The school was also central in the French response to the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks where laïcité was further stressed as a core Republican value. Indeed, new positions within the Education Ministry dedicated to security and radicalization prevention reveal the prominence of security within traditional integration institutions. The shift to an implementation-oriented approach will illuminate how such policy was effectively implemented and examine the day-to-day concerns of Muslim citizens and government officials.

An analysis of the security-integration nexus therefore offers numerous avenues to understand a prominent decision-making context in France and the United Kingdom. The novelty of identifying “security” as the end result of “integration” places social institutions such as the school, local government, and workplace, at the core of the 21st century security debates regarding homegrown terrorism and social stability. But it also raises the questions as to the extent to which they are participating in integration policy implementation. Such questions offer an important reflection in an era of increasing state surveillance and rising social suspicion of Muslims in Western democracies.


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Approaching the security-integration nexus