Last week, under the headline "A French Town Bridges the Gap Between Muslims and Non-Muslims," New York Times reporter Alissa J. Rubin celebrated what she depicted as the multicultural harmony of Roubaix, a heavily Muslim burg in northeastern France. Muslims, she raved, "feel at home here," largely because Roubaix "has made a point of embracing its Muslim population, proportionately one of the largest in the country."
This deliberate "embrace" of Muslims, Rubin explained, distinguishes Roubaix from other French municipalities, where, she maintained, Muslims are systematically made to feel like "outsiders" by bigoted natives. (At the Times, of course, the only problem relating to Muslims in Europe is Islamophobia.) In France, Rubin lamented, anti-Muslim crimes have "increased 28 percent this year." (There was no mention – surprise! – of crimes committed by Muslims, which vastly outnumber those committed against Muslims and have turned more and more French neighborhoods into no-go zones.)
Okay, so how has Roubaix succeeded in not alienating its Muslims? By breaking, Rubin said, "with a rigid interpretation of the country's state secularism" and promoting "an active Muslim community." Meaning what, exactly? Well, things like this: the town hospital has a Muslim chaplain; the mayor's office helps Muslims find places to worship. Then there's the town's "consortium" – an official board whose members, representing various religious constituencies, try to figure out how "to respond to the needs of different groups."