Historically, France has been home to Muslims due to its colonies in North Africa and the constant movement back and forth of commerce or students. It is not surprising that one-third of European Muslims call France their home. French Muslims can be found in virtually every occupation as well as holding important government positions. France has 1,685 mosques including the Great Mosque of Paris which was construced in 1926. Paris is home to one of the leading Islamic museums and research centers–the Arab World Institute. Despite this record of involvement within French society, a large percentage of French Muslims remain on the outside, particularly young people. The Paris riots of 2005 began when Muslim youth thought police were to blame for the death of some youngsters and the ensuing outbreak of violence sent fear through the hearts of many Frenchmen and women.
In many respects France has the possibility of engaging Muslims in more meaningful ways and within a shorter period of time than any other European society. President Sarkozy has to end his rhetoric which plays to ignorance and fear. There is need for a new birth of bonding between the French Muslim community and all other members of French society. It will only come about when the French government addresses key issues of jobs, education, housing and an end to daily examples of discrimination.