Gilles Kepel

    is a French orientalist, sociologist and political scientist, one of Europe’s eminent experts on the Islam and the Arab world. He graduated from the Institute of Political Studies (IEP) with two PhDs in sociology and political science. Based in Paris, he is the research director of the National Centre for Research/Centre for International Studies and Research (CNRS/CERI) and professor at IEP, where he directs a postgraduate programme on the Arab-Muslim world. From 1994 to 1996 he taught at New York University and Columbia University. He is the author of several acclaimed books, most notably The revenge of God: The resurgence of Islam, Christianity and Judaism in the modern world (1994), Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam (2004) and The roots of radical Islam (2005). “Even President François Hollande of France has lately resorted to very strong language, for example, with regard to the Roma. His statements have also given rise to concern among people with roots in Muslim countries even though he did not directly target them. Yet this is how his rhetoric has come across in the Muslim banlieues of Paris. Generally, the atmosphere in Europe has deteriorated. People feel threatened not only by the influx of immigrants from Muslim countries but also by their high birth rate. Misunderstandings between the two sides have been growing. However, unless we quickly tackle this problem, this tension, Europe faces an enormous risk. I am concerned. If, as a result of a growing pressure, the Muslim population feels marginalized, it will identify less with French or European society of which it forms a part. Phrases and sentences of the Quran have multiple meanings and can be read in many different ways, depending on who is reading and interpreting the texts. But as I have said, this is also a challenge for the Muslims. They ought to expel from their midst those who profess hatred and radicalism, they ought to distance themselves from them and let them speak for themselves. At some stage all religions are transformed by the state of society. At times of prosperity Islam was a religion that supported the status quo. At times of decline Muslims have turned to religion in search of justice and regarded it as a source of dignity, of which they believe the present-day globalized world is depriving them.”